So you’re on the brink of signing up for a writing course – and, as you’re about to take the plunge, are nervously wondering what the best possible outcome can be?
A brilliant novel and/or sparkling short story, obviously. We all want that. And in my work as a tutor/mentor, I have isolated SEVEN VITAL FACTORS that will inspire new writers to leave a workshop or session with a surge of creative energy and the tools to channel this energy into a stronger, better piece of fiction:
- SHARED ALLEGIANCE. The important (and, ideally, only) thing that writing group participants should share with one another is allegiance to the work. No egos. No ‘stuff’. Or as little as possible when a group of people collaborate on something as precious as an unfolding piece of fiction.
- COLLABORATION. I like to see the workshop process as collaborative editing rather than teaching. We work together to make the writing as good as it is possible to be.
- SUBJECTIVITY. I always make it very clear to new writers that – even though my responses are informed by years and years of writing and teaching – there is always a level of subjectivity and, with this in mind, the opinions of the group are at least as valid as mine.
- DISCUSSION. My input is therefore a series of suggestions rather than instructions, and always open to discussion.
- TRUTH. My undertaking, as tutor, is to inhabit the story or fictional world that is presented to me, and to base all my responses on being true – as I see it – to this world.
- TRANSPARENCY. I always say that the best writing doesn’t show. It enables the reader to see straight into the heart of what a writer wants to convey; anything that distracts along the way (purple prose? Over-elaborate layout? Bad spelling? Characters who act/speak ‘out of character) should be firmly addressed.
- GOALS. Clear goals are important. When we first meet we agree on the best possible realistic outcome for each participant. We check at the end of the process how far these goals have been met.