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Recipe for a creative workshop experience

So you’ve signed up for a writing course – or taken the plunge and embarked on a mentoring arrangement? Now you are wondering what the best possible outcome can be?

A brilliant novel, obviously. We all want that. And in my work as a tutor/mentor, I have isolated SEVEN VITAL FACTORS that will inspire a new writer 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:

  1. 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’. When a group of people collaborate on something as precious as an unfolding piece of fiction, the writing is the only thing that should matter.
  2. COLLABORATION is the key-word. 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.
  3. 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. All my input is therefore suggestion rather than instruction, and always open to discussion.
  4. 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.
  5. GENEROSITY. The undertaking of each member of a group is to be generous and engage openly and wholeheartedly with the particular piece of writing under scrutiny.
  6. 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 and anything that distracts along the way (purple prose? Over-elaborate layout? Bad spelling? Characters who act/speak ‘out of character) should be firmly addressed.
  7. 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.

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