About running a workshop on writing, a subject I’ve naturally been thinking about recently, because, as you may know, I get to participate in a workshop in a month or so at Archon.
Now, Amelia Beamer — who, btw, I hadn’t heard of but she has written a zombie novel called THE LOVING DEAD
“I tried hard to balance between encouraging them and giving them a bit of reality about the publishing industry and how much work goes into a writing career, so that they could make realistic goals about their writing and, hopefully, have a better chance of achieving their goals.”
And most of the feedback she got for the workshop was good, but I’m sure no one is surprised to find that one participant thought she was too negative about everybody’s chance for success. And I’m worried about that, too. Because in the abstract, it isn’t kind to let somebody think their work is just this close when it really really isn’t. But in practice, I sure don’t want to be the one to say This Really Isn’t Very Good, because, you know, ouch.
I have a pretty easy time telling a student, “No, you haven’t been doing your homework, because if you had done your homework, you would be able to do this problem. You may have been gazing at your homework and then getting the answer from the study guide, but that isn’t the same as doing your homework.”
But students aren’t, you know, emotionally invested in their homework, or even in their whole grade, the way a writer is invested in a book. So it’s a lot tougher to say, “No, you haven’t written a book, you have just put a lot of words in a row, but that isn’t the same thing.”
Besides, maybe I’d be, you know, completely, totally wrong. I have specific tastes in books — I like character-driven stories, for example, and in fact I generally really dislike stories that aren’t character driven, but plenty of people don’t share this strong preference and that is why there are non-character-driven books that are wildly successful and get nominated for the World Fantasy Award, say, and I’m all like, What is this? (I’m thinking of a particular novel that just left me utterly cold a few years ago.)
Plus then I think about other articles, such as for example this one by Rusch, where she says:
“Anything can be critiqued. Criticizing something is easy. It makes the critiquer feel smart, and just a little bit superior to the writer. But that kind of critique serves no real purpose, because that kind of critique is wrong from the moment the critiquer picks up the story or the manuscript . . . . Often, I tell writers this: Do not touch this story. Mail it. Everyone in the room liked it but me. Therefore what I have to say is irrelevant.”
And, well, there you go. Very important to keep that in mind: Everybody but me might like this.
“In my defense, I agonized about how to balance between being encouraging and being realistic. I told these writers that I agonized about what to tell them, and I told them I hoped that they would beat the odds.”
That’ll be me, I expect. The agonizing part, I mean.