After having done my Flash Editing workshop at writer's conferences (with another one coming up this October at the Write on the Sound conference), I've been thinking about how valuable the writers who had their works critiqued found the experience.
Jessica: "Your feedback, and that of the other workshoppers, really opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn't seen, and that my crit group (which has seen two drafts of this already) hadn't noticed either. That night, after my last workshop, I went back to the room and started rewriting to bring the conflict in the first chapter to the surface."
Wendy: "The conference was excellent, and Flash Editing was the best part of it for me. I got a ton of helpful insights and ideas! I'm currently planning out the next rewrite, including a plunge straight into the action in the opening chapter."
My workshop technique is to share the first three pages of opening chapters with all the members of the session and then to guide them in a critique, asking questions, exploring storytelling craft issues that come up.
I began the discussion of each sample with this question: You're a
weary agent, you've read a dozen queries already today and they were
awful, you have a headache, and you've got ten more to go through
before you can leave for the day
Harsh. But so is reality. Invariably, there are people who would ask for more, and people who would reject it. An instructional part of the session was their answers to the question, "Why?"
A modest proposal: the FtQ Online Storytelling Workshop
If my workshop writers got that much out of my approach, I'm thinking that maybe there's a way to do it via the Internet, too.
Here's how I see it working:
1. Each FtQ Online Storytelling Workshop would be composed of four writers plus me
2. I would screen/select the writers for each group to make sure that all were reasonably well accomplished
3. A modest fee: $15 per writer. I think critiques from a pro and several semi-pros is worth even more. This would be payable by credit card, in advance.
4. Identity would be protected. Participants would know who others were and have contact information for them ONLY if they agreed to it. I would facilitate that as desired. All names and email addresses would be kept confidential.
1. The four participants would email to me document files of the first chapters of their novels.
2. All participants would sign up with an Instant Messaging service
3. I would distribute the sample chapters to all participants, and then give them time to read through the lot. I would do the same, making notes for discussion and editorial comments on the narrative.
4. We would focus the critique on the first five pages of each sample. Why, then, send the whole chapter? Because I frequently find that a better start to a story comes later in a chapter, and this approach gives the participants a chance to point that out when it happens.
5. At an agreed-upon time (I might screen for time zone compatibility if there are enough interested writers), we would all log on to our Instant Message accounts, and that would begin a 2-hour critique session, led by me.
If the participants become comfortable with the idea of sharing identities or contact information, they are free to do so. I think the risk of hooking up with a weirdo would be very small, but I would insist on being held harmless for any untoward happenings. I suspect that writers might now and then come out of the workshop with not only priceless insights on their story but with future critique partners as well.
The alternative is that we would all still have our IM handles, and writers could still continue to communicate that way without exposing identities.
Talk to me
Okay, that's the idea. The FtQ Online Storytelling Workshop. Simple. Easy. Inexpensive. Quick.
If you have any suggestions about the process outlined, let me hear them.
If this idea interests you and you'd like to take part, please drop me a note.
Update: as of Friday morning, three writers have written to sign up for the workshop. Anyone else?
Why am I doing this? It's not to make a boatload of money, not with that fee. It's because I get a big kick out of the excitement and creative rush that writers get when they've been on the receiving end of this kind of critique. And I enjoy helping others along the path. I learn something every time, too.
Please let me hear from you on this.
For what it's worth.
Free edit in exchange for posting permission. You send a sample that you have questions about and of which you'd like an edit. I won't post it without your permission.
© 2006 Ray Rhamey