Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Workshop of WRIT100

Dear Globlets,

Great. They've changed the blogger interface and it now looks like a word document. When I couldn't stop over-thinking my CNF assignment, I started writing it as a blog post so that I could get out of that Blank Word Document of Disillusionment and Despair environment, but here it is again. It is nice and clean, however.

 In other news...

In my Writing 100 class, the creative nonfiction (CNF) section, we workshopped our stories, just like we will in every Creative Writing class. The workshop exercise is fundamental and, I think, extremely valuable.

For those unfamiliar with the process, you usually read over a piece the first time to get a sense of the story. Then, you go over it again with a highlighter and/or pen, making notes as you go along. "This doesn't make sense," "This is too wordy," This is AMAZING," "The phrasing is awkward here," "Can you give some more detail?", and you make grammatical and spelling changes or suggestions. You scratch out adverbs and highlight powerful verbs. You suggest which parts need to be condensed and which need to be elaborated on, but you also point out the good parts. You tell the author which sentences add veracity and verisimilitude (what a word, eh?), which ones show character, describe setting, evoke emotion. And you write up the good along with the bad. Some people like to give "feedback sandwiches": What works, what doesn't, then what works again. You have to be honest, but you also have to have tact. Destroy the piece if you have to, but do it gently, and actually consider the possibility that the author may be emotionally attached to the piece.

Verisimilitude: a likeness or resemblance of the truth, reality or a fact's probability. (From Wiki.)

Workshops are great when you're struggling with a particular part of the story because the others will help you come up with ideas, and they're great when you need someone to fix the awkward  bits you missed.

I recently gave out copies of my story to my workshop group, and collected the group's stories for editing, too. I have participated in numerous workshops in the past at Camosun, so I had a certain level of expectation going into it. The skill level of so many of my former classmates was incredible at Camosun. Even when the spelling and grammar was wrong, or the phrasing was awkward, the stories were still very impressive, with only a few exceptions. Forgetting that WRIT100 is a first year course, one that people choose to take even though they're not interested in becoming writers, I was a little disappointed with some of my peers' stories. A couple were quite good and had a lot of potential, and most of the time I understood the author's intentions, but some stories were not actually creative nonfiction. I was expecting more, even if they were more likely to excel in another genre (like poetry or drama).

When I got the edited copies of my story back, there wasn't too much for me to change. I already knew the ending was inadequate, and everyone agreed with that - without actually saying, "Your ending is inadequate," of course. But a couple of the copies only had the occasional "I like this," "This is good," "Nice job here," which wasn't really enough. On one girl's piece, you could hardly see the original text because of how many notes I made on it. Another editor marked errors in my piece when it was really her suggestions that were wrong. It's hard to take advice when it's coming from someone you know doesn't have the experience. It sounds bad, and I sound totally pompous, but some of the edits were nowhere near as detailed and helpful as those from my first year fiction class or first year creative nonfiction class at Camosun.

Of course, my peers at UVic are still learning. The ones at Camosun are, too. And I am definitely still learning. But this experience in WRIT100 has, once again, proven that great talent does not stem from large pocketbooks, or slightly shinier pieces of paper. UVic is more prestigious than Camosun, sure. If I say "UVic," most people know what that is. If I say "Camosun," I sometimes have to explain that it's a college. It's just a shame that the talent at Camosun might not earn as shiny of pieces of paper that UVic hands out after going through the Creative Writing program. Camosun should offer shiny pieces of paper for Creative Writing.

I just wish talent was rewarded more often.


Mommet said...

Is this a bad time to point out a typo? (Nowhere is one word ;))

I also totally agree. The name on the building (or shiny piece of paper) only goes so far. After all, Little Bush has a degree from Yale. Enough said.

Ori. said...


I don't believe you. O.O

Mommet said...

You can delete my comment then, or the first part of it. I stand by the rest ;) (Proofreading is a bitch, aint it? It doesn't matter how good you are at it, those letter sprites still mess us up).