What is a Writer's Workshop?

Tara Barnett

A writer's workshop is a gathering where writers share and critique each other's work. The term may also be used to describe a more structured class with a designated instructor, a college program, or a location where workshops are usually held. This type of program is popular because writers often feel the need to get feedback on their work, and it can be difficult to get constructive criticism when starting out. Many people feel that the sense of community fostered by the writer's workshop model of criticism is one of the best creative tools available to writers.

A writer's workshop may help people to develop new skills to polish their manuscripts.
A writer's workshop may help people to develop new skills to polish their manuscripts.

Many workshops are structured around a reading and discussing model. Participants submit work for analysis by the rest of the group and read the work submitted by others. This may be done by distributing the work beforehand or reading it aloud during the workshop. Criticism and comments may take place verbally or may be written down and handed to the writer, depending on the preference of the group.

Proofreading and feedback on manuscripts are often part of a writer's workshop.
Proofreading and feedback on manuscripts are often part of a writer's workshop.

In some cases, the writer's workshop may have a theme. For instance, it may be intended for writers of a certain genre, age, or style. Writer's workshops may be single-day events or they may consist of many meetings over a period of time. The size of the workshop may vary, but most are relatively small, consisting of the number of people who can productively discuss writing together in the allotted amount of time.

When a person wishes to become involved in a writer's workshop, there are a number of ways to get started. Many colleges offer writer's workshops, and these are usually joined by signing up for a class. There are also certain non-academic organizations that offer writer's workshops, which may structure the meetings as classes or as clubs. Often, one can create a writer's workshop by finding other writers and agreeing to meet and work at a certain time.

Success in a writer's workshop is highly dependent on a feeling of mutual respect between all the writers involved. If every participant values the opinion of the other participants, then everyone gets the most out of the workshop. Often, writers find themselves in workshops with people whose viewpoints and artistic visions are at odds with their own, and whose level of writing is lower than their own, which leads these writers to write off the entire writer's workshop model. Even if a writer has had bad experiences in the past, anyone who writes can benefit from a workshop with the right people. The challenge is finding a workshop where one fits in.

A highly skilled workshop presenter can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the workshop.
A highly skilled workshop presenter can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of the workshop.

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