Start A Writing for Peace Club
Writing can be a solitary occupation, but there is much to be gained by sharing your work and process with other writers. Consider starting a Writing for Peace Club with a group of friends, or ask a teacher about starting a club at school. In a Writing for Peace Club you can meet to:
- Discuss progress or difficulties you may encounter in your research, brainstorm ideas and share resources.
- Read your work-in-progress out loud to other writers. It’s amazing how many little things you can catch just by hearing the words spoken out loud.
- Share discussion and observations about works-in-progress. It’s always a challenge to choose the details that give the reader the clearest picture of the world the writer is creating on the page. Often what may seem obvious to the writer may not be clear to the reader. Receiving honest and constructive feedback from other writers is invaluable as you begin the draft process.
- Make new friends who share a common interest and goal.
In some areas it may be possible to arrange a volunteer writing coach to meet with your club periodically, or to speak with a foreign exchange student from the area you are researching. If you or your teacher would like to learn more about these opportunities, please contact Editor@writingforpeace.org.
(Adapted from the Denver Lighthouse Writers Workshopping guidelines.)
There are no hard and fast rules for Writing for Peace clubs. Initially, you might find it most useful to discuss story ideas and methods for research. However, once you have your rough draft, the workshopping process can be helpful in refining and strengthening your piece.
It can be intimidating to expose your writing to criticism. Remember that these are all works-in-process. The goal in group workshopping is to bring fresh eyes to your piece.
During a workshop session the author will receive 20 minutes of group feedback, during which time the author won’t speak. At the end there will be an opportunity for the author to ask questions.
All materials are assumed to be copyrighted and should be returned promptly. Also, do not show member materials to people outside the group (unless you get permission from the writer). Below are guidelines for workshop submissions and a few thoughts regarding the art and process of workshopping.
Guidelines for Workshop Submission
When you are submitting for the review of the group, please follow these standard workshopping guidelines:
·Your pages should have normal, one-inch or more margins, and at least a 12 point font. They should always be double-spaced. Paginate (mark page numbers), and staple your work. Also: don’t double space between paragraphs unless you are trying to indicate a space break. (Do indent paragraphs, of course.) Make sure to put your name/title on page 1.
·Bring enough hard copies to class for everyone in the group.
· Do not provide background information. Your work should stand on its own.
· If you’re being workshopped: although you will not be permitted to speak during the workshop, you will get some time afterwards to ask for clarification and to say a few words. It’s best to use this time for clarification only—don’t feel that you need to answer every question that came up during the critique or to explain exactly what it was you were trying to achieve—and whatever you do, resist the urge to defend. Sometimes comments that seem outlandish or wrongheaded at first make more sense over time (or they don’t). Ideally, we all learn to discriminate between helpful comments and those which should be disregarded—this is as important to writing as the writing itself. You need not, however, use the workshop time to do the discriminating.
· Finally, be sure to proofread and run a spell check before you hand in your submission.
Workshop: Some Thoughts
Workshopping is the heart of most writing courses nowadays. Workshops are a relatively modern, 20thcentury invention, but we would like to think that they are only a more organized way of doing what writers throughout history have done, which is to share work with one another and ask for constructive comment. That, in short, is what we’re here to do: share our work with other writers, and tell each other what we thought and felt as we read.
One of the great benefits of this experience is that it can help us to learn to look at our own work more objectively – to read our own fiction as any reader would and to see where our novels have gone awry without the need for someone to point it out for us. So, part of what we hope to do in workshop is to help each other learn to see our own work as other readers might, to anticipate their efforts and emotions and questions.
Please give the submissions serious attention and time before the workshop, and please write up some comments for the author. A checklist of elements for discussion is useful; it helps as a way to begin thinking about our work in an organized way, and it also serves to keep us from glossing over what is working well or ducking difficult areas. Below are four topics which may be helpful to touch on when you write your comments.
· Structure: By structure we mean how a chapter/novel is put together, in large scale. What is the point of view? Is the story in past, present, or future tense? In first, second, or third person? What is told in scene and what is told in exposition? Where does the story slow with the telling of details and where does it leap over time (i.e., pacing)? Is the narrative arranged chronologically? Each of these elements of how the story is told is the result of a decision made by the author, made consciously or unconsciously, and it’s worth considering how they might be refined.
· Character: Believable, interesting, human characters are the blood and soul of literature (with possible exception of novels that lean heavily on the next element, Theme and Idea), and they are a wonderful challenge to create. Sometimes a couple of perfect lines will bring a character to life, and sometimes pages and pages laden with detail fail to give a character more than two dimensions. Consider the major characters in a novel one by one and try to express what brings them to life, what makes them likeable or disagreeable (keeping in mind that some of the most famous, believable characters in literature are extremely disagreeable), what makes you feel that an author has really found and loved these characters, or has not yet quite come to grips with them.
· Theme and Idea: What is the piece about? (Does it need to be about anything?) Does it draw its tension from issues of love and death or some other human element? Are there certain types of images or choices or relationships or conflicts that seem to recur? Does the story evoke other stories – contemporary or historical or mythological or pop – and if so how does it vary or twist the allusion? Sometimes this can be the sort of thing that a writer can’t or shouldn’t think about too much while creating the early draft of a novel, but it may be helpful to consider in revision.
· Voice and Language: What is the difference between a while and awhile? That and which? Rock and stone? Sky and firmament? Under this topic sits basic grammar; issues of sentence length and structure (syntax); metaphor; dialog; matching narrator with diction.
Lastly, please be sure to note and always congratulate each other for those moments in a chapter/novel that seem to you to be truly creative and in their way uniquely beautiful, because they are why we are here.
A few reminders:
· When other students are making their comments, please remain silent.
· Please don’t use your critique time in class to tell the tale of your personal journey, your aunt in Baltimore, or … well, you get the idea. Remember that you are critiquing a fellow student’s work, so please stick closely to the subject at hand.
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