writing

My first Writers’ Workshop Experience

As I mentioned yesterday, I have recently signed up for a Writers’ Workshop. Today was the first day that I could attend.

When I arrived I could smell the coffee and sense the anticipation as the women mingled. New to the whole thing, I had only brought one copy of my short story on the theme Rite of Passage, so I rushed off to copy it for everyone. Refreshed by the coffee, we began.

First one to read was a woman who wrote about motherhood being a Rite of Passage. Her work was constructively criticised with the emphasis on the constructive. The pieces were varied – from birth to first boyfriend, teenage disappointment, engagement and marriage, even bereavement. I was struck by the different writing styles and voices. One story moved me to tears, which since I am a soppy big girls blouse, is not really that difficult.

The criticism was gentle and extremely helpful. We were encouraged to pencil notes onto our copies and afterwards return the copy to the writer, with our opinion of the story. It is rather nerve wracking to do this, particularly when one is sitting opposite the writer.

By the time it was my turn, I was a bit nervous and stumbled over my first paragraphs. Note to self: do not include words which you are unsure how to pronounce. Chai latte tripped me up twice. Is it Tschai?

The comments were thankfully positive, although one woman queried if a school girl would drink Chai Latte and eat low fat muffins – she certainly might in Geneva. At least my protagonist did not carry a Hermes Birkin bag, like the schoolgirl I saw last week on the Rue de Rhône.

One suggestion that I am going to try to put into practice is to avoid the adjectives lovely, beautiful, amazing, stunning… and the like.  For instance, instead of “the beautiful street” use “the cobbled street”, instead of “the amazing mountains” use “the snow-capped mountains”. More descriptive and visual than a general “lovely”.

Another way of avoiding these general adjectives is to use stronger verbs. “walking quickly” can easily be replaced by “strode” or “rushed”.

As a writer who over-uses the word “lovely”, I shall try to put this into practice. You are hereby given permission to slap me with a cold wet fish if I use the word “lovely” again.