Workshop time!

I’m heading off in a couple of hours to teach a writing workshop at the local library. The class is going to span four Saturdays, and I’m hoping to take the kids all the way through the creative process, from beginnings and ends to revision and sharing one’s writing. Really looking forward to it!

The kids I’ll be working with are 9-12, and I’d guess most of my blog readers are older than that. Those of you who are authors or aspiring authors, what do you wish you’d known about writing at that age? What could an author have said to you that would have been most helpful?


Workshop time! — 6 Comments

  1. How fun! I loved writing when I was that age, but I had no concept of what revising was. I think hearing someone talk about the revision process would have been very helpful to me. I hope you’ll report back on how the class went!

  2. I said this on Twitter, but I’ll say it here too for the benefit of anybody else who’s reading.

    Please, PLEASE, teach them what “show, don’t tell” means. And how to actually DO it.

    The reason I say this is because, when I was a younger man–well, still a boy, really, even though I didn’t like to think so–I tried to write. I sucked. I had no idea why. Nothing any of my English teachers ever said was at all helpful towards enabling me to understand what makes narrative fiction work, and what makes it break. Mine was broken, and they couldn’t tell me why.

    I figured it was hopeless, and didn’t write for 20 years.

    Later, I tried it again. I don’t know if it was just time, or luck, or the net effect of 20 years worth of reading books, but suddenly it worked. The difference? Somehow, along the way, I had absorbed the meaning of “show, don’t tell” (even though I didn’t know what to call it).

    Once I learned that this is an actual rule in creative writing (as much as creative writing has any rules, that is), I was mad. Once I understood that this had been my problem all along, I was mad. Angry that the people who were supposed to be teaching this sort of thing, the very ones who gave assignments to “write a 10 page short story” or whatever, had not actually given me the proper tools to do the job.

    Furious, really, that they had wasted two decades of my life. Had just one of them, somewhere, spent just ONE class period explaining “show, don’t tell,” I would be 20 YEARS ahead of where I am now in my writing career.

    So yeah, that. Teach your 9-12 year olds “Show, don’t tell.” They’ll thank you later. I’ve taught and lectured on this same subject to writing groups here in the Seattle area, so e-mail me if you’d like some materials.

    • I think the thing is that a regular English teacher is not trying to create brilliant fiction writers, they’re just trying to get students to grasp basic story structure etc. by trying it out for themselves, so they don’t focus on the more in-depth aspects of the craft. We only learned about “show don’t tell” in my high school creative writing course (though I’d already read the advice before then). Which is unfortunate for the students who are particularly interested in writing and want to get better. At least these days, with the internet, it’s much easier for people to learn more about subjects and get feedback they may not have access to in school!

      I think I have a place where I can work this into the program, so I’ll see how it goes. To be honest, at lot of the kids are probably not ready to understand the concept yet (they’re having enough trouble just starting a story) but it’ll definitely be helpful to the ones who are already quite eager.

  3. This isn’t quite what you’re looking for, but I wish I’d kept a proper diary or journal when I was that age. I have a handful of pages about my experiences or opinions from that time, but not nearly as much as I’d like.

    I know that won’t help their fiction writing at present, but if they’re likely to stick with writing into their adult life, I suspect keeping a detailed journal right now will make future-them very happy.

    Congrats on the workshop! I hope you all had a good time today. 🙂

    • Well, I’m definitely encouraging them to keep track of thoughts and story ideas (they’re each getting a notebook to keep), so perhaps that will translate into journal writing!

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