Professor Tony’s Whiteknuckle Writing Workshop™

Hey kids. Thanks for showing interest in my little “class”.

It’s just a nugget of an idea right now, but I wanted to throw it out to the Twitterati and gauge potential interest before putting much more effort into it.

Some background:

A while back, I wrote a blog post about first drafts of fiction. That post, in turn, spawned “1st Draft Theatre” – a blog feature that went, sadly, exactly nowhere. I got a ton of hits on it and a lot of email feedback, but not a single submission. Sigh.

Also, I get a lot of emails asking for writing advice. They range from requests for quick tips all the way through “please edit this novel for me”. And I never say no. I’m always flattered to death whenever someone believes I can offer them something of value. But lately I feel like I’m getting a lot of the same questions, and I’m woefully short on time to write personalized responses to each of them.

A common thread between those two paragraphs is that of the Scared To Put It Out There writer. There are lots of folks who want to write, and need to write, but have this thing about privacy and not wanting to share any of their work with the public. To which I answer, fine, have fun writing in your diary, but the rest of us have stories to tell.

Hence, my impetus for a workshop. Clearly there are people who feel I have something to offer, and there are also people who need a “safe” environment to try out their ideas and get honest critique. No one ever improves as a writer without trial and error in public view. Also, having a weekly deadline for a class is a good motivator.

So my general concept for the workshop goes something like this: a 6-8 week class online, starting perhaps in February, focused primarily on short fiction. Each week I would write up (or record/podcast/video) a short “lecture” on a specific topic, like characterization, structure, building a story arc, plot points, POV, etc. There would be a writing assignment after each posted lecture, due the following week, with the end result being a completed short story by the end of the course. Students in the workshop will post their writing to a forum, and be expected to talk with one another about the content of the lecture, ask questions, and give constructive critique (and praise) on everyone else’s work. I don’t want to “teach” the workshop in a pedagogical sense; I’d rather give you some building blocks each week, and then let you as a group work with each other through the forums to share your skills and knowledge as you all work together towards your completed short story.

There will be some basic requirements for enrollment:
1) I may have to charge a nominal fee (no more than $20 tops, likely less) – I’m already personally hosting 4 ad-free websites and my costs are outrageous. This would only help me offset the additional cost. (i.e. I’m not trying to make a profit off of you).
2) The expectation will be that you already have solid compositional skills. The workshop won’t be about grammar, usage, and style – we will probably touch on those things in the forums, but you need to bring your own toolbox of those skills. The focus of the class will be solely on constructing a piece of short fiction.
3) Bring a thick skin. Especially if you’re timid about “publishing” your work. Everyone is going to be commenting on everyone else’s work, and I hope it’s all constructive (i.e. no personal attacks; we discuss only the work, not the writer). But if you’re not used to even that level of feedback, you need to make sure you don’t start taking things personally. Writers need skins of steel, and hopefully this environment will be a “safe” way to begin thickening yours.

So, that’s where I’m at. It needs some more structure, I know. But I think it could be a lot of fun, a great way to interact with some other creative people, and most importantly, a chance for you all to write.

Let me know what you think!