Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Madness of Workshopping

So... it's been two days since my story was workshopped and I feel like I can talk about it with a rational brain. I turned in what amounts to a rough draft of a story. Now, I was feeling pretty confident about this rough draft--like super confident. I wasn't thinking "hell ya, I'm the shit right now!" but more of: "Okay, this is acceptable. The emotions are there. The story is there. I'm comfortable having other people read this."
Basic plot of "Broken Reflecting Glass": Emily is a woman tortured with the feeling that she is somehow unacceptable and unworthy (of just about anything). The story is about Emily facing a difficult conversation with her mother, about wanting to stand up for herself, wanting to change her situation. The question is: Can she?
I'm not sure if that's an adequate summary of my story or not, but it will work for now.

So, I was required to turn my story in two weeks ago on a Monday. I was planning something completely different for the story, but couldn't write it. So, I wrote this instead (in about six hours maybe), edited it (3-4 times), and had some good friends read it as well. I got back good reviews from the people who read it--people who read my stuff in general--and since I felt confident in it, it was easy to turn it in to let my peers since their fingers into it. I wasn't nervous about the actual workshop until about five minutes before my prof said we would be starting with my story first.

Then... devastation. Or internalized devastation, I suppose. The majority (so about six of eight, but probably all eight thought the same) had similar comments. Basically, I broke the cardinal rule of fiction: show, don't tell. The ironic thing is that as I was re-reading my story a day before workshop, I said to myself: "Hmmm... you may be telling to much here Tanya." And low and behold the comments sounded something like this: "Not enough action", "too much telling", "not enough description", and "maybe cut out the first whole page".

So, I took all of those in and it was fine. I even spoke a little about my story--also fine. Then it was my classmate's turn and I took a peak at the written comments. One pretty much slapped me in the face: "Your story is suffering from underdevelopment" and another comment that talked about it being "rough". All fair comments, still, they hurt. And topped with the fact that I'd broken a simple rule of fiction--all I felt was embarrassment. I went through moments of "why am I here?" (a common thought process these past few weeks, actually), and just sorta sat there and internalized everything.

I felt pretty crappy all night and then better in the morning. So... it was okay. Not brutal, like some programs. Everyone was considerate and helpful--encouraging, which is nice. To read what one guy who introduced my story said, click here (he got the title of the story wrong).

Next workshop: Who knows... I need to start working on the story now though.

1 comment:

Eileen Wiedbrauk / Speak Coffee said...

For the amount of time you spent on that story, it could have been a lot worse. The first two stories that went up in my workshop the guys had been working on all summer (and then some). I'm trying to remember what this one classmate of mine was talking about when they started in on one of the hallmarks of good writing that we all know but I can tell you now it wasn't even 'show, don't tell' so trust me everyone has their own thoughts about that cardinal rule.

But you made it through, and destruction is constructive ... you have three years in which to practice and learn -- aren't you glad you're not paying all this money just to talk about stuff you already knew?


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