Writing Workshops

What do you think?

As promised here is my edit of a brave writer’s first 200 words! Feel free to leave your comments (only helpful, respectful ones, thanks!) at the bottom of the post (if tumblr lets you, it’s been acting up lately). Readers are as different as writers and my word does not have to rule :)

So here ya go! First of all, major round of applause to our first brave (anonymous) writer!

Originally posted by to-cut-a-womans-hair

This is the text as I received it:

The siren blared as loud as a chilling scream, shocking me awake and immersing me in terror. Not again, not now. Please not now. Leaping out of bed I yanked on my boots and scooped up Hazel who was barely even awake despite the noise and bolted for the door, grabbing her coat and boots along the way. Putting her outside I went back to rescue a screaming Toby from his crib. He bawled and fought when I picked him up, his pudgy fists flying wildly; sleep still gluing his eyes shut.

“It’s okay, it’s Adda Toby. Everything’s fine.” I hushed; he stopped fighting against me but he still cried, fat tears streaming down his pasty cheeks. Hazel had managed to tug on her boots and had one arm in her coat when I came back outside. Despite it being summer there was a chill to the cloudless night’s air and she shivered in her grumpy just woken up state. “What about mama?” She whimpered, rubbing her drooping eyes, looking younger than her elven years.

My comments:


  • This story starts right in the middle of a conflict, something’s happening and we want to know what. The reader is drawn in and wants to keep reading. 
  • I caught only one typo. Okay, maybe that’s a con ;) elEven
  • Good mingling of dialogue, narration, and thoughts


  • There is no paragraph formatting here and it might be because it was sent as an ask, so I’m not going to blame it on our awesome author, but in doubt check my post on manuscript formatting
  • The punctuation is a bit all over the place. For example there’s a comma missing after the first thought. As it is I am unsure who’s bolting and grabbing the coat, Hazel or the narrator? Also, semicolons and colons are almost never used and they’re best avoided, but if you want to use them use them correctly. Semicolons are a separation between two independent clauses (if you replaced them with a period the two sentences would make sense on their own) while colons imply a list or an explanation.
  • You introduce three characters in 200 words. That’s a lot! In my edit (below) I cut out Toby’s name.


  • Avoid comparisons unless necessary. A siren blaring is clear enough
  • Choose verbs carefully. You want the idea of sudden awakening in fear. If the siren wakes her and then “immerses her” you infer the idea of a temporal separation, you slow down that rush of adrenaline. I don’t think hushing is the verb you want. Soothing maybe? Cooing? Same for whimpered, maybe mumbled?
  • You seem to use a lot of gerunds and longer sentences. This is a fast paced scene. Sometimes the rhythm of the narration helps convey a mood. If the scene is fast paced, use short, panic-inducing sentences ;)
  • Avoid repeating words (like boots)
  • Beware of exact descriptions. We’re in an emergency here. I know you know exactly how the scene plays out in your head, but do we need to know which clothes were grabbed and when? Make it fast, limit information to what we need or gives us a feeling (for example, are the clothes ragged? Plush? You could use them to tell us something about the characters, otherwise…cut)
  • Be realistic! I know you want to tell the reader that the narrator is Adda, but would she really tell her name to a screaming baby she’s close enough to share a bedroom with? Maybe introduce her later?
  • Bring me there. Are there any smells after the sirens go off? Or when they walk into the night? Any other sounds? People stomping around?
  • Last sentence. “She shivered” I’m assuming it’s the 11 yo, since it’s female and third person, but I had to think about it. You snapped me out of the movie you were directing in my head. Always make subjects clear


This is good. You are definitely on to something! I know it might not seem so by the number of comments and edits I talked and will talk about, but alas, such is the nature of writing. The work here is good, there is action, I want to know more! Everything else is about sculpting it into perfection, and what that is will depend on the writer.

Originally posted by katsgiflibrary


You’ll see that I added some flavor here and there, but that’s my style and I don’t know if that’s where you wanted to go, so edit away! Keep whatever you like and ditch the rest. It’s your baby :)

The siren blared into the night, shocking me awake with a renewed wave of terror. Not again, not now. Please not now. I leaped out of bed yanking on my work boots as the baby started to bawl.  I swaddled him in a ragged blanket as I shook Hazel, still bleary from sleep.

“Hazel, come on! Get ready! Put your shoes on!”

Many feet were already stomping in the alley outside our shack. Someone slammed into our door and I thought it would come off its hinges.

“What about mama?” Hazel mumbled, fumbling for her clothes and looking a lot younger than her eleven years.

“Hurry!” I helped her with her coat and I seized her hand, holding the yelping baby to my chest. We ran out into the summer night, unseasonably chill, and were engulfed by the screaming crowd, their panic filling my head in between the siren’s loud warnings.

Wanna have feedback?

1-Start your message with “200 words”. Then paste in the first 200 words of your work. Send it anytime, I will answer when I can :)

Why only two hundred words?

-You need to engage your reader within 100

-I’m gonna lose my mind if I’m overwhelmed

2-Specify the length of the entire work (either because you have it or an estimate will do, for example you could say this will be a novel or flash fiction)

3-I will share my opinion and editing of your work with the tumblr community and we’ll start a debate. This type of post will be titled “do you agree?” So everyone can chime in and you can get multiple feedbacks :)

4-As a rule, I will leave your work anonymous so you don’t feel on the spot, but if you are brave let me know and I’ll leave your name on it

5-No poetry! I’m in no way qualified to criticize it. I can only enjoy it :)

5-I will ignore messages that don’t comply. Please be nice to me and everyone else :)


“Black science fiction trailblazer Samuel Delaney, 63, remembers teaching Butler as a 23-year-old student at the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop. She was, he says, incredibly shy, a student who spoke only when she had something to say, but someone who obviously had great talent.

It was years later, however, after she had published "Kindred,” that he saw what she had become. “It was wonderful to see how she had bloomed and gained so much self-confidence and become a really extraordinary public speaker,” Delaney says. She also was a pathblazer in a genre where once you could count the black writers on one hand.“


Are you a writer? 

Are you between the ages of 14 and 19? 

Would you like to meet and be taught by the likes of Rachel Swirsky (2010 Nebula Award Winner), Tobias S. Buckell (the Xenowealth series, Halo: The Cole Protocol, and others), Bruce Coville (over 100 children’s and young adult novels, including Aliens Ate My Homework, Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcherand Into the Land of the Unicorns), and Tamora Pierce (author of almost thirty novels in the Tortall and Circle of Magic universes)? 

The March 2nd deadline is approaching for applications to this year’s Alpha Writer’s Workshop, a scifi/fantasy/horror-focused program that brings together young writers from all across the globe with professionals in the field. 

Each day students attend lectures by the year’s author guests, meet with staff to discuss story ideas, and focus their evenings on writing. The goal is to produce and polish a short story during the workshop, which can then be submitted to professional markets on the final day.

Alpha prepares students for the professional realm and gives them an understanding and the ins and outs of the publication process, while simultaneously encouraging young talent to network with their peers and form relationships that outlast the program. With a variety of off-campus groups, including an online reading and critique group for alumni, Alpha is a life-changing experience to say the least.

Can’t attend, but want to contribute? Alpha is currently looking for donations to help fund this year’s scholarships, so that students of any financial background can make the trip.

For more information on this amazing program and the wonderful people who make it possible, click here to visit their website.

Go for it, folks! And good luck!

Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices: Information and Application

Lambda Literary believes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer literature is fundamental to the preservation of our culture, and that LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published and read. The Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices is the first program of its kind ever offered to LGBTQ writers: a one-week intensive workshop…


Chuck Palahniuk talks to us about the power a writer’s workshop has on the writer and the craft: support, accountability, community, growth.

OPPORTUNITY ALERT:  VSC has a special fellowship earmarked for black women! Get on it.  (And there are fellowships for other folks, too.)

Voices Rising Fellowship
This fellowship is for an African American woman fiction writer with demonstrable financial need. Given in honor of women writers of color such as Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Zora Neale Hurston, whose voices have inspired so many, this award also comes with a $2,000 stipend to help offset costs associated with the residency, such as travel, childcare, lost wages, rent, etc..

More details here! http://www.vermontstudiocenter.org/fellowships

I’m thrilled to announce the start of my new business: Madcap Retreats! 

For many years, I’ve been coordinating events for my day job and retreats for my friends. I’ve taken groups of students and faculty into the mountains of Mexico, over the glaciers of Alaska, and to the remote black sand beaches of Hawaii all in the name of research. My writing retreats are a little less adventurous, but no less memorable. In the past four years, I’ve hosted writers in groups from 8 to 38 in inspiring locales across the United States. My latest event was in the Smoky Mountains where I brought 35 Young Adult and Middle Grade debut authors into a single amazing house for four days of creative community. 

Now, I’d like to coordinate retreats for you and your friends.

Here’s what Madcap offers:

For all the details, visit: http://www.madcapretreats.com 

Here’s a list of testimonials from fabulous folk like Gretchen McNeil, andimjulie, amyplum, bethrevis, carrieryan, and meganshepherdauthor!

To join our mailing list, use this form. (We do solemnly swear to ONLY send emails out as new retreats and workshops are added to the calendar!)


Natalie C. Parker

Free Writing Workshops for Young Women Writers at The Carnegie Center (Lexington, KY)

The Carnegie Center (Lexington, KY) is now taking applications for next year's Young Women Writers Program—a series of free writing workshops for young writers (9-12th grade) who want to learn how to write creatively through self-expression.

The Committee will choose six writers of promising talent to participate in six 4-hour workshops scheduled on Saturdays in Feb./Mar./Apr. 2015.

Keep reading

Have poetry, fiction, research, or articles you would like critiqued or line edited? I have skills garnered from my work in journalism, creative workshops, professional publishing, and academic tutoring that I would love to use to help your writing shine as brightly as possible. For a flexible rate of 1$ per page, you can contract me for efficient, thorough work on improving your grammar, plot strength, sentence structure, and flow. All proceeds will go towards helping me pay for room and board next semester. More information about the editorial process can be found here, so please take a moment to see if you would be interested and signal boost. Thank you!

I’m always surprised by how many people show up to a writing class with no paper or pen. It happens so often I just prepare for it now. The funniest part is when I ask folks why they came to a writing class with nothing to write on or with they are just as mystified by this as I am. In other words, they don’t know why, and to me that’s pretty interesting.
1. Your first draft will be shitty, get over it.
2. Your second draft will most probably be just as shitty. It’s fine.
3. Your third draft will be better, but you still have to work on it once you walk out of that classroom.
4.The other people in your workshop are not your adversaries.
5. What happens in workshop, stays in workshop.
6. Read the story being work-shopped at least twice.
7. Everyone can spot the typos and punctuation problems; try finding something more important to criticize.
8. Only because it makes you uncomfortable it doesn’t mean it sucks.
9. You don’t have to like the protagonist.
10. Yes, you should actually write that critique letter.
—  10 things I wish I had been told about fiction workshops
Ten mistakes self-published authors should avoid at all cost

1-Don’t quit your day job to be a writer. To write you need inspiration and inspiration dies the minute you have to write to pay the bills. Most writers spend nights, weekends and lunch breaks on their projects. Once you become a bestselling author, then you quit your job.

Originally posted by t3quila-mockingbird

2-Don’t release your book too soon. You think your book is done, you’re excited and want to share it with the world. You can’t bear to reread it anymore. Well, let it sit for a month, then read it again. See all those typos? Those extra characters? TAKE YOUR TIME! If you send a mediocre work out, you’re through. 90% of self-published books are garbage. Make sure your work is the best it can be. How?

-Go to writers’ groups

-Get beta readers

3-Don’t reject criticism. I know it hurts, but freaking listen already! It will make your work better! 

Originally posted by bookjunkie26

4-Get beta readers! Some people don’t because they don’t want to give away their book away for free. This is a huge mistake. Beta readers are AWESOME (thank you guys!) they provide a safe environment where you can learn if your book sucks before you send it out in the world. Also, if your book is good, there’s a good chance they will buy it anyway, in fact even multiple copies for friends (I always buy books I loved for my friends!)

Originally posted by falling-inlove-with-books

5-Don’t underprice or overprice your book. You know how many hours went into your book. Some people think that giving away their book for free will help them get it out there, but the truth is that most cheap books (not all, but most) are really not that great. If your book is good readers will pay a fair price. But don’t overprice your book. You’re not a bestseller, so stay reasonable! Average size paperbacks are priced $14-18. Young adult tend to be a bit less. I am thinking to price my first book around $9 (paperback).  E-books should be lower (I’m thinking $4-5). Audiobook are expensive and depend on length. What are your thoughts on pricing?

6-Invest in your book! The worst thing you can do is to think “I wanna make money on this, not blow them!” Well, you need to invest into your project to give your book a chance. This is your dream. Especially if this is your first book, plan on investing in advertising and professional help when needed (editing, cover design, etc…). Don’t make debt, ever, save for it like you would save for a pair of shoes you like. Our biggest mistake is to think that we are not worth it, when we have no problem throwing money on a dinner out or somebody else’s book. Invest in yourself, give your dream its best chance! 

Originally posted by kesterkreative

And…don’t count on making money out of your books, hope that you will. There are about 300,000 books published per year in the US alone. Only 100 make the best seller list and the big bucks…Write because you have to and want to say something, not to make money. 

7-Don’t underestimate cover design. Design a mind blowing cover! If you can’t, pay someone to. 

8-Don’t think that your book it’s going to sell itself. Even if it’s the best book to have ever seen the light on planet earth, readers need to know it’s out there. The average author (with a publisher!) sells 400 copies per book (sadness). You need to spend time doing research and marketing (see post on marketing). 

9-Don’t think “I’m a writer, it’s not my job to…” It is. If you are self published, it is your job to edit, design, market, engage readers, travel the world…do whatever it takes to get your book out there.

Originally posted by datenshi1

10-Don’t start marketing your book once it’s out. They say it takes three years to build a decent networking/marketing system. I don’t know about that, but start as soon as you can! 

Thanks for reading, like and reblog, I’m always looking for more bibliophiles to follow ^_^

I realized that I would greatly prefer to think of literature as a profession, an art, a science, or pretty much anything else, rather than a craft. What did craft ever try to say about the world, the human condition, or the search for meaning? All it had were its negative dictates: “Show, don’t tell”; “Murder your darlings”; “Omit needless words.” As if writing were a matter of overcoming bad habits—of omitting needless words.

…I reached some conclusive state of disillusionment with the transcendentalist New England culture of “creative writing.” In this culture, to which the writing workshop belonged, the academic study of literature was understood to be bad for a writer’s formation. By what mechanism, I found myself wondering, was it bad? Conversely, why was it automatically good for a writer to live in a barn, reading short stories by short-story writers who didn’t seem to be read by anyone other than writing students?

The Possessed by Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman and Sarah Schulman should form a MFA Haters Club. Though, I think they’re absolutely right.

Writing Workshops LA – which was founded by our own Edan Lepucki – is hosting “The Conference” on June 28 of this year, and the day-long event will consist of “educational and thoughtful panel discussions as well as smaller, in-depth presentations and workshops aimed at informing and inspiring every attendee.” Presenters will include award-winning literary agents, editors, and writers including Joanna RakoffAdam WilsonDavid L. UlinCounterpoint’s Dan Smetanka, and Daniel Gumbiner of McSweeney’s. Don’t miss your chance to sign up for the early bird special before April 15th – the first 40 attendees will also get an invitation to a literary pub quiz event the night before.

How Writers Write Poetry 2015 - Canvas Network | Free online courses | MOOCs

How Writers Write Poetry 2015, a seven-week course beginning on March 23, 2015, offers an interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing poetry. The course presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks on craft by two dozen acclaimed poets writing in English. Craft topics include persona, notebooking, the line, the turn, form, and the lyric. The talks are designed for beginning poets just starting to put words on a page as well as for advanced poets looking for new entry points, engagement with process, or teaching tips. The course will be taught by Professor Christopher Merrill, International Writing Program Director, poet, and translator; and Camille Rankine, poet, Assistant Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College, and editorial director of The Manhattanville Review.

Contributing poets’ video talks will be contextualized through online discussion and writing assignments. The course moderators (all Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates with university level experience teaching creative writing) will join Camille Rankine in offering online facilitation to participants through course discussion forums. Poets who have contributed video craft talks for the course include former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Kwame Dawes, Marvin Bell, Lia Purpura, Kazim Ali, Kate Greenstreet, Natasha Tiniacos, and many others. How Writers Write Poetry will offer a diversity of answers to the question of how a writer develops and refines the lifelong practice of his or her craft.
Enrollment in How Writers Write Poetry is free and unlimited; there is no cost to participants.

Can I just once again remind you that this is being instructed by Merrill & Rankine?

Go go go!

I know there must be a few of you out there from Boston and its surroundings. You guys know about Grub Street? One of the country’s leading independent writing centers? It’s an amazing place. I took my first writing class there eleven years ago, an intro to Fiction workshop. It was a life-changer. I’ve taken a handful of workshops and classes over the years. And it makes my throat clench a little to say that this fall, I’ll be teaching two seminars there. Personal Days: Writing About Work on September 3, and the Basics of Writing Book Reviews on September 10. Sign up!

writing workshop thoughts?

Hello writerly folk,

I’m looking for feedback on writing workshops (for fanfic or original fic); I’ve been in a few myself, but I’m curious what has worked well (and what hasn’t worked so well) for you in workshops you’ve participated in, whether at cons or in other settings. I made a google form with a few questions–if you’ve got a couple minutes to do it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. :) Thank you!