This is How You Do It #1: Writeshop

This is How You Do It #1: Writeshop

You need to know this: I was not talking about MFA programs in my Millions essay. Or at least, not MFA programs exclusively. I was also talking about undergraduate creative writing programs. I think it’s possible (and necessary) to accommodate long-form prose at the undergraduate level, too.

How to do it: turn workshop into a writeshop.

For example:

I don’t know Joe O’Connell, but he responded to a post by Dinty Moore on the Brevity blog, and I thought what he had to say about his teaching was really interesting.

“I do teach novel writing, but I call it novella writing (which may say something!). The notion is no workshopping whatsoever. Write 40,000 words in a semester after spending some time using the tools (including screenwriting) to “construct” a basic plot plan. Students are urged to come back the next semester and spend that time revising. The problem with writing a novel in a traditional workshop is the workshop part. It’s too close of reading and disrupts the writing of an original draft. If it were to work, you’d have to have the draft written first. Instead get that bad draft on paper in a class.”

This is basically what I did last semester in my Advanced Fiction Writing class at Ball State University. A few months ago, I described that methodology in a post titled “Note Toward a Supreme Fiction.”

It’s a very different approach. Basically, you don’t use classroom time to discuss polished drafts, but rather as an opportunity to help students generate. The focus is on the writing process, and is more akin to a studio art class than a traditional workshop.

Note that at Ball State, our undergraduate creative writing courses aren’t even called workshops. They are called Poetry Writing, Fiction Writing. Creative Nonfiction Writing.

Thanks Joe O’Connell. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one leading a writeshop instead of a workshop.

CW Programs Teaching

4 comments

  1. A.C. Ford says:

    I wish I’d had something like this to look forward to when I still needed creative writing classes. I was lucky to take my last creative writing course with Jill Christman where I met the chicks, and also the first course that demanded I write something longer for a longer period of time. I admit, I hated it at first. Then I realized that the stories I had to tell where better fit to a novel format than short story and wished I’d spent more time writing them that way. Man, Cathy, I really wish I could back and take one of your classes.

    Maybe you’ll teach something in summer?

    • Cathy Day says:

      No, I don’t think I’m teaching this summer. But really, what I did in my class is something you can do on your own or with a group. Instead of getting together to talk about what you’ve written, get together to write, period. I describe how I did this in other blog posts here, so feel free to read.

      Someday, I would like to spend some time learning how to write and think about flash, a form that truly amazes me.

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