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.
“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.