Today’s guest post is from Leslie Anglesey, who has some great tips on how writers can benefit from the many online writing workshops available online. Workshops are like an open doorway leading to creative productivity. Step on through!
Modern writers rely on the Internet for many different things. Internet resources provide writers with the research they need even from obscure journals or independent scientific findings. The Internet also offers writers a great chance to find different jobs, test out the waters with various styles, deadlines, and clients and can also offer immediate help when they find themselves debating over a specific word, anguishing over comma placement, or wondering if that sentence really needs a semicolon.
Although writers don’t think twice about using the Internet for any of these things, many don’t think to reach out for one of the most effective resources of al—writing workshops.
Writing Workshops—What They Are and What They Are Not
Although writing workshops have been around for decades, many writers have only a vague notion of what happens in a workshop. There are now many different kinds of writing workshops, some of which require writers to travel to for regular meets or to participate in a writing retreat. Other workshops have sprung up as an online option for writers who can’t get away and also to make workshops and the benefits of collaborative writing more accessible to modern writers. This encourages an even wider range of writers from different social, cultural, economic, and spiritual backgrounds to come together.
As far as writing workshops go, online options have become the most popular form, though “real life” workshops continue to flourish on a grassroots level. That’s because these workshops can all be interconnected, and it’s possible for writers to connect to local art, talent, and creativity through in-person meetings as well as getting in touch with writers and artists from all over the world online.
Writing workshops aren’t always about critique, and they rarely focus on only one person’s work at a time. Workshops are about honing your skills, but they’re also about broadening your horizons. Some workshops offer in-depth critique and analysis, and these are usually promoted with a feel more akin to coursework than creative workshops. Workshops—whether in person or online—are not the place to promote a book, actively build a fan base, or even promote yourself. They are about perfecting your craft and making you a better, and oftentimes a more humble, writer.
The Power of Collaborative Work
Though workshops vary depending on their goals, and each workshop operates a little differently, typically they involve one major collaborative work, and they encourage collaboration throughout the process. Collaboration is nothing new to the literary world, and many iconic writers have found that working collaboratively—even if just for fun—is one of the most rewarding benefits of taking on the rigors of a writing life.
Some literary collaborations have given us amazing works of fiction. Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to deliver The Talisman, a novel that went on to receive nominations for the Locus and World Fantasy Awards in 1985 and spawned a 2001 sequel. Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were inspired to team up to write alternating chapters for their mystery novel And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. The novel was written nearly a decade before either of them began to achieve success for their work in Beat literature. The novel was unpublished for years and was not known for featuring the authors’ best writing, but gives an interesting early glimpse into they styles of two men who became the voice of a generation. Other noteworthy collaborative fiction titles include:
- Inferno by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
- The Forever Machine by Mark Clifton & Frank Riley
- The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
- The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner
- Relic by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Collaborations are not always an endeavor to write the next Great American Novel. In fact, sometimes they set out to do just the opposite. Naked Came the Stranger was a novel published in 1969. The book was published under the name of Penelope Ashe and, upon publication, sales hit 90,000 copies quickly. In reality, the book was a collaborative effort of twenty-four journalists who wrote the book as a way to poke fun at contemporary culture and the public thirst for sleaze.
How Workshops Help the Collaborative Process
Teaming up with a fellow writer is one thing, but connections like that usually begin in a workshop setting. Workshops provide writers a chance to network in a way no other avenue can offer. Even when writers get together to socialize, they may talk about their work and ask about the work of others, but they are not likely to actively work with one another to create one piece. Workshops actively encourage writers to interact on a creative level, which boosts the creativity of everyone in the group.
This, by its very nature, encourages greater collaboration and encourages writers to push themselves. Sometimes it is a question of getting out of one’s comfort zone to allow in different ideas and styles. Other times, it is simply about honing networking and interactive skills, as writing has the perilous side effect of being too solitary.
Online Workshops May Get You out of Your Comfort Zone
Online workshops have become one of the most popular ways for writers to get the most out of the workshop experience. Online workshops do often require a set time to meet in a chat room or expectations on communication. It commits an author to working with another person or a group in order to improve their skills, stretch their storytelling abilities, or simply get a different point of view.
The Internet offers more than just a wealth of research sources, it offers a true sense of community for people who otherwise would never meet. For writers, this can be the most valuable resource of all. Being able to interact and work with other writers provides a boost in creativity and the ability to strengthen core skills.
Online workshops have also paved the way for niche options in terms of workshops goals. There are still workshops that focus on fundamental skills, like developing characters or learning to write better dialogue. Now there are also workshops that are tailored for genre-specific needs, such as how to develop a realistic alien culture or the best ways to write historical paranormal romance novels.
Writers have used workshops to improve and develop their skills, boost their creativity, and network with writers who have had more success or with newcomers to the writing life who bring a breath of fresh air to the proceedings. Writing is, by its nature, a solitary endeavor and for many, workshops offer a rare and welcome chance to experience the best aspects of the collaborative process. This in turn inspires and pushes writers to stretch their creativity, hone their skills, and develop a new voice, style, or approach to their storytelling. The end result is a league of writers who are able to work well on their own and bring out the best in fellow artists through online workshops and collaborations.
Leslie Anglesey is an educator who loves teaching how to turn writing ideas into amazing piece. She works for Essay Tigers and helps students to improve their writing skills. Connect with Leslie on Facebook and Twitter.