As the woman behind one of our regular workshops, Kirsteen Coupar is perfect to shed some light into the mechanics of a feedback workshop.

When I came to my first meeting of Sutton Writers I didn’t know anyone and wasn’t sure what would be expected of me. It was a great relief to find out I wasn’t supposed to read some of my own work in a public forum on that first visit.

However, it wasn’t long before I realised that I did want feedback. Writing can be such a isolating business, and I found getting constructive criticism to be invaluable for the following reasons:

  • Improving what I had already written
  • Improving what I was going to write (because I learned how to be a better writer at workshops)
  • Having a regular creative space to enter and building my urge to write
  • Socialising with other writers and having fun
  • Learning how to critique and feedback, which also made me a better writer

I went to my first workshop at Sutton Writers for around two years, and then I decided to open my own.  My workshop runs on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month from 8-10pm.  I am currently in Nork, Banstead, and each workshop I can have up to eight writers.

Why do writers attend workshops?

If you are thinking about making the leap into attending a workshop but are filled with trepidation, then hopefully I can allay your nerves by letting you know what goes on.

Socialising

This happens at the start and the end of each workshop; sometimes it’s only a quick hello before we dive straight in, but at other times we might spend 10 minutes catching up on writing-unrelated matters. When you start attending a workshop you also start friendships with the people there, and those friendships are oiled and lubricated with some non-writing jibber jabber.

Sharing work

At my current workshop we have people writing in the many genres and styles, including horror, sci-fi, fantasy, short stories for magazine publication, poetry, contemporary fiction, script writing and children’s books.

It’s important to note that nobody HAS to read. But, if you do want to share your own work you can read it yourself, ask someone else to read it (and this can be incredibly useful as to hear your own work helps you identify problems you just couldn’t see when you were reading it yourself), ask workshop members to take parts in a script, or circulate it by email before a workshop.

Critique and constructive feedback

Whoever feels they have something to say jumps in. We ensure we pick out what we like about a piece before we start offering advice or feedback. 

At my workshop we have got some individuals who are brilliant at feedback. They talk about the dialogue, the descriptions, the language used, the character development, the pace of the writing, whether it’s true to genre, and suggestions on storyline and what could be edited to make the work more impactful.

Feedback is just a suggestion though; as a writer you can use whatever you like and ignore the rest!

I wrote my first ever full-length book purely because I was attending fortnightly workshops. I put it down for two years and now I’m picking it up and editing it, and getting the thoughts of my workshop group on whether my editing has improved it, and what else I could do to make it agent or publisher ready.

A real workshop example

I thought it would help if I shared a section from the book I’m editing and then gave the feedback I received at a recent workshop.

Feedback isn’t always quite as neat as this – sometimes we wait until the end of a piece, and sometimes we might interject as it is being read. 

The day after a workshop I’m always really enthused to make the changes that I have decided to make as a result of the feedback, which then has me writing more as I’ve got into the groove of creating. The knowledge that a workshop is coming up can also prod me to write. I want to be sure I’ve got something to read out.

A-real-workshop-example_Kirsteen-Coupar

I hope this has been useful and you will consider joining one of our workshops. Do consider coming to one of mine – if the location and time works for you, you would be most welcome!

Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

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