Notes from Writing Group Members
Posted on 18 April 2011
This is my “writing tub” full of old drafts, notes from conferences I attended 6 years ago, lists of freelance markets, and a random sampling of critiques from some of the many writing groups I attended during the last decade. I’ve compiled some of these workshop comments below.
In case it’s not clear, I’m not poking fun at anyone (other than myself, of course). During workshop, I want to know when the writing is “ehhh” or if the protagonist is unbelievable or whether I successfully described store-bought baked goods. I’m grateful for every writer who offered feedback over the years — even the woman who said, “This draft is too unpolished for me to waste my time commenting on.”
Okay, maybe not her. On to the workshop comments! (Click “read more” below to continue reading after the jump.)
This reads exactly like a New Yorker story — meaning it has no ending.
YEAH, BABY!!! (A man wrote this next to a description of my female narrator’s body type.)
Very funny in a Mark Twainish-way.
You do know it sounds like he wishes he could sleep with his dead sister, right?
This made me cry while I was waiting for my son at the dentist!
Beautiful. She is dead, of course.
Is it just the onset of changing hormones? That would explain why I’m not getting her, as I didn’t have raging hormones as a teen … hormonal drama was not encouraged in my family.
You have some wonderful evocative imagery, however, this writing is not up to your usual crisp standard.
You wrote my favorite sentences of the month.
Doesn’t sound violent enough.
I understand it but I don’t.
Oh my Gawd! That is so funny. I worried about this, too! (Noted when a character worried her dead relative can see her having sex.)
Nice description of the classic grocery store cupcake.
Leaves don’t usually make a splash.
Is this supposed to be funny?
I’m mad at Susannah! She has no right to feel sorry for herself!
Hee hee hee.
Not sure about this line.
Not sure about this scene.
Not sure about the metaphor.
Not sure about this character.
Not sure about the ending.
Maybe you could use more contractions.
I didn’t walk away with anything.
Wow … heartbreakingly good. Send this out.
Why? (The only comment on the entire story. Yes, why indeed.)
Yikes! This is great.
This is beautiful if startling.
This is a wonderfully strange and very ambitious story.
It’s very hard for me to relate to [protagonist], which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I am a bit of an odd stick.
I see this piece as an offbeat lesson in the role of beauty and celebrity in American society through the eyes of someone who is in essence a free spirit.
The ending is superb.
Where is the ending??
I like the melancholy tone. I can hear your voice.
Too many words!
The Sweet Valley series is from a specific time period I’m not sure all readers would be familiar with. (This prompted me to realize that the Sweet Valley books are NOT in fact timeless, which, sadly, kind of blew my mind.)
Joyce Carol Oates –> you.
You obviously love the English language. You treat it with tenderness and care.
Laura, I love all your stories. You should consider getting them published as a collection! I mean that! (Someone wrote this on one of my stories back in 2006 or 2007 and I shrugged it off — I was so aware of how difficult it is to publish a debut collection of literary short fiction that the possibility wasn’t even on my radar at that time.)
…and the point is?
Thanks to all these critical readers for making me laugh and cringe and edit my ass off. For more (but not nearly as generous) workshop comments, see “Comments Written By Actual Students Extracted from Workshopped Manuscripts at a Major University” and “Comments on My Short Story I’ve Received From My Creative-Writing Classmates.” And if you’ve ever wondered what kind of feedback James Joyce might have received in a workshop, wonder no more!
Do you save workshop critiques? Do you have a random, disorganized writing file like I do? Did your family encourage hormonal drama?