Would you like to write memorable fiction stories? Stories that are imagined and created as an art form of lasting value? Of course it's possible. First seek the basics of great literary stories you like that have enchanted readers for centuries. Then read and learn, study and write, and find the best mentor available.
Usually every fiction-writer takes one or more "workshops" in creative writing. For eighteen years, I took over 100 workshops and courses . . . and attended hundreds of lectures and readings. I was left with these impressions. The quality of teaching is highly variable. Academic settings do not guarantee educational value. And wrong, or at least useless, information may be presented that thwarts learning and career development.
So here are a few suggestions for making a right choice of a workshop for learning LITERARY FICTION.
1. Look for workshops that attract serious students who are passionate about literary fictional stories. With no disapproval intended, too many attendees of workshops are hobbyists without the drive needed for writing great fiction and a fuzzy vision of what they want to achieve. And there are also many dedicated readers with dreams of being a writer (but little burning desire) who take workshops as a pleasant time to experiment with writing but are unable to contribute to a learning experience for others.
2. Do not take courses that claim to teach multiple disciplines: memoir, creative non-fiction, essay, genre fiction, and fiction. Each discipline has unique essentials that give vigor to stories; take a workshop dedicated specifically to what you want to accomplish.
3. Avoid workshops where majority of learning is dependent on students critiquing each-others' manuscripts. Student critiquing is rarely valuable to a serious, dedicated student, and often disseminates wrong concepts and revision corrections, and at times, gives hurtful and unnecessary personal-comments that can ruin a students learning experience.
4. Accept only instructors who have proven abilities to write and teach in literary fiction, which has unique skills to be mastered. Fiction is imagined and then created, fiction is not just describing remembered friends, acquaintances, and events. Learn to create and revise with imagination; try not to fiddle endlessly with minor stylistic or grammatical changes when structural changes need to be fixed: characterization, plot progression, motivation, emotion, engagement, logic, and purpose for story.
5. Attend workshops devoted to learning. Do not accept "free time" for writing instead of lectures, workshop time, reviewing great literature examples, personal conferences, or readings. Social events should be minimal and not a raison d'etre for workshop attendance.
6. If student readings are offered, there should be instruction on how to present well, guidance on choosing material that will work best for a given audience, attendance required by all faculty and teaching assistants, supervised practice sessions, and post-reading one-on-one critiques. Do not allow course organizers to schedule student readings--where students are usually reading only to each other--to provide free time for faculty.
7. If prompts are used, investigate the quality of prompts and the abilities of teachers to analyze student responses to prompts. Prompts need to be created to teach basics in writing fiction that are then critiqued, not on the "this-works-for-me" premise (subjective), but on principles to improve writing and storytelling that are valuable to the entire class, not directed to just one individual. Instructors with these qualities may be hard to find.
Of course, workshops provide different results and different effects on different students. The above suggestions are generally applicable to most writers at any stage, but are, admittedly, offered for the student with goals to writing great literature to the best of their abilities and with dedication to lifelong learning. Advantages of any workshop are networking, making friends, learning, and new ideas about what you want to achieve with writing, and receiving comments on your work. So no matter what your choice of workshop or discipline, there is a good chance you'll have a good time.
HAVE YOU HAD A WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE THAT COULD HELP OTHERS? DO YOU AGREE WITH THE SUGGESTIONS ABOVE? I would be grateful for your comments.
SAMPLE SHORT STORIES of LITERARY FICTION
As an example of skills that bring clarity of purpose to a student of literary fiction, here are stories emphasizing fiction writing prioritizing certain essentials specific for story. (Seven useful essentials are: Prose, Characterization, Plot, Narration, Setting, Imagery, Meaning/purpose.) fictioneditorsopinions.com/2016/06/seven-elements-for-writing-fiction-stories/
Story with strong emphasis on CHARACTERIZATION: "Crossing Over" (read: 977 words, or listen 6:11 minutes) www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/original-stories-william-h-coles/crossing-over/
Story with strong emphasis on IMAGERY and PLOT: "War of the Flies" (read: 2025 words, or listen 12:49 minutes) www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/original-stories-william-h-coles/crossing-over/
Illustrations, commissioned for stories, by Peter Healy.
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