Thursday, 24 March 2011

All about workshops

I really hate workshopping.  It’s an essential part of that whole ‘being a Writah, Dahling’ thing, I know, and would definitely be incredibly useful IF it was not for the fact that almost everything I workshop I write hurriedly, while hungover, and for the express purpose of having something to workshop.  I thought it was about time I committed an act of embloggination about creative writing, so this is my general workshop experience.

Here I am, sitting awkwardly in Kennedy Hall watching my class try to think of something nice to say about the piece I wrote in two hours yesterday morning, while a badger or some similarly smelly and long-clawed mammal tried to claw its way out of my skull.  It’s a crappy section of ‘Something longer’, I’ve told them, although it isn’t.  It’s two thousand words of vague rubbish, bashed out to fulfil a deadline and largely written in dialect because, as I may have mentioned, I was hungover when I wrote it.  This class is full of very clever, very serious Writers, so I can’t show them what I’m really working on (Zombie Werewolves of Devon (in corsets) vs the Ninja-Spartans (who, after being defeated at Thermopylae, ordered a consignment of eye-patches and became pirates)).  Incidentally, can I put brackets within brackets?  It’s a punctuational point which has been bothering me for some time, and if anyone knows the answer I would greatly appreciate their input.  Anyway, back to the workshop.

Someone, probably Gretchen, says something incredibly clever and pertinent.  I nod, and say I will work it into the redraft.  I wonder how I can apply it to Zombie Werewolves.  There is not much space for metatextuality in Zombie Werewolves, but I am sure I can shoehorn it in there somewhere.  The great JB nods.  He is very keen on metatextuality.  He tells me that I was clearly trying to make a cunning metatextual point here.  I say that that is absolutely what I was trying to do, and I am glad he picked up on it.  You can’t argue when an eminent novelist like JB tells you what you were trying to do with a piece, even if what you were trying to do with it was fill a side of A4 with Times New Roman.

 Someone clears their throat and starts to say something about the protagonist, but I am not really listening.  I am busy working through a knotty plot problem, to whit; if it is not rape when the victim is dead, would it technically be rape if a werewolf forced himself upon a zombie?  I have concluded that it would not, and am considering the implications for Spartan piracy if lycanthropy is a sexually transmitted disease when I realise that everybody is expectantly silent.  A question has been asked.  I do not know what question, or who by, but I must answer nonetheless.

“Oh, you know”, I say, “this is an early draft so...yeah”.  A useful phrase, that I have discovered to be the ‘That would be an ecumenical matter’ of creative writing. 

It is at about this point that I usually decide that I should probably contribute something to the class, and manage to alienate everyone within a ten foot radius by saying whatever is on the surface of my brain.  Yesterday I casually remarked that British people generally have the idea that Americans cannot do irony, thereby unintentionally and unthinkingly insulting over half the class (who hail from the USA).  I decide, sinking red-faced into a slump within my seat, that next time I will write a properly thought-out and intelligent piece, with good description and shit, that will repair the damage because it will be tailored to the class and make them approve of me.  Then I go and get drunk to aid the necrophilic lycanthropy writing process, and forget all about it.


  1. Heather, I have been meaning to ask, what exactly is your masters in? I thought you were doing something academic. But I read your blog and you had a creative writing tutorial. Either A. Not everything on the internet is true, or B. I am not infallible. Can you think of a third way to save both mine and your integrity? That would be truly creative.

  2. If you take the rules of mathematics then it is perfectly acceptable to use brackets within brackets; separating terms in an expression in order to complete distinct calculations in a desired order as opposed to letting them run figuratively amok is done in exactly this way. Now you just need to find a valid reason for applying this to Writahdom.

  3. Suky, I would not dare to suggest that you are not infallible. I am, however, doing a masters in creative writing. I can only assume that you were testing my by stating that you were wrong. I hope that I passed the test by continuing to believe in your omnipotent powers!
    Simon, you lost me at 'mathematics'.