Monday, October 14, 2013

Kicked Out of a Writers Workshop

Months ago, I signed up for a 3-week online writers workshop.  It was being led by a man whose  one-day critique session I’ve attended before.  At the critique session, I got ideas that improved my script. Now I had another script that needed help.

At the critique session, this workshop leader quickly put a lid on any rudeness.  At the online workshop, he didn’t monitor the emails, and some of the participants were downright mean in what they said about the other members’ work.

Still, these inexperienced writers found problems with my story that more experienced writers had missed.

I’m an experienced writer and an experienced human.  I can get good ideas even when they are couched in insulting language. After the first week, I had enough ideas to do a major overhaul to my troubled script.  Since about half of the workshop members hadn’t read my original version, and the leader hadn’t read anything, I spent all my spare time during the following week rewriting the entire screenplay. 

I cleared this with the leader before beginning. The morning before I posted it, I cleared it with him again.  I actually thought I had 2 more days, but the leader said I had to get it in today!  I knew there were a few typos and clunky sentences but the new version of the story was ready for critical eyes.

I posted the new version to the group.  One of the meaner members of the group immediately announced that I was cheating and that the leader should not read my new version and neither should anybody else.

Huh?  I thought we all joined this workshop in order to improve our scripts.  And it was a 3 week workshop.  Isn’t rewriting what people do in workshops?  

Within hours, the leader emailed me that he was not going to read my new version. He said that I had an unfair advantage by doing a rewrite.  No, he hadn’t read anything yet, but he was not going to critique my new version.  I told him that critiquing the old version would be of no use to me. And in fact, I thought everybody would benefit by doing rewrites and getting his feedback on their new versions.  He told me I was being disrespectful. 

He then made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d send my money back and I would never do business with him again. 

Three members of the group, who had hated my first version read the new one – two of them loved it. One person who hadn’t read the old version read the new one. He loved it. And he had some good questions for my next go-round.

So, I got what I went for – ideas to improve my script. And I’m not out-of-pocket.  I’d say that’s win-win – except for the other members of the workshop who could have benefitted by doing rewrites.  Seriously – since when is doing a rewrite in a writers workshop the same as cheating?

Watch – my best guess is that next year, this same leader will offer rewrite as a feature of his workshops.  And he won’t give me credit for the idea.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking – who needs a leader?  What we need are spontaneous writers’ workshops, in which writers of all experience levels can critique each others’ work. 


  1. Your workshop leader sounds delusional. The whole POINT of the workshop is to receive input and apply it. Why would you sit around for three weeks and not work on the script. And cheating? What cheating? Is there a prize at the end? I'm really happy you were able to get your money back.

  2. Thanks Allison, No, there was no prize. Just feedback. I got useful feedback. I did a rewrite that I think makes the script much better. And I got a refund. I'm permanently kicked out of anything this workshop leader does. There are plenty of other writers' workshops. Totally weird. The key thing is I got to improve my script and that is why I went.

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