A couple of weekends back, Mickey and I held a workshop with the All In! Young Writers’ Festival. While we merely touched the surface of what Speculative Fiction and storytelling was, we also conducted an exercise taught to us during our Mentor Access Project (MAP) Retreat.
It was introduced to us as workshopping.
Before you apply this to your own storytelling, you will need:
It’ll be good if your friends have already read your entire draft / abstract before coming for the session for context.
(Note: It’ll be good if you’re able to bring someone with some background in storytelling, writing, or creating in the group as well, just to give perspective from a commercial point-of-view)
As a setup, have everyone sitting within earshot of each other, preferably in a circle. Then you start:
READ YOUR WORK
First, read your work. No one else is to interrupt or ask questions. Whether you’re just there to help with feedback or are waiting for your turn to share your stories, just listen to the story as it’s being told. At the same time, be clear with your reading – don’t rush over your words.
LISTEN TO FEEDBACK
After you’re done reading, everyone gives their feedback one-by-one, starting from the person directly on the left or right of the storyteller.
The most important aspect of this stage is this – Listen to the feedback without any interruptions.
This stage is to simulate a reader reading your book on their own. Realistically, such cases won’t allow either the author or other readers to intervene with feedback and opinions. For the most constructive feedback, it’s best to let each person say their piece before going on to the next person.
(Note: It’ll also help to craft your feedback to be balanced – talk about what you were not sure about, but also mention what you liked about the piece. This is not praise for praise’s sake, but this can help provide the author with a direction on what to enhance and keep in the story.)
This is when you get to ask your readers any pertinent questions or discuss any pressing concerns you have about your work.
Commonly, authors tend to ask about (but not limited to) the following topics:
Regardless, it’s your story, it’ll be good if you enter the session with an idea of what you’d like to get out of this workshopping session.
At the end of the session, take the notes you’ve gathered and go over them again.
Decide the direction of your story while keeping the feedback you’ve received in mind, especially feedback that has been repeated over the workshopping session.
Now that you have a good stack of notes, make full use of the feedback and polish your story further!
The Workshopping technique was taught to us by Man Asia Winner, Miguel Syjuco. You can find out more about him and his works here.