Getting Through Tough Workshops

I’ve read a good many bad stories in writing workshops, from those in undergrad, to the ones I found in online communities, to those I’ve been in during my MFA; I’ve read a lot of bad stories. No, I take that back. I’ve read a lot of badly written stories. Few of the stories have been “bad stories.”

But, alas, some of them have been that bad. The workshop I’m in right now, there’s a girl who writes terrible stories. Her style feels like she’s trying to sound literary. This is the same girl that complained about my feedback for her last story. (I wasn’t “nice” enough about my criticism.) It’s hard to be nice when her stories aren’t for entertainment. It’s like she’s trying to write about the most horrible thing she can think of. This time it’s domestic abuse.

I’m struggling to be unbiased with her stories. They don’t make me happy. They piss me off. I don’t like her style, her stories, or her characters. She writes horrible people; not like “Orange is the New Black” horrible people, terrible human beings that no one can root for or understand.

It irritates me to no end. It’s like she is trying extra hard to be “literary” and it’s not working. I remember. I used to do that to. My stories would wind on and I thought they came to some glorious conclusion about man and life, but they didn’t. They were just bad. And this girl’s no different. (I say girl, because her profile picture looks like she’s fifteen.)

XX Time skip! XX

This is me after I read the story. What a turn – the story itself wasn’t bad. It was more about the linger effects of a girl after being in an abusive relationship. This is now a lesson to all readers not to shy away from stories that appear as though they might not be “happy” or “pleasant-ending.” Something can be learned from every story. Go read and read widely.

But I still have a thorn in my side about badly written stories in writing workshops. Sometimes, especially in classes with deadlines, people will pump out five to ten pages – whatever to meet the requirement – and then everyone else has to shift through it. Not everyone wants to be a writer, yes I’m aware, but it’s still frustrating when I’m trying hard and it doesn’t feel like the other person is.

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