Process: The Online Workshop
The fourth in a series about finding your writing process, discussing the value of finding other writers to help tow you in from the vacuum of space.
For a writing process, this one is a little different. But it is one that has truly helped me to develop (and re-find my love for) several of my short works and poems, as well as scenes and chapters from my longer work. It also provided a happy relief from that vacuum so many of us writers find ourselves creating in.
What I’m referring to is the online writing workshop. These come in lots of flavors and forms–including the Meetup.com variety, but sadly the pandemic has put a hurting on those for a bit.
Most online writing workshops involve sharing your work–or chunks of it–online for others to read and review, like a regular in-person writing workshop, or a regularly writing gathering at the local coffee shop.
Yes, I feel a little insecure about that sharing thing, too. But on the whole I’ve felt pretty safe with one writing site: Writing.com.
I’m sure there are plenty of others, but other than sharing some stuff on Wattpad.com, which is more a place to get readers to read ongoing series pieces, Writing.com is the only one I’ve tried so far, because it felt just right for me.
Both Wattpad.com and Writing.com offer a lot of value for free, with the option to get more value for a nominal yearly price. Unlike Wattpad.com, Writing.com is designed for getting your stuff thoroughly reviewed, rather than just “Liked” and commented on.
In fact, the site employs its own friendly economy for that purpose, where writers (and the site) reward each other for reviews given, in whatever amounts they want, by way of Gift Points (GPs). You can buy these, of course, if you need more; or you can earn them by reading others’ work and giving honest, detailed reviews, just like you would in an in-person workshop.
The GPs can then be used to reward others, motivating them to review your stuff, to get what I’ve found to be priceless audience perspective on how your work is coming across. They can also be used (if you have enough) to pay for Upgraded or Premium tiers, which give you more features, more space to post your work, and all kinds of tools you can use to help your writing.
But the Free tier is generous, with space for at least ten works to be reviewed at once. They also have endless writing prompts, a plethora of writing contests (rewarded in GPs), advice columns, and lots of opportunities to share ideas and advice with fellow writers. I was even granted a free upgraded membership from some lovely anonymous soul through a program that lets you donate to help other writers succeed. It’s a pretty awesome thing.
They also have groups, which allows you to make your work private to just a small select group of people in your genre or area of interest. I’ve used both their Free and Upgraded memberships and been a part of an amazing genre-specific group there, and received wonderful feedback from them, while being amply rewarded for the same.
Even the most polished piece can suffer from data you forgot to mention, confusing visuals, or inconsistencies, because the story is so ingrained in your head after working on it so long. Your fellow workshoppers will help point these things out, along with any errant grammar or sneaky punctuation goofs. And they’ll try to do so nicely, with empathy, because that’s how things are done there.
Whether you go with Writing.com or another online forum, I recommend making an online workshopping group part of your process. It provides both the feedback and support a writer needs when that vacuum comes calling.