Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is not how you do it

I really liked Cathy Day's piece at The Millions on why it's a problem that short stories are so much easier to teach than novels in the context of a fiction workshop (and not just because it had a sentence in it that I felt I could have written myself - it applies to dissertation-writers, too, for whom the chapter-workshopping and chapter conferences sometimes go hugely awry!):
[W]riters of big things, like marathon runners in training, need to go on long runs regularly — alone or in small groups. They need water. They need good running shoes. And every once in awhile, they need someone driving by to beep their horn and give them a thumbs up. What they don’t need is for someone to stop them after the first mile and say, “You know what? Your first step out of the block wasn’t that great. Let’s work on your stride for awhile.”


  1. Is this why novels seem to come out of MA Courses rather than workshops do you think? There have certainly been a good many that seem to have been 'born' out at UEA. Although possibly even more that have been still born.

  2. Wow, she makes a great point that can also apply to golf lessons.

    I can think of one dissertation that probably was not workshopped - "The Origin of German Tragic Drama." I think it might have actually been flunked, as a dissertation. Of course, we've never heard of Herr Doktors Whoever who flunked it!