As mentioned in my previous blog, I teamed up with a fellow creative writer and tutor to explore ways to help fellow tutors consult on creative writing. We began the project this spring and presented our training session to our fellow tutors in October. In this blog, I will detail our presentation and results.
In “Is There a Creative Writer in the House?” Wendy Bishop discusses the benefit of working with different types of writing. “By analyzing the styles of writing you encounter in the world you’ll become a more proficient brainstormer and adviser to your clients on the options available to them…. Then, put all these bits of advice in service of helping the writers you work with interrogate convention and experimentation as tandem parts of the writing process.” Essentially, we need all different types of writing and we can take many of the lessons we learn from one field to another.
Our presentation focused on one main idea to help consultants tackle creative writing sessions: you are all readers. In general, most creative writers hope to see their work published one day in one form or another. Therefore, their audience is always readers in general, anyone who might happen to pick up their piece. In general, all tutors are readers in one form or another. Writers want to know how their readers will respond to their piece. If it sounds odd, unrealistic, or cliché, you will know. You do not need to be a creative writing expert to know if writing doesn’t work for you. Therefore, throw away any inhibitions about consulting on creative writing; focus on how the writing sounds and feels.
Based on this preparation, the presentation focused on three major points: what to expect from a creative writing session, tips for focusing your critique, and interactive participation through examples. Expect a client who wants to talk, a longer piece (therefore focus on the big picture), and expect the unexpected. For focusing your critique, there are many questions to ask the client (and yourself!) that will help the client. Is the prose clear? Are the images fresh and interesting? Can you follow the content? Is the writing showing or telling? Are characters developed enough? Is the dialogue (if any) believable? Are there places where more exposition or action scenes are needed? What really works (or not) in the piece? What stands out the most to you? Is there something you, as a reader, do not understand? For mechanics, creative writing allows for multiple uses of grammar, including blasting it to a million pieces. Also, writers may not want to focus on small, sentence level problems. Therefore, use your consultant powers of intuition. If something is consistently off and inhibiting the story, point it out.
Although I certainly would not say we have perfected our Writing Center’s treatment of creative writing sessions, I would say that we have made some valuable strides. Our presentation produced positive feedback and we hope to implement the results for years to come. In conclusion, creative writing can be difficult to consult on, but if you focus on the big picture and simply give feedback as a reader, you should be able to give the creative writer some meaningful feedback that they can take away to help them revise their work. Many of these tips, such as clarity, big picture, and word choice, can also be applied to writing from different disciplines .