One of the best things I did when I first started writing was to attend the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and participate in the Nangie Writing Workshop taught by Angela Hunt and Nancy Rue. Because the workshop offered hands-on coaching to each writer participant, the classes were designed to be small and intimate. In my class for example, there were 13 writers, and that was considered maximum capacity. If you’re a writer and you have the opportunity to take the Nangie Workshop, I would really encourage you to do it.
The only regret that I have is that I didn’t take the workshop sooner. By the time I participated in the class, I had almost finished writing the first draft of my novel. To say that I had an eye-opening experience in the workshop would be a behemoth of an understatement.
Before I dive in, let me set the stage. Prior to participating in the workshop, each writer was required to read the chapters submitted by their fellow classmates. By being prepared, each of us could participate in the critique discussion with Angie and Nancy (A&N), and learn from each other’s mistakes.
In my naiveté as an inexperienced writer, I was thoroughly convinced that my novel was so spectacular that editors would be lining up to buy my book. I was also certain that A&N would read my chapters and herald them the best work in fiction today. Stop laughing! I told you I was deluded. So…let me tell you what really happened.
I knew I was in trouble when A&N did the first round of critiques, and I studied the writing styles of the other participants, and their effectiveness in using craft techniques. Several stories were so well written that I wondered why the writers were in the class. Their stories were engaging from the first sentence and their prose danced on the pages.
On the second day I received my critique from A&N. I flipped open the blue folder Angie gave me and read the notes as I listened to her feedback. Let me give you some of the highlights:
- The submitted manuscripts were supposed to be double-spaced – mine was single-spaced.
- Each new chapter should have started half way down the page – mine started at the top.
- Each scene should have been from one character’s point of view (POV) – mine was…heck, I didn’t even know what point of view was.
- In each scene the POV character should have had a goal – mine was…uh….goal you say?
- A header with the title of the book and the writer’s name should have been at the top of each page – mine was…oh wow, there was supposed to be a header?
- Each new paragraph should have been indented – mine was…you guessed it. I hadn’t even heard of the indentation rule.
A&N deserve a medal for the way they delivered my critique. They pointed out enough weaknesses to make me want to try harder without breaking my spirit.
When you think about the coaches, instructors, teachers, or professors who helped you developmentally, who comes to mind?