Suspend Your Disbelief

Shop Talk |

Is it okay to say "Boring!" in workshop?

Author and teacher Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich says YES—and in fact, she hopes more people will say it. Writes Marzano-Lesnevich:

[W]orkshop students tend to forget that they’re required to be there. I don’t mean in attendance, sitting around a large table, but rather in the page—in the world of the story. They’re required to read. They’re even required to finish the piece. This simple requirement changes everything about their relationship to what’s on the page. I’ve come to think that this gap is at least partially responsible for stories that do well in workshop sometimes floundering out there in the real world. Once readers are obliged to read a piece, if there’s nothing technically wrong with it—nothing they can isolate and articulate enough to render feedback on, anyway—they will inevitably praise it. But a certain factor—let’s call it “blahness”—never gets mentioned. The workshop model in its premise has done away with what’s arguably the single most important question for a piece’s real-world success: would you read this piece if you didn’t have to?

Because, dear writer, I am sorry to tell you this, but no one can be forced to read your work in the real world except the people who love you—and sometimes not even them.

Read the full essay here, including Marzano-Lesnevich’s suggestion for how we might map out our interest as we page through a draft, and tell us what you think. Could it be helpful to tell another person a story is “boring”? Would you feel the same way if it were your story putting the reader to sleep?

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