Bring the literary pain
September 15, 2006 1:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a tough writing teacher/workshop in New York City.

I'm working on my second novel and I'd like to get some really harsh feedback on this one. I've tried the Gotham Writer's workshop and didn't care for their system. There's nothing wrong with encouraging hobbyists, but I'm looking for something that would send dabblers screaming away in shame.

I also have a writing group that I enjoy, but is more about support than building ironclad prose. I'd like to find a program that is about serious, harsh critiques and little else, hopefully led by a worthwhile teacher. Also, genre fiction must be acceptable (and if it focuses on crime ficition, so much the better). I'm not rich, but will spend as much money as I can. Finally, I can't commit to full time schooling, so I'm not looking for a MA.

I know that that's a lot of conditions, but any advice would be welcome.
posted by Bookhouse to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
uhm... everyone please feel free to also bring along tips for chicago.
posted by krautland at 1:24 PM on September 15, 2006

krautland, you beat me to it! Yes, please, if possible, give tips for Chicago as well.
posted by sk381 at 2:10 PM on September 15, 2006

Gordon Lish's workshops are notoriously tough. I have a friend who took one years ago, and he pretty much beat the will to write out of her. No idea how he feels about genre fiction, if he's still offering them, how you get in... aren't I helpful?
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:27 PM on September 15, 2006

According to Wikipedia, Lish quit teaching fiction in 1997.
posted by sk381 at 4:33 PM on September 15, 2006

Have you considered paying a more experienced writer to give you a manuscript evaluation? I paid about $100 about seven years ago to a poet in Saskatchewan (I lived in Nova Scotia, and we did everything by post) to read my poetry book manuscript and suggest changes, comment on what works and what doesn't, etc. The poet (Harold Rhenisch) was very straight with me - perhaps more diplomatic and polite than you're looking for, but tough and challenging nonetheless. I found it invaluable.

I have no idea who would do this for your manuscript in the US, but when I worked for the Writers' Federation of NS, we facilitated connecting writers with new writers, and it cost approx. Can$200-500 depending who did it, and the length of the manuscript, etc. You could ask the SFWA or a similar organization if they would be willing to put you in touch with members who offer this service.

Note that manuscript evaluations are not like workshops in that they're generally a one-time thing, so you'd probably have to pay again to get feedback on changes. They're also not as in-depth as a line edit, which you could also pay for (but it doesn't sound like that's what you're looking for) - I'd expect to receive five or so pages of critique, and maybe your manuscript marked up too.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:49 PM on September 15, 2006

Bookhouse, I have do this for people in the past. (See this thread for a sense of my aesthetics.) I don't feel comfortable promoting myself here, and I intended to just email you privately. But you don't have an email address in your profile.

I do.
posted by grumblebee at 6:28 PM on September 15, 2006

(Sheesh -- in a thread on WRITING!) I have done this for people in the past.
posted by grumblebee at 6:30 PM on September 15, 2006

[Of course you could always just post it here. If you are looking for teh harsh, I'm pretty sure the mefi team can save you a few bucks.]
posted by lilboo at 7:58 PM on September 15, 2006

Are you certain harsh is what you want, and not just honest? Anyone can be hypercritical-- most especially workshopping groups. But ask yourself this first: are you looking for harsh criticism because you know that there are things wrong with your novel that you cannot identify? Or are you looking for harsh criticism because you feel good about the results and are suspicious that everyone else does too? Finding someone to batter you down and make radical changes might help you in the first instance, but certainly not in the second. Don't take a chance with something this important-- brutal is not always better.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:36 AM on September 16, 2006

Response by poster: Good point, Yellowcandy, which is why I won't take lilboo's suggestion to post it here. I want perceptive criticism, not a mountain of cruelty.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:27 AM on September 16, 2006

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