Translation for fiction workshop beginners

In the current issue of Poets & Writers, Jane Roper, a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, translates the “constructive, respectful” language of peer critiques for the fiction workshop novice. Some favorites:

“I loved the language.”
(English was a good choice.)

“This story shares similar themes with your other work.”
(Please stop writing about your father.)

“It’s very confident writing.”
(You’re completely deluded aren’t you?)

“This needs to be pushed further.”
(Like off your desk and into the trash.)

“I love the title.”
(I didn’t actually read your story.)

“This is the best thing I’ve ever read.”
(Will you sleep with me?)

“This is brilliant.”

On a serious note, I’ve said it before, but if you can’t afford or are disinclined to enter a university writing program, Zoetrope is a good place to workshop your fiction online. You’ll have to suffer through a round or two of blind critiques, but if you stick with it you’ll find talented writers with sensibilities similar to yours.


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