I've been to organized writing workshops. I've been to those that were quite disorganized. I've been to seminar classes that acted as writing workshops. I've read 3,000-word stories each week for a semester, offering detailed comments each week. I've skated through writing workshops without reading a damn thing I was commenting on. I've gotten great feedback. I've gotten terrible feedback. I've been useful. I've been an asshole.
And let me say, your writing workshop is dumb. The ones I've gone to are dumb. The ones I've never attended, never heard of, and never imagined are dumb.
The person whose story is first is in the worst spot.
No one knows what the tone is. Are you supposed to attack? Support? What is the workshop like? Are there ground rules? After the first person says something negative about your story, you're going after that person as soon as her story is up, aren't you? I know you, you hateful bastard.
Your ground rules are dumb.
Do not frickin tell me that this is the first three chapters of a novel. I will slit you stem to stern as soon as I find out what that means. You don't get to say, "Oh, yeah. I totally get that you don't understand Sebastian's motivation and all, but, like, that's all covered in the ninth chapter." Screw you. Am I reading the ninth chapter? No? Then shut your frickin mouth.
The person whose story is last is in the worst spot.
See, if you're the person who goes last, you've probably tried to be nice all throughout this. Now everyone just wants to get this over with. No one cares about other people's stories. They're not in this workshop because they want to learn how to make other people's stories better. They want to make their stories better. So now that they don't have to be nice, no one cares about you and your crappy story. Oh, a coming of age story about a young man who discovers deep secrets in his family? Feh.
All criticism offered is useless.
See, nothing you can say in a workshop is helpful.Those typos you pointed out? I do not care. Seriously, it's super neat that you saw how I alternated misspellings of "Candace" throughout the story, but that's not terribly helpful.You're reading this story and offering tips on what you'd do if it were your story. Shut up. Tell me if you lost interest and stopped reading. Oh, but you can't. Because it's a writing workshop and we're creating a false reality in which you're forced to read this. Great.
Your crappy story is now in my brain.
Damn it to hell. That thing you did with the person walking by the mirror and looking at it to describe himself. I did the same thing in my story. Am I that bad a writer? And now when I go back to work on my story, all I have is your character's voice in my head. Damn it.
Seriously, shut up your mouth.
Yes. I appreciate your comment that for the first thousand words I was writing in omniscient third and then for that paragraph I slipped into limited second and then later for two sentences I wrote in omnitrix tenth person. Just please tell me did the overall story work. I don't need the nitpicking. I know you're happy that you could find something to comment on, but stop proofreading. Just read. Or don't.
Workshop readers aren't real readers.
You want to know if your story works? You have to send it to readers who will read the story when they normally read stories. Reading as an assignment for a class or workshop is not how most of the people will read your story. At least, you're hoping that's the case, right? People need a chance to abandon your story. "I started it, but I had these reports for work to do. I'll get back to your story." That means your story needs serious help, by the way.
Workshops spend too much time validating.
In the margins of my stories, people would write stuff like "LOVED THIS" or "YES!!" That's nice and useful if you're getting feedback from a magazine editor. But in a workshop? How is that helpful? You read a sentence and liked it? Of course you did. It's good. That's why I wrote the story. Do you mean you like how I brought the symbol back around and tied it in from the opening page? That's what it's there for. Glad you can read, dillweed.
I'm sure I missed some points. Writing workshops are not conducive to getting your best work. Sending to a couple beta readers, then off to some mags seems a much better approach.
Maybe your mileage varies?