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How Our Classes Work at Gotham Writer's Workshop
How Our Classes Work at Gotham Writer's Workshop

The following Student Guide provides you with important insights into how our classes work, including a detailed description of The Booth™, Gotham’s unique and highly effective critiquing process.

1. Lectures and Exercises
In Level I classes, you receive weekly lectures and writing exercises that focus on a specific element of craft (e.g. plot, character, figurative language, dialogue) and/or a relevant topic. As the term progresses, you apply what you have learned from these lectures and exercises to your work. (In Level II and Master Classes, formal lectures and writing exercises are presented at the discretion of the instructor based upon the needs of the class.)

2. The Booth - How We Critique Students' Writing
The Booth is used in all Gotham 10-week and 11-week writing classes.

A. From the point of view of the writer
When your writing is being discussed in class, you are in “The Booth.”  In this metaphoric booth you can listen to comments, but you are not allowed to talk or defend your writing. The inclination to defend your work is natural among most writers, fledgling to experienced.  But defending your work will not help to make you a better writer. Listening will.

After your teacher and fellow students give their comments, you have the opportunity to ask questions. Your questions should be about issues that did not arise during the discussion or anything that you feel needs clarification. In this way, all of your questions and concerns about your work are answered. This is not, however, a time for you to refute another student’s comments.

Writers need to be mentally tough. Don’t let negative comments get you down. Take the ones that help, and forget the rest. You can never please everyone, so don’t make that your goal.

Think of it this way: If you publish a piece of writing or if you get a movie or play produced, your work must speak for itself. You can’t stand over thousands (or millions) of shoulders and say, “Don’t you get it?  Isn’t it obvious that...?” An important aspect of a workshop is to receive objective criticism. Once the writer begins to explain or defend his or her work, it becomes difficult for the other students to remain thoroughly objective. You learn more about your writing when you listen to other people’s comments.

Since this is a workshop, we don’t expect polished, completed work. We understand that all submissions are works in progress. If your writing was flawless, you would be calling a publisher or producer, not Gotham.

B. From the point of view of the reader
Classes at Gotham Writers’ Workshop are every bit as much classes in criticism as they are classes in writing. As you become a better critic, you become a better writer. As you read works by your fellow writers, you learn to be more objective about what is working, what is not working, and why. Gradually, that objectivity seeps back into your own writing, and your first drafts improve.

Be Supportive When you comment on a fellow writer’s work, we require that you begin with positive comments followed by suggestions for improvement. We begin with a positive comments because it is just as important for the writer to know what is working well as it is to learn what is not working. Your suggestions for improvement should identify the specific aspect of the writing that is not working, and then explain why.

Be Specific Vague comments such as “I didn’t like it” or “I think you really have something” are not helpful to the writer. Provide specific suggestions so the writer knows which problems to solve. 

Be Original Each class member is expected to provide original positive comments and suggestions for improvement. We do not allow anyone to repeat other students' comments. This practice assures that the writer receives a wide range of suggestions and it forces the reader to look beyond the obvious and delve into craft.

3. Reading Other Students’ Work

A. From the point of view of the reader
Being part of a writing workshop means that each person has a responsibility to the other students in class. You must read and comment on all the work that is presented, just as others must do the same for you. In New York classes, if you will not be present for another student’s critique, you should bring the work in the following week with your comments written in the margins and a summary comment written at the end. As with spoken remarks, remember to begin with a positive.

B. From the point of view of the writer
In New York classes, the week before your work is to be “boothed,” you are responsible for bringing a copy for each student and the teacher. Your pages should be neatly typed, well bound, and numbered. If you are unable to attend class the week before your work is to be critiqued you can either have copies delivered to the class or send copies to your classmates by mail or e-mail. It is your responsibility to make sure that your classmates get copies. It is not your teacher’s responsibility.

4. Class Attendance

Writing is hard enough when you have no other concerns in your life. When you have a job, family, friends, and other issues to confront, it becomes even more difficult to find the time and energy to write. But you must. For the next few months you will be a writer. You will experience highs and lows like all writers. You will struggle. You will make progress. You will work hard. You will feel yourself improving. But only if you make a commitment to writing and to this class.

You will get the most out of the workshop by attending class each week. Being a part of a Gotham class means that you have a responsibility to your classmates to read their work, to attend class regularly, and, of course, to write as much and as well as possible. It is this mix of writing, reading, and critique that makes our workshops effective. 

That said, we understand that you might miss class from time to time, and every effort will be made to arrange the schedule so that you will not miss the opportunity to have your work critiqued. We simply ask that you do not abuse the privilege or show up only when your work is being discussed. 

In any event, you should always let your teacher know as early as possible if you will not be able to attend class.

5. Be Proactive

If you feel something needs to be covered in class that has not been mentioned, or sufficiently explained, talk to your teacher during a break. We want you to get the most out of class. If you need something, please ask. Your teacher will do whatever he or she can to meet your needs within reason.

6. Writers Write

Try to make time to write every day—even if it is only twenty minutes. Being involved in the writing process is the best way to learn about writing. Commit to your class and we are sure you will grow as a writer.

We hope you have a rewarding and enjoyable experience in class.

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