Sunday, January 23, 2011


I'm right-handed.  But I always wanted to be left-handed. Despite all the warnings from my left-handed acquaintances of the difficulties of being a southpaw (people tying to convert you to right-handedness as if lefties are "evil," horrible penmanship, having to adjust to scissors, doorknobs, etc.), I always thought it came with some great advantages.  For example, if you walk into any major league team's spring training and announce "I'm left-handed," you're guaranteed a job as a relief pitcher.

But I recently came across an article about the challenges of workshopping novels.  It's tough to workshop a novel when you can only do so in 15-20 page chunks, particularly when you're workshopping anything other than Chapter 1.  There will be things the readers need to know that won't be covered by the excerpt. So most folks won't bother to submit anything other than the first chapter, and don't get workshopped in a big-picture way.

The article uses the metaphor of left-handed and right-handed.  For example, novelists are told in workshop to "write right-handed," -- i.e., write short stories -- because short stories are easier to workshop.  So many novelists become right-handed, short-story writers, even though it feels awkward and uncomfortable.  But some novelists rebel and continue to workshop novel excerpts -- i.e., write "left-handed" -- and the hypothesis is that these folks should continue to write left-handed, no matter what the workshop instructor tells them to do.

I've written short stories, and I've had three short stories published in the past year.   But to be honest, I write short stories under protest.  It's a matter of personal taste, but I prefer novels.

So maybe I really am left-handed after all.


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