SuperNOVA the spec fic writing group I'm part of is going through a period of change. It does this periodically, such as when it exploded from being Nova (and, really, there was a problem with the name, given that Melbourne already had a longer-established and well-recognised group of writers, known as the Nova Mob) because of the sudden influx of Lita and the Clarionnites. At the party the other night, we were talking about the changes the group goes through, and how new members bring an influx of new stories to workshop and then the quantity drops off. This doesn't bother me so much because I do so much workshopping for work that, frankly, I have better ways to spend my weekends.
The reason for the current drop-off is that many of us seem to have switched to writing novels, though I must say that this has always been how I spend most of my writing time. And while certain members of the group sometimes make noises about pushing me back to short story writing, I confess that it isn't really my genre. I've never really felt comfortable in the short form, and a criticism my stories often draw is that they feel part of something longer. In any case, I can't really see the point. Short story writing is great -- if it's what you want to do. It requires a precision of language, a mastery of form, and I do think it's a great way to learn how to write novels because it teaches you stuff about structure, about finishing things, and about making every word count that all novelists should know. Yes, it is different, and yes there is more room in a novel to move around, but that doesn't mean there's any excuse for flabby writing. Short story writing teaches you how to hone the craft.
Workshopping novels, however, is a very different prospect to workshopping short stories. There is the one-chapter-a-meeting method, or the one-writer-subbing-big-chunks method, but neither of this are ideal, and some writers (hi, Mr Browne!) don't want others seeing a work in progress.
Ellen came up with the inspired idea of having a new kind of novelist's meeting, where novel writers get together and talk about the process, any difficulties they're having, what inspires them etc. This could also be a chance to do some plot brainstorming. Really, it's like taking the discussions of our dinners out and bringing them to the meeting. What a great idea! We have often talked about having a breakaway group: either a novelist's group or a fantasy writer's group, kind of a sub-group, but never got past the talking stage. But that was still going to be a workshopping group; this is something different. Something both more and less; something that excites me. I can't wait to see it happening.