Sunday, August 21, 2011
NOVEL-WRITING CLASS OPEN
UPDATE: The class has been filled and thanks for the wonderful responses. I've begun a list for the next class for those who didn't make this one and there's a few spots left for it but not many. I appreciate your responses very much!
I’m opening up a private online creative writing class (on novel writing) that begins next week to those who are interested. To be able to devote the proper time to each student, the class will be limited to ten people. We have five openings at the present time. Those interested, please email me at email@example.com for information on both the class and enrollment procedures.
Those interested in auditing the class—which would allow the auditing person to receive and view everything the rest of the class does, but not be able to participate actively, solely as an observer. The fee is substantially less for auditors than participating students. Basically, auditors will sit in on the class as an observer. There will be a very limited number of auditors and I will qualify those who are interested. Some in class are uncomfortable with very many observing their work and our exchanges as, to be honest, many of our comments are brutally frank. Students know and welcome this, but to someone not directly participating they can see it another way. There won’t be any interaction at all with auditors—they’ll be there simply to use the knowledge they might pick up for their own writing or even their own teaching through their observations.
This class will be conducted in the same way I conduct university classes, most recently for Phoenix College, i.e., in a workshop format. What that means is each week participants will send a designated number of pages to both me and the other members of the class. When I receive each person’s work, I’ll provide comments/criticism/suggestions to improve for each student on their work and then send it back to them and the others in class. Each person in class does the same for each other—reading and providing comments on each other’s work and sending that back to the class and me. It’s exactly like being in an “on-ground” workshop. I’ve found over a lifetime of teaching classes—beginning with the UCLA Writer’s Program—that this is the single best method of learning. There is a synergy at work with this model. Many writing classes consist of the student sending work in and the instructor commenting. That’s okay, in a limited way, but when you have ten others plus the instructor or workshop leader commenting, the value of the class increases almost exponentially. Students, very often, offer wisdom that the instructor by him- or herself doesn't have or doesn't offer for various reasons, including time.
I believe in road maps when embarking on the lengthy journey a novel entails; therefore, I ask each student to submit a 15-20 word outline of their proposed novel. I don’t have the space here to explain how that works, but I send a handout on how to create such an outline before the class begins, and it serves to keep the writer focused on their novel throughout its creation and also helps the workshop leader and her classmates see instantly if the writer is focused or meandering. I’m a firm believer in beginning a novel in the proper place and once that is achieved, the remainder of the novel becomes infinitely easier to create. We’ll spend the most time on a writer’s novel beginning than any other part of their novel.
This class will be composed of students who’ve previously taken classes with me along with newcomers. To be able to serve each level of student fairly, students who are well along into their novel and have taken previous classes, will be able to submit up to ten pages per week. New students who haven’t taken my class, will be allowed to submit up to five pages per week, and, once they’ve achieved a proper beginning, will then be able to send ten pages. Please know that this may sound like favoritism, but it’s not at all. The beginning of a novel is the single most crucial part of writing a novel, imo, and I spend more time on that than anything else. I’ve learned over many years, that a great many writers have a poor understanding of a novel’s structure and it’s crucial that a sound knowledge of novel structure (particularly beginnings) be achieved before devoting much time to the rest of the novel. I’ll spend as much or more time on the newer student’s five pages than I will on the more experienced writer’s ten pages. Please feel free to query those in class who’ve been with me before as to their opinion and I feel certain they’ll agree with me. I’ll be happy to furnish names and email addresses for those writers should you wish to ask their opinion.
Each week, I also send at least one handout to the class on some element of writing, as well as other pertinent info that’s useful. Along with the handout on outlining, I'll send a handout on proper formatting in the first batch. Every writer should know how to present material professionally no matter where they are in their craft.
Be forewarned that this workshop isn’t for the faint of heart! Some have termed it “Bobby Knight bootcamp for writers.” In “real life” I’m not a mean person, but with writing I’m not going to hold hands nor hand out false praise. That’s what writing groups are for and they do it well. I expect each person to participate fully and comment on each other’s work just as they would want others to do the same for theirs. I don’t tolerate very well, those who keep making the same mistakes week after week. For example, the proper and professional format is explained at the beginning and each class there are always one or two who keep making the same, easily-fixed mistake. Here’s a common example: One of the format rules is that there is only one space between sentences in computer-generated material. Many older writers, in the typewriter days of yore, were taught to use two spaces. The kernaling in computers is different than typewriters and using two spaces is a sure sign of an amateur who hasn’t kept up with current usages and just another red flag a writer ought to avoid. I understand it’s a hard habit to overcome—I had to do the same myself—but there is an easy way to relearn this which we give, and even if it takes awhile to relearn this, a writer can at least do a final edit before sending work in and correct this. To not do so, indicates to me a writer who doesn’t respect either themselves or their fellow writers or the teacher. Frankly, I don’t want to waste time with this type of writer. I’m not speaking of the writer who makes occasional mistakes, but of the one who continually keeps making the same mistake after it’s been pointed out.
Writing well isn’t easy. It’s hard. If someone has told you that writing is easy, they’ve lied to you. Typing is easy; writing is hard. Our aim in our class is to help writers create publishable work. By reputable publishers, not vanity presses.
If I haven’t scared you off, here are the particulars:
1. Fee is $300, payable in advance and nonrefundable. For those who can’t afford the full amount at one time, you may make three equal payments of $120, for total of $360. Auditor’s fee is $100.
2. Each week, you’ll send to the entire group and me, your pages. You’ll also receive work from your classmates to read and provide comments on. The comments aren’t intended to be scholarly or exhibit some high degree of technical knowledge. We just want to know what worked for you in the writing and what didn’t. If you can articulate why it did or didn’t, fine, but that’s not necessary.
3. To help make the class run smoothly, there will be deadlines each week. For instance, if the class begins on a Monday each week, you’ll send in your work by that day. Then, by Thursday, you’ll send in your comments on each other’s work. I’ll send my comments to each of you by Saturday night. Then, the next week begins on the following Monday.
4. Often, the class and I kind of hit a wall. It’s pretty intense. To account for that event, we may take a week hiatus and return the following week. In fact, you can pretty well count on that.
5. We don’t expect a student to be a professional writer at all. It’s a class, not an advanced degree program. Our aim is to help each writer become better at their craft as a result of the class, and to learn how to professionally submit material, and to hopefully end up creating work that is publishable legitimately.
6. While I would never say I would recommend students to agents or publishers, very often I do. The people who finish the class almost always have progressed to the point where their work is, indeed, publishable, and when that happens I’m eager to introduce them and their work to gatekeepers.
7. Beginning date of this class will be Monday, August 29. All enrollments must be completed and paid for by Thursday, August 25. Enrollment will be on a first-come basis and there are five spots remaining. There will be a limited number of auditors, subject to my approval.
8. Required reading will be my book, HOOKED, and Jack Bickham’s book, SCENES & STRUCTURE. Recommended reading will be Janet Burroway’s WRITING FICTION.
If anyone is interested and has more questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. If this class goes well, I plan to follow with other classes. If anyone would like to join a list of interested writers for future classes, just let me know. I also coach individual writers during the creation of their novels and the fee for that service is $100 per hour. If interested, I will be happy to share how I work and also to put you in touch with clients for their feedback and opinion.