Monday, February 10, 2020
Well, we’re just finishing up our final weeks on the current session of my online novel-writing class, “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers,” and find ourselves with a couple of openings. Our next session will begin on March 8 and consists of a ten-week session, with the probability of taking a week off sometime during the term to recharge batteries.
This is a call for new class members. Not sure how many openings we’ll have as we offer vacancies first to our auditors.
The basics are the course costs $400 and it’s limited to ten people. The $400 is nonrefundable, as if a person quits during the session it would be impossible to fill that vacancy. As this is my primary source of income, it would be detrimental for myself and my family.
We’ve had a remarkable history of success. Nearly three dozen writers over the past dozen years who has become a part of our class or whom I’ve coached privately has gone on to being legitimately published and/or secured a good literary agent. In fact, that is our only goal—to become legitimately published.
Two of our published novelists--Maegan Beaumont and Linda Thompson (the ugly guy in the middle is moi...
I try to warn people who are thinking of joining us, how tough the class is, but I know from past experience that even so forewarned, at least some are going to be in for a shock when they see that we really don’t hold hands, pat people on the back for minimum efforts, or overlook writing that doesn’t work. I’m not cruel (at least I don’t think so) nor are any of the oldtimers in class, but most new folks haven’t been exposed to a class like ours. The truth is, most writers who haven’t had a class like ours has been praised in other classes or most likely, has been in classes that use the “sandwich” method of teaching. You know—that deal where the teach applies a bit of praise, then a bit of criticism, and then a bit of praise. Well, that ain’t our shtick. Not even close. The comments we all provide on everyone’s work fit one definition only. They’re honest.
This isn’t to be mean or to act like we’re the only folks around who know what good writing is. Except… we do. I’m not aware of any other class out there with the kind of track record ours enjoys. Virtually every writer who stays the course with us ends up with a top agent and/or a book deal. That doesn’t happen in a single ten-week session. About the earliest anyone has earned an agent or book deal in our class has been about a year. And, that’s reasonable.
The thing is, our writers don’t expect things to be easy.
I figured I’d let some of the class members give you their take on our class. They don’t hold back and they all have tough skins. They will all tell you the same thing. It isn’t a class for sissies or for those who need their hands held or lots of pats on the back. Becoming published is hard, hard work and isn’t an undertaking for sissies. To get there, our students know they have to put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and expect to work harder than they ever have in their lives—and to never, ever “settle” their standards of excellence.
From a student several years ago:
Hi. Since Les opened the floor for comments from the "class veterans" I'm chipping in with my two cents. I have a file cabinet filled with stuff I sent Les and then needed asbestos gloves to take the paper off the printer. When I started this journey, I'd never taken an English class past high school. (I was pre-med in college) I figured I love to read, so how hard can it be? Okay, quit laughing at me. Clearly, when I wrote my first version of my first novel, I had no idea about story structure, POV, any of that. I figured I'm pretty articulate and therefore I can write.
Les quickly set me straight. All of this is to point out that we've all been on the receiving end of Les' brutal honesty. I will find some of the comments he made on my work and post them but phrases like "throwing up in my mouth now" and "bury this so deep in the yard no one ever finds it" are seared into my brain and I don't have to look to find those!!! The point is, I took other classes before I met Les and the teachers were kind and gentle and never told me I sucked. If it weren't for Les, I'd still be churning out awful drivel that makes people want to throw up instead of trying not to throw up while I wait to see if my agent is able to sell my book. I would never have gotten an agent without Les. So hang in there. Listen to everything he says and if it doesn't make sense, ask away.
From another student:
The novel that I am currently trying to sell has been a work in progress for several years. The first time Les saw it he sent it back and told me to re-write the WHOLE thing!!! My character was a wimp. She sat back and let things happen to her. I argued a little, rewrote a little and then moved on to another book. After a year, I went back and reread it and saw the truth. It was awful. So I took a deep breath and started over. Page one. First sentence. Re-wrote the entire thing. It took a full year and then I revised it again. It's definitely a process. But once you get the inciting incident and the outline steps down pat, it's a whole lot easier. Trust me!!! And you'll never graduate completely. A few months ago, Les and I went head-to-head on one single passage. I was trying to be lazy and take the easy way out. He called me on it and I resubmitted three or four weeks in a row, revisions on the same passage. I was sure my classmates were so sick of it they were going to stick needles in their eyes rather than read it again! But in the end, the passage rocked!! So hang in there!!!! It'll get better. (Note: This novel sold and the writer is currently working on her fifth novel.)
Class members come from all over the globe. We’ve had students from the UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Spain, all parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Luxembourg and many other places. We work with writers in virtually every genre on the bookshelves. We agree with Nabokov that there are only two genres--good writing and bad writing.
The way class works is that the class is divided into two equal groups. We used to have just one group, but it got to be too much for many students. In the past, everybody in the class was required to read everybody else’s work each week and provide in-depth comments on everyone’s work. That meant they had to read nine other class members’ work and deliver intelligent commentary on each one. We’ve since evolved to a more manageable number where now each class member reads and delivers comments on just four other classmates’ work. I provide comments on everybody’s work and that’s why the class is limited to only ten. With ten writers, I can give each person the quality of time and analysis each deserves.
Each week begins on Sunday evening, when people can begin submitting their weekly pages from Sunday until Thursday. If it’s a new writer to the class, they are allowed to submit their first five pages of their novel, plus an outline which consists of five statements and a total of 15-20 words. Oldtimers in class call this “inciting incident hell.” If the outline isn’t working and their beginning doesn’t represent the inciting incident as provided in their outline, they are required to keep submitting each week until it does. Our feeling is if they haven’t thought through their novels sufficiently and provided a publishable novel structure (evidenced by the outline), then they most likely don’t have a novel ready to be written and to simply plunge ahead will almost invariably lead to an unfinished novel. We don’t want that.
Inc inc hell...
Once they’ve been okayed for the beginning, from thereafter they can submit up to eight pages per week, along with the others in class.
...and go on to win the pennant!
Time zones don’t matter. Everybody’s work, including everyone’s comments and my own comments on each person’s work each week is posted on the class site and folks can go to it any time of the day or night. Class members can begin sending back their comments on each others’ in their group from Sunday through the following Sunday, when it begins again. Although, in practicality, most members send in their work each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s like being in an “on-ground” class in that everything said or done in class is seen by everybody.
We do have a chat function and people use it all the time, even though they’re in different time zones. One of the best things about this class is that we have lots of old-timers who know from their own experience what works in a novel and what doesn’t and more importantly… why it works or doesn’t work. It’s like having a group of seven or eight other professionals helping you with your own novel. Probably at any given time in class, there will be four or five who already have had a novel or several published as a result of being in class, so it’s a really rarefied group. And, if you think that you couldn’t operate in a situation like this because you’re a beginner, that simply isn’t the case here at all. Nearly every single person in each class began just the way you did, as a rank beginner. And, they remember and they have complete empathy for your situation, if you’re a beginning writer.
It’s not a situation of simply saying, “This doesn’t work.” Myself and others in class will surely say that, but we then let you know why it didn’t work and give you solid suggestions on how to make it work. We collectively have a nurturing nature and all of us want the newcomer to succeed just about as badly as that writer wants to.
If you are still interested but still feel intimidated, I think if you simply look at how the class works, you’ll quickly see how you’ll fit in comfortably. Since we’ve got two weeks left in class, for anyone who would like to see up close and personal how we work as a class, I’d be delighted to give you auditor status for our last week. Besides class members, we also have an auditor function which works the same as it does in a “regular” college class. You’re admitted to class and can view every single thing we’re doing and the entire class session is archived and easy to access. Normally, the cost of auditing the class is $50, but for our last week, for those interested in simply getting a look at how we work, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know and I’ll have our class administrator, Holly, get you on board asap.
I know there are no doubt a lot of questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask me anything you’d like.
From past experience, when we’ve had openings like this, they go quickly, so if you are interested, please get in touch, okay?
For those interested in such things, here are a few of my own qualifications to teach writing.
MFA in Writing from Vermont College
Taught writing for the UCLA Extension Program
Taught writing via Skype for the New York Writer’s Workshop
Writer-in-Residence for three years for the University of Toledo
Writer-in-Residence for one year for Trine University
Taught writing classes for St. Francis University
Taught writing classes for Phoenix College
Taught writing for Writer’s Digest Online Classes
Taught writing classes for Vermont College
Published 20 books, including craft books on writing, novels, sports books, YA novel, historical nonfiction book, humor nonfiction, black comedy novel, noir, thrillers, literary and existential fiction.
Dozens of short stories published in such publications as The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Aethlon, Flatmancrooked, Murdaland, Best American Mystery Stories and many others.
A lot of living… much of it as an outlaw…