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  1. #1
    Senior Member Susan B's Avatar
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    Creative writing course

    I'm looking at fiction writing courses and could do with some advice.

    Is it better to take a course that is university accredited? Is it something that is worth mentioning in a query letter?

    It has to be on-line or distance learning because of my other work/life commitments.

    My main objective is to study the craft of writing, with deadlines to force me to write more.

    Any thoughts or advice gratefully received.



  2. #2
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    A degree/certificate from a reputable university in creative writing would be worth mentioning (and is good to have). A single course or one from on line? Good to have but not good enough to mention in a query letter.

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    That said, if you really want the online class to help you meet deadlines and write more, and also help you receive feedback from classmates and other writers, then it's probably still worth it for you to take the classes.

  4. #4
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    Hmm...I teach creative writing, both at the college level and in community ed workshops. If you live in a city, look for some fiction writing classes at a local community college. You can often find night courses, and the community colleges tend to be pretty affordable. I'm a believer in the face-to-face workshop because you will learn more if you have to critique and read other people's work.

    If you are absolutely locked in to online or distance learning, there are some decent programs out there, but many of them aren't that cheap. Grub Street has some good online courses for fiction. The Loft may also offer some online classes. Long Ridge is distance learning program, but the courses are really for beginners (don't know where you are in your craft so that may be fine). Also, Writer's Digest has some decent classes for beginners.

    Finally, I would suggest you check out the resources at Poets & Writers. They may list some online university courses that would be of interest. Some of the low-res programs supplement their income with online courses for beginners or undergrads. These classes are usually taught by MFA grads who have some decent publishing credits under their belt.

    Unless you have a degree in creative writing (undergrad or MFA), it's not worth mentioning in a query letter. If you've been mentored by "famous writer," someone who is willing to give you a reference, it might be worth a mention.

    Jeanne

  5. #5
    Senior Member Keith .'s Avatar
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    I hear good things about Gotham, but have no personal knowledge. Pricey, though.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member Susan B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Kessler View Post
    A degree/certificate from a reputable university in creative writing would be worth mentioning (and is good to have). A single course or one from on line? Good to have but not good enough to mention in a query letter.
    Thanks, Gary. I guessed as much. Really, studying another whole degree at my stage of life is not really feasible. I suppose the accreditation aspect would be a side benefit, as I think the course itself would be my main motivation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragon View Post
    That said, if you really want the online class to help you meet deadlines and write more, and also help you receive feedback from classmates and other writers, then it's probably still worth it for you to take the classes.
    Thanks, Dragon- that is exactly what I need. I want to learn how to improve my writing, but also how to dissect both mine and other people's writing. I also keep hitting a brick wall, thinking everything I write is rubbish and I lose confidence and the impetus to keep going.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeanne Gassman View Post
    Hmm...I teach creative writing, both at the college level and in community ed workshops. If you live in a city, look for some fiction writing classes at a local community college. You can often find night courses, and the community colleges tend to be pretty affordable. I'm a believer in the face-to-face workshop because you will learn more if you have to critique and read other people's work.

    If you are absolutely locked in to online or distance learning, there are some decent programs out there, but many of them aren't that cheap. Grub Street has some good online courses for fiction. The Loft may also offer some online classes. Long Ridge is distance learning program, but the courses are really for beginners (don't know where you are in your craft so that may be fine). Also, Writer's Digest has some decent classes for beginners.

    Finally, I would suggest you check out the resources at Poets & Writers. They may list some online university courses that would be of interest. Some of the low-res programs supplement their income with online courses for beginners or undergrads. These classes are usually taught by MFA grads who have some decent publishing credits under their belt.

    Unless you have a degree in creative writing (undergrad or MFA), it's not worth mentioning in a query letter. If you've been mentored by "famous writer," someone who is willing to give you a reference, it might be worth a mention.

    Jeanne
    Thank you, Jeanne, for taking the time to give so many detailed suggestions. I would really love a face-to-face group, but juggling shift work and family makes it impossible. I have to accept the lower-quality experience of on-line learning.

    Thank you for all of your suggestions, I will definitely check those out.

    Thanks again, everyone. As always, great advice.

    Sue

    PS: Also thanks Keith- you posted as I was typing my reply. I'm off to check those out now. Thank you!
    Last edited by Susan B; 03-08-2012 at 11:31 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Susan B View Post
    I'm looking at fiction writing courses and could do with some advice.

    Is it better to take a course that is university accredited? Is it something that is worth mentioning in a query letter?

    It has to be on-line or distance learning because of my other work/life commitments.

    My main objective is to study the craft of writing, with deadlines to force me to write more.

    Any thoughts or advice gratefully received.
    You're missing the most important point: can the course you take teach you how to connect with readers? Credentials don't make writers, stories do. Deadlines don't make better novelists, they teach you to reach a specific word count by a certain date. It's mainly to keep from procrastination. Online courses supplement the need to go into a classroom. If you don't have time to actually sit in a classroom, use the online option. Just remember, your questions might be able to be better answered in a room full of people. If you want to become better at fiction, read more of it. If you want a deadline, write 50,000 words in one month -- around 1600 words a day. Should it matter how many courses you have to take if you're goal is to study the craft of fiction? Expertise in any field requires time and dedication.

  8. #8
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    Susan,

    First, I disagree with Pendragin's shot across your bow that you're missing the point. I didn't see anything in your post that made me think you're doing so. You asked legitimate questions.

    Others may disagree, but I believe critique is one of the keys for a writer learning the craft. It's often useful for successful published writers, too. Both the receiving and the giving. (Obviously it's important to read in your genre, etc.) But practice counts for a lot. I also disagree with with Pendragin's assertion that scribbling 50,000 words in a month is likely to be a useful exercise. For me, that's just vomiting words with no time to think, revise. Put another way, the goal is to hit the 50k mark, not to write something compelling. Yes, I'm aware of NaNoWriMo. (Not sure I spelled that accurately.) Some people find that to be a worthwhile effort. I'm not one of them.

    Do you have a writer friend who you think has skills? If so, offer to critique each other's work. Having more than one person critique your material is even better. Jeanne or anyone else, do you know of web sites where writers can find critique from responsible people? Emphasis on responsible. Responsible is the hard part.

    Not sure this is useful.

    Cur

  9. #9
    Senior Member Herman Munster's Avatar
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    Cur, I think you're wrong and Pen is right.
    Look at me, supporting a dragon over old people!

    Cur, I think you are right and Pen is wrong.
    I think too much and not enuf.

    Scribbling doesn't have to be the final draft, it can be a brainstorming session as much as anything else. I am not sure I want to say this. I won't and see how it feels.
    I had a two week 'creative burst'.
    I didn't sleep for 7 days and 6 nights. I wrote 200,000 words in this fortnight. Finished one, wrote two others and started the next one. Averaging 80 k each. The two whole ones are close to my favourite pair, related very closely altho independent.
    They did need some editing and I have just happened to review both very recently as I do an edit run thru all my completed stuff with new editing rules I just got from my editor.

    AND . . . NaNoWriMo . . . what the hell is that when it is at home?

    Vomiting and compelling, I am with you wholly on that.
    My version tho is that if it isn't compelling it doesn't cause me to write. A described above, when the words truly come, I can't type fast enuf. Editing my stuff, for myself, can be a real problem. I find words I never wrote, three halves of a sentence in a place where none of the words make sense. That bothers me when I worry about perhaps a great thort I have lost in the ether.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    I'm looking at fiction writing courses and could do with some advice.

    Why? I think if you answer that, you will have all the answers you need!

    Is it better to take a course that is university accredited? Is it something that is worth mentioning in a query letter?

    Seriously . . . I believe you are a nice person. This would never occur to you. If I want a uni degree, I will write it in MS Pub and print it out.
    You can put 'anything' in a Q or S but if your work doesn't stand up, all the degrees in the world will get you nothing.
    The converse is true as well, even when you have a magic work, if you can't Q & S, it may never see the light of day.


    It has to be on-line or distance learning because of my other work/life commitments.

    My main objective is to study the craft of writing, with deadlines to force me to write more.

    BEEP. WRONG! IMHO.
    Force is such a strong word. I feel that any story that is forced will show and inappropriately so. I also believe that you can never write more stories than are in you. To me a deadline for an original work would be a problem, not a solution. Once the work is done, editing etc could be scheduled, I accept that, but when you are talking about creative juices, if they are not there, sitting at the keyboard will do nothing. Any deadline would do even less.
    Similarly, if the creative juices flow, you won't be able to sleep, work or eat. You will have story[s] coming out your ears and won't be able to get them all down quickly enuf.

    I have started 47 or so 'books'.
    I have 20 or so finished or up to editing stage.
    When the idea or new work hits me, I often open a new page and just keep hitting buttons until it goes away. That can be 500 to 10k words. From time to time if I want to write and don't have a new thort to work with, I go and open something I started but have yet to complete. Even sometimes reading the old start bores me but causes me to think of a new one. So they have merit in different ways.

    You sound like you are at an interesting or confusing/frustrating crossroads, with more than four options. I think that is both good and bad. It is all POV, if you wanna be positive, it is all good, if you wanna be negative, it is all bad . . . Capiche?

    I liked a lot of the feedback you got, crits and face to face especially. I do most certainly benefit from both and can't get enuf of either.
    I guess I should listen to my first ever writing pearl of wisdom . . .

    Writers write!


    Any thoughts or advice gratefully received.

    ADVERT:
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    Last edited by Herman Munster; 03-08-2012 at 10:23 PM. Reason: Editing, duh!

  10. #10
    Senior Member Susan B's Avatar
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    Pen and Cur: Thanks for your responses.

    Pendragin, you've hit the nail on the head- procrastination. I suppose 'deadline' was the wrong choice of word, I really mean something that keeps me writing regardless, whether it is a course with an assignment or NaNoWriMo or just myself.

    The other question- which has been answered unequivocally- is that I probably should choose a course that is right for me, not an accreditation to add to my C.V.

    Cur- I think critique is so important too. I wish I could be better at it, and perhaps a course with a critique group would help with this. It would be great to sit in a room with a group of like-minded people and toss ideas around. Meanwhile, I'll have a think about a 'critique buddy'- that's a good suggestion.

    Mr Munster- Thanks for taking the time to respond with such enthusiasm!

    To pick up your point about 'forcing' myself to write- again, probably a poor choice of word on my part. What I need is to keep going, even when I feel that what I am writing is not great. Sometimes I have a fabulous run of creativity, where I can't get things down quickly enough (not a week of no sleep though- get some sleep, man!), and then run out of steam for a while. A more interactive experience with other students might help build my confidence a bit. I did a beginner's creative writing course a couple of years ago, and critique was an integral part of that. I take your point about qualifications- no point listing them if your writing does not reflect the same standard you claim.

    Thanks everyone. Lots of food for thought!
    Last edited by Susan B; 03-09-2012 at 12:26 AM.

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