1. Sammy
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    Sammy Member

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    Are short courses in writing useful?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sammy, Jan 13, 2009.

    I'm considering (well okay pretty much decided) to do a short course (six months part time) in creative writing through the local training centre (for those of you in Australia, TAFE).
    Just wondering if most people have found the courses beneficial? Has there been a course you've done where you've thought 'that was a waste of time'?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've taken two creative writing classes. While they were helpful to some extent, I feel that I learned more just by reading and experimenting with writing. This may not be true for everyone, but this was my experience.
     
  3. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some writing courses are useful, some aren't--at least in terms of the actual tehcniques they focus on. What often provides the most benefit to the student is the exposure to work normally outside their favorite genres and also being forced to write outside of their comfort zone. A structured course can force a writer to try new things where without having work assigned, they might stick a little closer to what they are familiar with.
     
  4. crime.prose
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    crime.prose Member

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    Short writing courses, given decent tutors, are very useful.

    I used to think that I was rather hot stuff. Until other eyes looked at what I wrote and told me there was in fact much room for improvement.

    After this reality check I was told where and how to improve.

    One caveat though, you'll need to learn how to differentiate good feedback and good manners.

    Some people will give you candid, constructive feedback that will help improve your writing.

    Other people will be very polite and tell you they liked it alot, when in it fact it completely dire. Not the same thing as useful feedback.

    A good course will highlight your weak areas, so then you are not working in the dark wondering how best to improve your writing.
     
  5. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    This is one of those arguments that I hate because it usually creates bad blood between those who like classes, and those who don't.

    Personally, I think creative writing classes are a waste of time and money. You can teach a person layout, grammar skills, spelling, and many other things in relation to writing, but I am of the opinion that creativity can't be taught. It's one of those things that you either have or you haven't.

    Writing is a subjective thing. It requires the brain to be wired in a specific way. If there was a way to teach people how to write a best-selling novel, then every Tom, Dick, and Harry would be able to write a publishable book. It doesn't work that way.

    Bad writers will always be bad writers. Give them a degree and they'll be bad writers who can spell.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    All I learned in my college creative writing class was that:

    1. The writer should never envision scenes like they're in a movie because this is bad.

    2. The writer should never use words like "infinitesimal" because they're too complicated; a cliche like "a small drop in a big ocean" works much better.

    and

    3. The writer should never use the word "seem" because things either ARE or they AREN'T, they never SEEM.

    I also learned that literary fiction along the lines of Hemingway is what writers must aim for, not that horrid genre junk.

    Needless to say, I've learned a LOT more about how to write from paying attention in English classes (to learn the basics), reading others' books (to learn style and technique), and writing my own (to get practice and experience).

    I'm betting there are some good creative writing courses out there, but they're useless if one doesn't already know the basics, and anything the instructor says should be taken with a grain of salt because, as in my case, it could just be one person's very biased opinion. The flaw with creative writing courses is that rather than being objective, and presenting a variety of opinions, they too often end up being all about ONE writer's opinion of how everything should be written, and anyone who happens to think differently might end up convinced that they're wrong because of this.

    There was actually another genre writer besides me in that class who ended up storming out in a rage and dropping out because of the teacher's constant criticism. Maybe too thin skinned, but the teacher was pretty thickheaded. That was the only writing-related class ever where I didn't get an A.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you find teh RIGHT course with a good, open-minded, teacher, they are beneficial. A friend of mine had a similar experience with her university writing class as tehuti. At the beginning of the class, she told me that the teacher said "For this class, you cannot write anything that is overtly fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, romance, etc, because they do not belong in a university classroom," or something like that. When my friend told mt this I wanted to smack him and tell him just what Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (writers of fantasy novels) did for a living.
     
  8. Mello
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    Mello Member

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    I've had two writing classes; one was great, the other useless.
    The reason for the variation was that, especially in a workshop style class, it depends a lot on the people and the teacher, and what they bring to you and expect from you.

    Genre writing is discouraged in these classes, I think, because of the possibility that the students of the class would end up hiding all their real literary skill behind the cliches that tend to come with genre writing. One thing about genre writing is that, the more that you know about that genre, the better your writing will sound, regardless of your skill. To me it feels like using genre writing for exercises would be the easy way out of writing something real and engaging.

    The teacher I had in the class that I enjoyed was a little more open-minded than the others mentioned here; he didn't like genre writing at all, but as long as we put a twist on it and made sure it didn't sound like the usual vampires, werewolves, or mythological BS, he would accept it.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only if you don't understand the genre, but a good writing teacher should be able to work in all genres and allow for the goals that the students have for their work. Besides, if you don't know what you're doing as a writer, even so-called literary or mainstream writing that doesn't fit into a genre, won't be engaging.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    answer:
    no... yes... maybe... depending on what help/improvement your writing needs, how good the course/teacher is in re meeting those needs, and whether/how well you 'get' what it teaches...

    i've never taken any regular writing courses and only took two specialized ones while i was making/selling other types of writing, just to learn their idiosyncratic format basics and craft-specific standards/style... those were for lyric-writing and writing for tv... both were well worth the time/expense and were both taught by a well-respected pro in the industries [sheila davis, then pres. of SGA]...
     
  11. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    In my experiences, they can teach you a few useful tips, but nothing really worth it. Most of the stuff I've learned in the classes that I've attended have been things that I had or could have learned simply by reading and anaylizing books and my own writing.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    I was going to to take one and still might, after I research the teacher some.

    What I did was send an e-mail to a few of the teachers and one said he would be happy to take a look at my work without enrolling in his class to give me pointers.

    I will let you know how well that works
     
  13. ArckAngel
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    The thing I find most helpful about writing courses is that it forces you to have a deadline to when you have to have your story done. It also forces you to give your writing over, whither you believe it is ready or not. From that point it will get critiqued and some useful information about how you can improve your writing will be given.
     
  14. Sammy
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    Sammy Member

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    Well you've given me something to think about. Thanks!
    I thought about what someone said about what i want to learn etc and the problem is i don't know.
    I think my problem is that i don't know what needs improving. I guess i'm hoping that by taking a class i can at least get feedback and know if i'm heading in the right direction. I finished school six years ago and that is really the last time i've had someone critique my work.
    I haven't posted on here yet because i don't have the internet at home (so don't have access to my writing) but also because i posted something on another forum a while ago and just got really inconstructive feedback. No offence to anyone :)
    The course is only $195 Aus for six months so my theory is that it's not a lot of money if i hate it (rather than going to university and spending thousands).
    I'll consider it. I have contacted them so i'll see if and what they reply with.
    Thanks
     
  15. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Depending on how much you are intending to spend, you might want to check out Gotham Writer's Worshop. LINK

    They have pumped out a lot of successful writers. And you can take the courses online. You can also earn a certificate, which they don't just hand out to anyone. For example you have to have completed a portfolio of high-level writing, during the courses, to get one.


    Once I can afford it, I plan on taking some courses.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want to try a freebie first, you can send me what you think is the best thing you ever wrote and i'll let you know if you really need to spend a couple of hundred bucks on a fee-required course...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  17. Sammy
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    Sammy Member

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    Thanks for the link architectus, i saw their add on the internet and i wondered if they were much good. Will have a look when i get a minute.
    And thanks for the offer Maia! That's really nice.
    I don't have anything with me at the moment but will go home and have a look (at work at the moment) and see if i can find anything 'email worthy'.
    Thanks heaps for the offer.
     
  18. Hetroclite
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    Hetroclite Member

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    Yes. While I was in high school, wanting to be a writer, I had the same concept as so many other, that stories are written from beginning to end as we read them in books. So all the stories I wrote got nowhere & I never could finish them. When I took a creative writing course in college, I learned how a story is really written. So after several more years of reading I began seriously writing. With the understanding I got from a course, I was able to finish a few, to start with, that have substance & direction.
     

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