1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Best online writing courses?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Magnatolia, Jan 15, 2014.

    Hi all,

    I've never really studied the art of writing, and hence I feel like there's some improvements I could make. Also I need to work on the basic frameworks of writing a story - character development, plot, setting, etc. I also think my lack of 'knowledge' makes me attack my work a little too rough. Even today I had this thought of 'man I don't have skill as a writer'. Then I recalled a quote 'No matter how hard it is, or how hard it gets, I will succeed'.

    I'm looking for two things from online learning. Variety as in a multitude of different topics from different categories. I'm actually in the middle of writing a guide to gaining weight so non-fiction is good. Also very interested in writing and selling short fiction and maybe novel (my limited/lacking knowledge makes me squirm at the word novel). I also want something that provides high quality valuable critique/feedback.

    Critiquing on a forum is great, but it doesn't necessarily teach the 'art' of writing. I wrote a small piece about a character I was trying to develop, and the feedback was great, however I also need to learn how to actually achieve what I wanted to get down in my words.

    I've seen one that I think fits the criteria for the first need. Writersvillage. Has anyone had any experience with them? From what I can gather you get critiquing/feedback from the other writers and members. They have over 300 different courses which I think is going to be invaluable.

    I had a few options for the dedicated feedback/critique. I'm probably looking at a budget of $300-350 which seems to be average for about 4-8 week online course.

    Thanks heaps guys!
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    at the top of the generally-accepted best are those given by the 'gotham writers' workshop'... nyu and ucla also offer a wide range of online writing courses... you can google for other highly-ranked universities doing the same...
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've heard great things about Gotham, but it's $400 per course. Have you thought about applying to an MFA program and completing a degree at an actual university?
     
  4. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Thanks guys, yeah I will take a look at the university online offerings as well. I signed up to the WritersVillage University (not the same thing as an actual university), seems interesting so far. It's basically articles with actions, and you post the result in the class room to obtain feedback from the other students.
     
  5. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    For a fraction of the cost of an online course you can learn writing from some of the best teachers of the subject, a man who wrote for stage, page, and film, and one of the top agents in the US.

    For a sample of what you would get check this article. Chew on it a bit until it makes sense. If it does, pick up Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It's the book the article was extracted from, and the best I've found because it focuses on the nuts and bolts issues, structure and integration, rather than style, to give you a good grounding in the basics. An alternative would be jack Bickham's Scene and Structure, which you can often find in the library. They taught together so there's a lot of overlap.

    For stylistic matters, after Swain you might want to look at Sol Stein, On Writing.

    And as a capper, there's Donald Maass. He covers the nuance of style and amplification from the seat of a highly successful agent.

    All of those are available in Kindle and hard copy on Amazon, or Nook and Hard copy on Barnes and Noble. They're better and far more complete than any online writing course.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    One of the advantages of a creative writing program is that you get critiques from other students (and possibly the instructor) who are serious about writing. That's not something you can get with any book.
     
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  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    With the Gotham courses (I've taken them four times), you get a lot of instructor feedback (and your instructor is always a published writer with work available on Amazon and other sites, so they have some credentials), and also the critique of very serious students - students who have paid hundreds of dollars for a ten-week course and aren't about to let it all go. I always had a good experience with Gotham, and I always learned from them.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    getting feedback from other students is most often akin to the blind leading the blind... to get knowledgeable feedback and learn how to do anything well, you need feedback from the instructors...
     
  9. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    That makes the critique part of this forum redundant then, because anyone can provide feedback. But I do agree that instructors will always provide better feedback.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As I said, we got feedback from the instructors. But feedback from students - especially intelligent, well-read, and serious students - is very valuable. People like them are who we're writing for. Do not disrespect serious students. They are often better writers than some of the people on the bestseller lists.
     
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  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I took a Gotham course and really liked it, although my course was a very intro basic course, that was less than 10 weeks. (I got it on a deal through TONY's groupon-type offering for something like $199.) Especially given my experience with that course, I'd be interested in taking another class with them. Yes, they're not exactly cheap, but an MFA is more expensive.

    Sure, there are always people who don't know WTF they're talking about. But you have to learn to weed them out. That issue can be somewhat mitigated by getting feedback from lots of different feedback. Writers are, after all, also readers, so if something is not making sense to a good percentage of them, you likely have some kind of problem with what you've written. Since Gotham offers instructor feedback as well, you have a good tool to assess feedback that is not in line with what that instructor has said.

    I think the alternative of getting no feedback from anyone is worse. Just writing in a vacuum isn't all that helpful or satisfying.
     
  12. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    One thing students can offer up well enough though, is how the writing made them feel. Everyone feels something, even if they can't put it into academic speak.
     
  13. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    I agree, I think this is also why the rules can be bent. If your reader is engrossed in the story they're not really paying too much attention to what they're reading unless it jars them back to reality. Like if you have a charater with a deep gravelly voice, making him growl in every dialogue will pull your reader straight back to reality.
     
  14. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I'll also put down, that if you're a good reader: attentive and analytic, then perhaps you can go the cheaper route and just use books.

    From what I've determined, there is three levels to writing as we want to write:

    1. SPaG, clarity, etc
    2. Sentence construction. How to craft a good sentence.
    3. Storycraft.

    I have books on all three levels and look for more when I can. Each book usually brings out something that I didn't see before. As an example:

    McGee approached characterization in terms of inner monologue. Truby goes into character web and interaction, where you design a main character in relation to other characters in the top spots.

    And I can't say enough about reading. I've learned more about SPaG, characterization, the importance of good formatting, dialog and action by reading bad screenplays and comparing to good screenplays than by reading good screenplays alone.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    I'm not disrespecting anyone, just stating a fact, though it's one a lot of folks don't like to admit... well-meaning though it may be [and is, in most cases], advice on your writing given by other non-professionals is too often neither accurate, nor helpful...

    and, as I've made clear in similar posts, I'm referring only to advice re the technical issues, not merely a reader's opinion type of feedback that does not deal with writing quality, but only how the story, characters and setting, etc. come across...
     
  16. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @mammamaia if a reader's opinion of your story is good, then do the details ie. the writing quality become an issue? A writer's ultimate goal is to be read. Now maybe you're unlucky and you found the one reader who liked your book. Or maybe lots of readers like your book yet your scene writing is poor, but your story and characters are incredible so they don't really notice the quality, or lack thereof, of the other parts of the whole...
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    excellent question, magnatolia!

    this is exactly why obtaining only reader opinions does a writer little or no good and can actually be more harmful than helpful... because agents and publishers they query will not be impressed by a ms with a good story, but poor quality writing... and neither will self-published book-buyers who are discerning readers, so you'd be limiting sales...
     

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