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  1. JoeyBoy718
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    JoeyBoy718 Member

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    Ever take a college creative writing class?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JoeyBoy718, Sep 23, 2010.

    Hey guys, I'm new to the board. Anyway, I just started in my 3rd year of college. I actually transferred to a university, having spent my first 2 years at a community college. Now, I've taken a few creative writing classes while in college. At my community college, I took a creative writing class and a fiction writing class, both 2000 level courses (meaning lower division, typically for sophomores). Those classes had some amazing writers in them. Everyone came with an original idea. There were stories in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person; comedies, horrors, sci-fis, dramas, mysteries; fiction, non fiction, poetry. Also, everyone had good insight to give when we would workshop each other's work in class. Now, at my new school (the university) I'm taking a 3000 level (meaning upper division, typically for juniors) creative writing class. I expected these people to be even more advanced writers and give even more critical critiques. So far we have workshopped 16 stories and I am very disappointed. I would say that 12 of them were your basic, 1st-person, past-tense, non-fiction story about either a family member they lost or a friend they like or whatever. Really lame **** to be honest. Nothing imaginative, just real life not-very-intestesting stories told in a safe and simple way. And the class discussions are even worse. Nobody really has anything constructive to say. It's a lot of "This was beautiful" without explain WHY it was beautiful. Very disappointing. Anyway, I am being workshopped next week so I am going to try to hit these ****ers with something creative and original. I have this 2nd-person, future-tense, reverse-linear, black-comedy, sci-fi/horror, suspense/thriller I wrote. Let's see if they have anything constructive to say...
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Are you saying that a story in first person, past tense, and based on real events and people is automatically lame? Or uncreative?

    And are you saying that something in second person, future tense, sci-fi will automatically be good and creative?

    Hmm.
     
  3. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not sure what you're trying to get at here.. If it's about the quality of work by the other students, then not everyone will be a writer like you and that somewhat unimaginative storyline does appeal to lots of people. Did you tell them what you thought, and suggest some advice to help them? As for the rather useless comments, it doesn't seem like workshopping is doing what it's supposed to. Maybe you should talk to your tutor about it, or specifically tell the other students that you would like constructive criticism without sounding like a snob or something. In one of my workshopping seminars, we had a system where you said three good things about the piece and then one thing that needs to be improved, it was basically three ticks and a wish, so there was a balance.
     
  4. Blips
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    Blips Member

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    No I'm pretty sure he's just saying at his new university everyone is writing boring clichés.

    He says halfway through his post that people were writing great first person and non-fiction works in his previous college.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, he kept emphasizing person and tense. It seemed like he places a high value on simply being unusual.
     
  6. JoeyBoy718
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    JoeyBoy718 Member

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    I was saying that everybody is writing safe. We would do little practice writings in the class the first few weeks before students starting workshopping their stuff. So lots of the practice writing was just getting a feel for non fiction stuff. So when it came time to workshop your own orginal story, all the people were just using the non fiction stuff they wrote for the practice and just expanding it. Basically taking the easy way out. They probably already wrote 2-3 pages, so they just expanded it 2-3 more pages. At my old school, even if some of the writers weren't as strong as others, I have to applaud them because everybody was so original.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like a class for those just getting their feet wet, Joey. You should probably be in a more advanced class.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Originality doesn't mean good writing. I'm sure that some of the "basic, 1st person, past tense" stories will be of good quality after revision. From the last sentence of your first post it seems like you're trying to be original just for the sake of being original, which can be a bad thing. Writing "safe" isn't necessarily a bad practice since there's always room for improvement.

    If you're really having concerns about the course, then talk to the instructor. I'm sure he/she will be able to address your concerns far better than we can.
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, Joey did point out that the second class he took was supposed to be on a higher level. The difference seems to have been mostly in the people attending the class.

    Perhaps most of the students in the second class had only ever read straight real-life stories, and were unfamiliar with the very idea of writing creatively or experimentally.
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Joey mentioned that those in the upper level class had nothing constructive to say when critiquing a piece. He didn't say anything about the quality of writing, so I'm assuming (perhaps naively) that those in the upper level class can write better than those in the lower level class. Also, I know that some creative writing departments choose to focus on writing only one or two genres, so the students might not be encouraged to write something other than short memoirs or literary fiction.

    By the way, are there any prerequisites for the upper level class?
     
  11. Chudz
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    Chudz Contributing Member

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    I did take a college course in creative writing. However, it was so long ago that we had to write on papyrus, and I can't remember much else.
     
  12. zelda
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    zelda Member

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    I hope it's worth whole to take those courses. A lot of people told me it isn't, but I'm a lot more interested in those than pretty much any other subject. When I go to post-secondary I wanna focus on writing and east asian languages. I wonder if I can consider my future promising if I take and work hard in those departments...

    Anyway, I can't help but feel some kinship with him - There are so many more interesting fiction ideas that haven't been used, we're not running out! I think the way things are now, it is more good than bad to go outside the books, although there's nothing wrong with the more "orthodox" or "safe" novels mentioned earlier, but I'm also not the type to write those... I want to create a world! Right? haha

    There are two things I focus on most when I write (although I'm just starting out) fiction novels.

    1 - Get a really awesome idea for the story. This is just luck and talent I guess.

    2 - Plan it all ahead, then plant little bomb-like seeds that take place early on somewhere and explode into effect later, in a way that's both surprising and thrilling to the reader, giving them a nice rush. I've experienced this some times when reading manga or watching anime, and I think novels (maybe western ones?) could use a bit more of that genius.

    I'll stop talking now.

    Go for it! Make it original and awesome, but above all it must be reader-friendly.
     
  13. JoeyBoy718
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    To answer a few of the questions. The prereqs for the 3000 level class were the same for the 2000 level (basic College composition). The quality of the stories were not better, not at all. Perhaps the students are just shy or dumb.

    The only explanation that I can come up with is that, in the community college writing class, lots of the good writers were bad students. They would barely show up, be hungover, etc. But they were great writers. Perhaps they were older, more experienced in life and writing, and just took the class for the hell of it. And the university class is all full time students who just focus primarily on school and perhaps don't have experience.

    Some of the people in the community college class were local rock stars, rappers and spoken word artists. And maybe the other students fed off their energy. So it was basically a tougher breed of people. They worked full time, were dong bad in school, had families, felonies, etc. The university class is all school kids.
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Just curious - from what platform of experience are you judging the other students?
     
  15. JoeyBoy718
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    JoeyBoy718 Member

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    What platform of experience? I'm just going by what I heard. I heard one of the guys is the leader singer of a band who performs regularly in the local scene. One is a local rapper. Etc. I live in New York City. It's a ghetto community college in Brooklyn but lots of the people are somewhat established. At the university, most of the people are young, non-NYC kids who have never experienced much. Sure they've read a few books, but that's it.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Since the topic of discussion is writing fiction, having read "a few books" is more relevant experience than band experience, wouldn't you say?

    If they are all around the same age as you, they have comparable quantities of experience, even if the experiences themselves are different than yours. Don't automatically assume their experience is inferior.
     
  17. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    This morning I poured out a bowl of cereal only then to discover, on opening the fridge, that I had no milk. There is suffering here, in the suburbs.

    Much like everything else, you'll get out what you put in.
     
  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I've lived, worked and gone to school in New York City all my life, and I don't see that as an automatic qualifier for judging the quality of anyone's work product, be it music, writing or anything else. Also, I know this concept of "wisdom of the streets" has been out there for a while, but don't see that when it comes to artistic merit.

    It is presumptuous to think that you have a wider range of experience than someone who is not from New York. Different, possibly. But the kind of experiences that make one a good writer, or make one capable of discerning good writing, can be gotten from many places.

    My first suggestion to you in judging yourself and your fellows is to take a step back, and perhaps a little humility would not come amiss. Good luck in your writing endeavors.
     
  19. Kichae
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    Kichae New Member

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    I can't speak for how post-secondary schools work in the US, but in many places in Canada community colleges fill the niche of trade schools, career colleges, and as stepping stones for people who decide to go on to university but maybe didn't take high school as seriously as the universities require.

    As such, many community college courses put a greater emphasis on doing stuff rather than simply studying it. University writing classes tend to be offered as supplements to other programs, and are there to give students extra help, instruction, and insight to the actual writing process, rather than on the interest or creativity of the final product.

    I'd recommend English lit courses as the core of a creative writing program, and think of the writing classes more as insights to the technical process of putting words to screen.
     

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