1. Moneica
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    Moneica Member

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    I am going to take a Beginners Writing class, but....

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Moneica, Apr 15, 2014.

    At the technical school just a few miles up the road, they offer these type classes I found out. So I am going to start taking one at a time starting in June or July. I'm very excited about this. I am hoping this will help me with this book I've been writing. It's a 6 week course, meeting two times a week. $95.00 for the class.
    Is there any tips you all can give me on taking a class like this?
    Thanks all
    Moe
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, check out the credentials/experience of person teaching the course, to see if it's liable to be helpful...

    if it is, you may want to tape record the sessions... and be sure to at least take copious notes...
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If your class is anything like most writing classes, you'll be required to critique other students' work. My advice is to really put effort into this process because learning to critique others will help you improve as a writer. Other than that, I agree with maia.
     
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  4. Moneica
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    Moneica Member

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    thank you both for the tips.. I will for sure do it.
     
  5. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you do use a recorder, make sure to ask the professor for his consent in advance. It may be legally required.
     
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  6. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    Try to trash everyone's work as much as possible to make your writing look better. Suck up to the teacher and anyone who has been published as much as possible and make unfounded accusations of plagiarism. Get furious at the slightest negative criticism of your work and demand that everyone lavish you with extreme praise.

    That is the advice I can offer you ON OPPOSITE DAY.
     
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  7. Moneica
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    Moneica Member

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    Thanks Ben, I sure will.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good point, ben... i should have added that...

    thirdwind is on target about the critiquing...
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've heard some people being critical to amateurs critiquing each others work. They say they usually aren't qualified to either judge professionally if it's good or not or give constructive feedback that are really of any help. I've never attended a writing class so I don't know if I would find it helpful or not. On one hand I believe receiving critique is a good thing, on the other I think there could be a point in what they say. What do you guys think about this?
     
  10. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    Those guys are wiggidy weeners.
     
  11. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the critiquing is more for the critics' learning than that of the critique-ee. I'm pretty sure that's the philosophy of this site's workshop, but if it isn't, then I have done many disservices!
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2014
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I can see how some people might find this a problem. If you're paying a lot of money, you expect good critique, but some amateurs might not be good at giving it. That's why I think the reputation of the program is important. Courses like the ones offered by Gotham tend to attract more serious writers, and from what I hear, that means better critiques.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    just always consider the source and don't put too much stock in critiques given by other beginners, as the blind leading the blind will often leave both in a place they don't want to be...

    that said, even professionals will often differ in their opinions of a piece of work, so the 'critiquee' often needs to be able to choose the advice that feels most right for their work and intent...
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I took several Gotham courses. Rest assured, the instructor (invariably a traditionally-published writer with work available on Amazon, and usually armed with an MFA in creative writing) would offer critique along with the other students. It was never just the blind leading the blind.

    That said, I found the other students were often very perceptive and insightful. They were not only familiar with technique, and were perfectly comfortable giving professional-quality critiques on that front, but they were able to point out character inconsistencies I'd missed, plot holes I'd brain-farted on, and other basics of getting a story right. Keep in mind that the students there had paid good money (typically about $365 or so per ten-week course) to be there, so they were serious students. They weren't published yet, but I remember a few who were definitely ready to be, and a couple I thought were absolutely brilliant.
     
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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree that some/many/most fellow gotham students could certainly be considered exceptions to the rule, minstrel...

    which is why i qualified my warning with 'will often'... ;)
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Amateur critics may not always offer the best advice on how to improve your writing. However, a good amateur critic can be incredibly good at reacting as a READER to what you've written. If something confuses them, or they don't like something in particular (or do like something in particular) or they feel disappointed, bored, think the ending feels wrong, have fallen in love with your main character, whatever ...it's helpful to know.

    I'd say if your class contains a mixture of 'readers' to uncover problems and professionals to help you correct them, you've got the best possible combination. Good luck with your class, and have fun!
     
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  17. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    As so often happens I'm the dissenting voice. You may find that the teacher is published, but the teacher at a tech school probably isn't making their living from their writing, or a name you're familiar with. I mention this because for a fraction of the cost of that course you can be advised by a half dozen acclaimed teachers and highly successful writers, work at your own pace, and have their words there to advise you any time you get into trouble (and if you can find them in the local library's fiction writing section they're free).

    A friend, a great scholar and a brilliant person, used to drive her teachers crazy in college because she had a habit of reading the textbook, in its entirety, before she took any course. Her view was that she can read the book for herself, but wanted the instructor to talk about the things that didn't make it into the textbook, the things one must learn on the job, after the class is complete. She was told, more than once, to stop raising her hand because she often asked questions the instructor couldn't answer, and caught them in mistakes all the time. I mention this because even if you do take the courses, learning the basics and being familiar with the terminology can be a huge help because you'll have a good idea of where the teacher is going.

    Given your situation, I would suggest you invest a few dollars in Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation and Conflict. It's a warm easy read, available for Kindle or Nook, and filled with things that will have you saying, "Now why didn't I see that for myself?" And read it slowly, with plenty of time for thinking over what you've learned, and practicing each technique to fix it in the writing equivalent of muscle memory. My personal opinion is that when you finish you'll change your mind about taking that course. But if you don't, you'll get a lot more out of it, and maybe drive your teacher a little crazy. And that's always fun.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    First of all, Moe, I agree with @mammamaia - check the credentials of the instructor. Assuming that you are satisfied on that score, there could be a number of benefits of taking a class like this. Critiquing one another's work is a valuable exercise (if guided by the instructor) not so much for the critiques you receive but more for the experience that you gain in critiquing the work of others. Because being able to critique your own work is a vital skill when you begin to edit your work.
     
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  19. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Yeah, but I think a writer can get to the heart of a reader's issue if they ask the right questions of them. The problem is what questions to ask.
     
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  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, yeah, I certainly value writer input for exactly the reason you stated. However, you can (and I have) also get incredibly useful feedback from readers who are not writers themselves. They'll tell you what they like/don't like about a story. Tell you what confused them. They might not know how to fix the issue, but they'll alert you to the presence of a problem.
     
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  21. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    It's better if they can be...more detailed. A clear, root explanation can help a writer to distinguish between a stylistic appeal or something that just "hums nicely" for that particular reader.

    The "how to fix" is the writer's problem anyway, but if they can't get a clear understanding of the reason for the failure, they'll be guessing at the fix.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think we're both on the same page, here. I agree that feedback from a writer—especially an experienced and successful writer who writes the same kind of book or story you're trying to write yourself—can easily trump 'reader' feedback. A perceptive and knowing writer can suggest exactly what might be wrong—as opposed to expressing a generalised view that something IS wrong.

    My only niggle about writer or fellow-writer feedback is that the person giving the critique MAY be tempted to push their own writing agenda and style, rather than get in tune with the work they're actually critiquing. (We've all had teachers who do this, I'm sure.)

    Writers and tutors may insist, because they are experienced/published, that their Way is the only Way. It's a rare person who can rise above their own preferences and genuinely help a writer whose style and goals are vastly different from their own. Not wrong, not bad ...just different. I think it's important to encourage any writer to find the standard of excellence that suits their type of work, not just fit themselves to some formula or other.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2014
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  23. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Yeah, we're on the exact same page because this is a fear as well. Readers and writer need to set aside their own preference to style. But that can be one of the most difficult things a writer or reader can do. Stephen King is considered a great writer, but I find his style borderline tedious. I read "The Stand" cover to cover, but was not too impressive. Hawthorn, very tedious. William Gibson, I'm trying to read, but...tedious. I'd have probably flagged both of them as bad writers, when it's simply my personal preference to what is good.
     
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  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Interesting @Robert_S . I've only read a couple of Stephen King's books myself, and didn't really enjoy them. However, I can see why people do; they're just not my thing. I pay attention to what he says about writing, though, because I think he says it well.

    There are a few other writers out there whose advice (in books) I really value, but whose actual writings don't impress me much. One of them is Orson Scott Card.

    My personal abhorrence of his viewpoint on certain issues aside, Card gives what is to my mind EXCELLENT advice to novelists on the art of writing. I've not only got two of his books—Characters and Viewpoint, and How To Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I've got many of his articles in other collections as well. His article on creating what he calls 'jeopardy' is something I've never forgotten. Yet, apart from his original short story Ender's Game - not the novella or the later novel version - and his novel Speaker For The Dead, I find his work repetitive. I bought several, and ended up giving them away, only partially read. Initially interesting, but the themes and character dilemmas repeat too often for my taste, and I don't share his interest in religion. But as a writer of 'how-to' books, he's one of the best, in my opinion. He always sends me away with my brain humming with ideas.

    Go figure, eh?
     
  25. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    I haven't read any of his articles or books, but I suspect what he calls jeopardy, others call the ticking clock. The Dramatica Theory breaks it down further into a time lock or option lock. A point of no return in which once time or options run out, the hero must do something or completely lose.

    I'll keep that in mind, but I think most of his ideas I already know: character flaws (weakness, moral, psychological), goals, desires, plan, drive, turning points (reveals, etc), story world, etc, etc, etc.
     
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