1. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland

    What is it with people?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by obsidian_cicatrix, Apr 28, 2014.

    Several months ago I signed up for free online taster course in creative writing. Very basic, nothing flashy... I've often thought about going back to school, so to speak, and I thought this might be a good way to dip my toe in the water. I need to learn to think on my feet more than I'm able to do at present.

    The course started this morning and the early birds were up an' at 'em.

    We were given a relatively simple writing exercise—nothing too strenuous. We were asked to write up two paragraphs of between 50 - 100 words. There were certain obligations we had to fulfill within each paragraph and so I set about it. Anyone who knows me knows that I am NOT the soul of brevity and so when I slightly overshot the limit, I wasn't surprised. I edited out the extraneous and redundant, trying to keep the essential points intact and eventually got my word counts for both within the proscribed limit.

    I got ready to cut and paste into the discussion section but before I did, I took a look at the general standard of what had been posted. I put it mildly, I am annoyed. While some of the pieces read really well, I'm not surprised, my efforts look completely skeletal in comparison.

    What the hell do they think they are writing, War and Peace?

    A few words over, I can accept, but several were hitting nearly 100 words over the count.

    Is it just me? Am I being unnecessarily pedantic? I just don't see the point of being assigned an exercise and then throwing the guidelines out of the window. What is to be gained from doing that? Now when I read down through the discussion thread, I'm having to trawl through reams of stuff that doesn't remotely fulfill the criteria. Am I being unreasonable in expecting my fellow students to do as they have been asked?

    Anyone had any similar experiences with online courses?
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
    jazzabel and jannert like this.
  2. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Perhaps being a participant in this forum has bumped you to the head of the class, so to speak. We often discuss word count here and most of us know that anyone wishing to be published has to take word limits seriously. I'd keep my annoyance on hold until I saw what the instructor had to say.
     
    TDFuhringer, jazzabel and jannert like this.
  3. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    You might be right Ed but on the other hand, some of the writing isn't of bad standard and so I would imagine I'm not alone it that. One of the girls made a point of saying, as we haven't got to the editing bit yet, that might be the reason but I think it's more than that. It strikes me that many are strutting around in their finery, showing what they can do rather than take the aims of the course seriously. I would say at least 80% are over shooting the word count... I don't believe it's ignorance on the vast majority of their parts. The effect it is having, is not being able to see the wood for the trees. I've found the actual interface a bit awkward too which isn't helping. Maybe I just need to get used to it, so I can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Edited to add: Still... go me! I managed to keep to the count and actually managed to write two short pieces of Flash. I've learnt something new, so even if my fellow students have me pulling my hair out, it's worth it already. ;)
     
    jannert likes this.
  4. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Yes, like "Look at me! I'm a writer!"

    My advice is - ignore them and get the most you can out of the course.
     
  5. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,842
    Likes Received:
    10,017
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I cannot help but be reminded of the conversation being had in the other thread concerning What is the Point of Critique. ;) :rolleyes:
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  6. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    @Wreybies Very true. Throw the egos out the window and just get down to brass tacks. ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
    peachalulu and Wreybies like this.
  7. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,842
    Likes Received:
    10,017
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yes. And that in the end the only person who can truly improve Obsidian's work is Obsidian herself. It has to be your observations, your application, your comparisons and your decisions. You knew what the goal was, and in the face of the fact that brevity is not your friend (self-admitted), you hit it. Even if the instructor comes back and says Oh, that's okay. We just wanted to make sure the pieces were short enough to be able to read in the time allotted. that doesn't matter a dollop. You took the restriction seriously and you disciplined yourself to it.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix and jannert like this.
  8. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    And if anybody has a go at you because they think your work is 'skeletal' compared to theirs ...well, you've got ammunition! Good luck and have fun. None of these people know you, or are likely to ever know you, so just get what you can from the experience and move on. I'm sure in many ways, you will knock their socks off.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  9. Lucy1712
    Offline

    Lucy1712 New Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2012
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    I remember doing a similar sounding creative writing exercise back in Year 12 English class.

    We had to write a 100 word (no more, no less!) descriptive piece using certain criteria. I was one of the few (I will never boast 'only' as I didn't hear all the class' offerings) who managed to stick to the word count exactly. I scribbled out extraneous words and found quicker and better ways to finish my piece. It was a great exercise for creative writing, but I don't think most of the class appreciated it fully!
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  10. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    As it's only a taster, I really didn't expect to learn anything I don't already know. The difference I'm finding already, is that I'm seeing different ways to apply what I already know just by rigidly following the guidelines, easing myself out of my cosy rut of a comfort zone. One thing I've always disliked about the way I write, is just how lacking in versatility I am. I think this exposure, and like @Wreybies says, the discipline angle, will do a lot to improve on what I feel I'm lacking.

    They tell me to do a thing, I'll do my damnedest.
     
  11. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    It seems to me like you know how to edit and they don't. So good for you!

    Learning to write within the limit will also help when it comes to submitting to places with strict guidelines.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  12. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Does "taster" mean what I think it means?
     
  13. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    Not sure Ed... what do you think it means? From a what I can gather it's simply a semester's introduction. If I feel it's gonna benefit me, I'll look into starting the full course come the autumn. I'll have to look a little more deeply into it. For now I'm taking the attitude that I'd like to take my education further but I already know I can't do lecture halls. In the past I did do AS Level's in English, History and Media studies at college, to bring my failing grades up so I could apply to university but I found the whole experience very unsettling and realised uni wasn't for me. That's why I'm giving online a go. I find dealing with the written word, rather than the spoken, more effective when it comes to it. I find having swathes of people and voices around me very distracting.

    Well, we'll see. :)
     
  14. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Yep. It sounds like it might be just the thing for your purposes. I wish you the best with it.
     
  15. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    @EdFromNY Thanks very much. If it wasn't for you guys here, I'd still be convincing myself out of it.
     
  16. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    What a fantastic attitude. The exact opposite of a know-it-all is NOT a know-nothing! It's somebody who wants to know more.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  17. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    One of the things a writer has to learn is that if an editor says they want 3,000 words they have a specific spot to fill that will hold 3,000 words. Sent them ten extra and you will hear about it. (A few less is more acceptable because the white space can be filled by an adjustment in kerning, borders, etc.)

    As you've just learned, there's nothing better for teaching you what counts and what doesn't, than having to remove words when youdon't think you can.

    But that being said, those other students, who had probably hadn't encountered a word limit before held the belief that the number was a guideline, and that you write however many words it takes to say what needs to be said (perhaps budding novelists rather than short story writers?) The point is: worry about making your own writing as perfect as you can, and look at the others to see if they have anything of importance to note. I've learned more about what not to do from bad writing then good.
     
  18. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    which online course is it?... have you vetted it and found it to have a good rep?

    as for your complaint, why should you give a fig about what anyone else writes, when it's only what the instructor writes about your writing that matters?

    would it make any sense to choose a course on the basis of how well the other students follow instructions, over how well the course is being taught?... you do need to get your priorities in order and simply concentrate on how you want to deal with instructions and what you turn out...

    love and hugs, maia [a writing mentor who's had to deal with countless clods who couldn't follow instructions :rolleyes:]
     
  19. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    All that and more is what really annoys me about groups. Group projects, class learning, the whole lot is just on one hand slowing me down, on another, wasting my time. Can you tell I don't work well in teams? :D Joking aside, if you too are an individualist, then you are there to see what you can gain from the course, and ignore the rest. Don't worry about what others are doing. Although, having to read pages and pages of waffle other people wrote is a downside to any course.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  20. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    I think I might be misrepresenting myself. I couldn't give a fig about what any one else learns or doesn't. That's their schtick, not mine. What I object to are threads getting cluttered with exercises that don't fit the prompt criteria. Like @Wreybies, I find a lot to be learned from studying the works of others; good and bad, effective and not so much. There's no point these posts even existing. The criteria was drawn up for a reason and I'm very much interested in seeing alternate ways of going about it, ways and means that I might never think up, off my own bat.


    @JayG Even with my meagre educational background, I knew about word counts. There can't be too many people who haven't been set homework with a max word count, can there? I'm not saying they did the homework, or bothered to do it correctly but surely most folks know that stated count is the ceiling figure? You get marks lopped off for that kind of thing, at least that's my recall on the subject.


    @mammamaia This is just a Open University taster course to start me off. I really didn't go into it with high expectations just wished to open myself up to some new possibilities. Some of the material is interesting enough... very basic but I can see what kind of approach they are employing and it's caused me to ask myself a couple of interesting questions already. My brain is a bit like a flat car battery...sometimes needs a bit of a jump start.

    As for the clods. It's not just that they couldn't follow instructions. It's obvious they never even tried.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
  21. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,824
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Kinda strange they were allowed to post. If I sent in a short story into a contest with a strict word count mine would be tossed.
    Maybe what they should've done was separate them- Here's the writers who took the challenge and - Here's the writers who can't count.
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  22. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,337
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    This entire thread is one big ego trip. Lots of people can't/ don't follow directions. How we got from that simple little fact to " look at me I'm too good for these idiots with big egos" is a mystery. Just kidding. I know you guys by now.
     
    Cerebral likes this.
  23. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    I should do exercises like that. @KaTrian and I have the problem of producing looong pieces and even here my posts tend to go on and on and before I click 'Post Reply,' I'm horrified by the length of the post (and then desperately try to clean it up and cut out words and paragraphs).
     
    obsidian_cicatrix likes this.
  24. marshipan
    Offline

    marshipan Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    28
    Eh, I went to school specifically for creative writing and never encountered a maximum word limit. Engineers I knew got them all the time (and other majors that were seen as "professional", compared to "artistic"), but my creative writing teachers couldn't give a flying f. Some hot stud would sometimes stroll into class and plop down double what was asked. The professors might give a little chuckle, and that's all.
     

Share This Page