1. CraniumInsanium
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    CraniumInsanium Member

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    Writing Class Woes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CraniumInsanium, Sep 19, 2013.

    I'm currently taking a creative writing class at the local college. The main topic so far has focused on memoirs. It's driving me bat crazy! >.<

    I of course realize the instructor is using this exercise to force us to draw out our memories, and quite literally breathe life into them through words. It's like nonstop having nails on a chalkboard for me personally.

    Anybody have any interactions in a class involving memoirs? Or if you've taken a creative writing course and wanna gripe about whatever in it drive you crazy, feel free to politely vent.

    Oh! I also have "Fiction Writers Workshop, by Josip Novakovich" I purchased it about a year ago, and it has some very useful exercises in it, but I honestly can't tell if human interaction, or reading exercises out of a book is the best method for me to improve. Anybody have experience with this book?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I say try everything, drop what isn't productive, and keep going with what is.

    For me it's been a writer's critique group and reading books on writing skills, half of which have been useful and half of which just weren't what I needed.

    I dropped out of two of the three critique groups I started with. I gave them a good long try before deciding return on time invested was a loss. The third has been immensely helpful. If this is a new class, try to see what the professor's doing for you rather than how hard it is to struggle through an assignment. (By hard, I mean teeth pulling hard, not, can't do the work hard.) Some nights in the critique group I struggle to sit through commentary I find useless. But it's still worth it for the couple people whose critiques I find invaluable.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    What exactly are you having trouble with? Are you having trouble thinking of a memory to write about? Or is it the actual writing that's giving you trouble?
     
  4. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Memoir may not be what you'd like to write about, but writing is writing and sometimes it is good to move out of your comfort zone.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with what others have said here; if you're in a class, might as well give it a go.

    However, I also agree with you. Writing memoirs is NOT what I want to do either. Not at all. What do you get from doing that? Maybe you learn to string sentences together in a coherent fashion, and if your spelling and punctuation needs work, that will certainly show. But unless you fictionalise your memoir, your imagination is left pretty much high and dry. You don't create characters, you simply recall them. Maybe recalling them in a lively way is a good thing, and maybe that's the purpose. But I find my mind plodding when I have to write a factual account of my past. It's just not what interests me.

    I also fear that writing a memoir will not be the best device to break people out of 'textbook' mode of writing. This is too much like 'write an essay about what you did on your summer vacation.' Okay, some people will stun your socks off with their stories, but most people will write a fairly dry account of what happened when. The kind of well-spelled, accurately punctuated essay that used to get an "A" from teacher. There is nothing in 'write a memoir' to kickstart storytelling mode—unless you already have that knack.

    I'm not saying this exercise is useless. I'm just saying that MY tires would be screeching as well as yours, if somebody forced me to do it. I'd grind it out, then look forward to moving on.

    Now ...on the other hand ...if the assignment was more specific. Write a fictional story about someone you actually used to know. Try to imagine somebody else living in your old house. These kinds of memoir-related exercises might bridge the gap between memory and fiction.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    I like the go out of your comfort zone advice. I found out I could write after writing a blog about my life... believe me it is really really difficult to look at yourself deep down and write honestly about your own life and relationship. No matter how great your English composition is the words will never spring to life unless you are honest. It was just normal journal entry kind of posts at first then it got deeper and deeper and I actually cried when I was writing about my not so good relationship with my brother who was an addict and died of an overdose. From then on it was an honest exploration of my life and in the process I found my writing voice. We often wonder how a good writer turns a normal plot (even cliche) so interesting to read... well I would say that's because they broke that barrier within beyond which there can be only honest emotions. And those are the emotions the readers find It impossible to ignore. The characters in your fiction may not be real but they can connect with the readers only when their emotions come from a real place.

    So don't just give up... you might get lucky just as many did and it might just be the thing you needed to take your writing to another level.
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm about to take my second year in a Creative Writing degree. When I began last year, I barely did anything I wanted to do - all we did was plays, TV scripts, and short stories. In fact, throughout the whole year I wasn't particularly fussed on what we were doing. But I did it anyway, and found that I enjoyed some things while I hated others. It's all a process. If you never push yourself out of your comfort zone, I believe you would become a very bland writer, with much of the same ideas regurgitated. Have fun with it. I'm looking forward, though, to when I can write a novel for my degree! :D
     
  8. LeighAnn
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    LeighAnn Member

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    I loved every moment of my creative writing classes. All four years were a blast and led directly to my first book. True, some of the assignments weren't my favorite, but those assignments taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that if I was going to make a living as a writer, I wouldn't love everything I tackled. I would have to learn to step beyond my own comfort zone and write just about anything. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenplay, short story... it all had to be in my repertoire. The lesson has served me well.
     
  9. CraniumInsanium
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    Its mostly that I find what she's talking about boring, so I suppose its a combination of laziness and me chomping at the bit. The only reason I'm taking this class (Creative Writing) is because it was the only class writing wise that I thought might help me. There were other classes like pot development, character development, etc. All the hardcore topics I'd be completely drooling over if they were being offered this semester. Soo...I had to settle for this. Seeing as how the classes I really wanted haven't been offered in a while, I'm guessing there's not enough demand, so the classes got dropped or something. I'm at the local community college, perhaps I need to go to a bigger university.

    GingerCoffee-I was part of a writing group like a year or so ago, but due to financial shennanigans and needing to work 56 hours a week, I wasn't able to continue going. It's probably something I outta pick back up...just gotta find the time I guess. It was a pretty small one, about six or seven people. We all brought in samples of a chapter or poem, and while the original writer read it, we'd critique it. That wasn't that bad, especially considering it was the first experience I'd had with a writers group.

    I totally understand what everyone means about going out of your comfort zone. I'd consider it to be like teaching myself to be ambitexterous(which I've forcefully done btw). It's alien, strange, and a pain in the butt, but in the end, the gain outweighs the pain. I seriously almost started banging my head on the desk because Creative Writing II is mixed with my class Creative Writing I, and they are doing the same thing we are, just more so. meaning...more happy little demon memoirs to torment me when I take the second class hahahaha. Yea...it's been one of those kinda weeks, or months rather.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is an unfortunately common side-effect of the writing life... comes from sitting all day... is often accompanied by 'seat development'...

    [sorry, just couldn't resist!]
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Well, agriculture can be useful.

    (Hey, if Maia can, I can. :D)

    On a more serious note, schooling should not just be about learning the things you like, it should also be about learning what you don't know but need to know. It seems to me that if I were teaching a creative writing class, the first thing I would start with would be things that are factually true, so that one can get comfortable with reflecting what is. Because, from there, it's not such a great leap to writing about what is within your imagination. Moreover, writing about what you yourself have experienced gives you a leg up in this process because you not only understand the factual material, you know (or at least have some understanding) about what lies underneath the facts - the motivations, the emotional responses, the impacts - in 0ther words, all the things that go into exposition of character and development of plot. Contrary to popular opinion, writing fiction, even in the realm of fantasy, is not just about making stuff up. At least, not if it's good fiction.

    I'm reminded of a scene in the film "Fame", in which the students are challenged to talk about their most painful secret. One character uses the opportunity to come out that he's gay. In the film, it was supposed to allow them to further develop their abilities as actors, which seemed a bit hokey to me. But writing about one's most painful experiences can be extremely fruitful (regardless of the discomfort level, which can be quite intense) because, again, no one knows the depth of feeling about them like you do. Besides, you might learn something about yourself.

    I once wrote my autobiography through my college years as if I'd been a girl. My teen years were real hell for me, and not just because of all the usual reasons. But writing about them in that way gave me a lot of insights into events that I couldn't forget but hated to remember. In a strange way, I was able to make a sort of peace with them.

    So, go back to class and give it your best shot. You'll be surprised at what you learn (which is measured less by what you are taught and more by what you produce).
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's a tip that you may find helpful.
    Choose the part of your life about which you want to write (or don't want to as the case may be), then, begin writing it in third person, writing about someone else as it were. For some people, it can be uncomfortable - downright painful even - on any number of levels. Removing yourself from the "story" can help to put it down on the page. It can even be quite cathartic.

    And Ed's absolutely correct.
     

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