for a Writing Course
like the truth, is out there...
you have to be willing to ask for it. Not so long ago (six years to be exact) I
realized, after a year and a half of rejection letters, that I needed a boost
getting over my writing hurdles. Even though I was writing steadily, and had
already had seen several of my plays produced locally, I couldnt seem to make
that all-important leap from hopeful to publishable. I wanted to write. I loved
sitting down every night and pounding out short stories, and as importantly, I
was sending manuscripts out as quickly as I finished them. Unfortunately, the
same manuscripts were coming back nearly as I fast as I could stuff them into
envelopes. I was stymied. After all, words are cheap and ideas are a dime a
dozen, so why couldnt I string them together into something an editor would
be willing to buy? Much as I hated to admit it, I needed help.
with no small amount of trepidation, I filled out an application form I had
received in the mail a few weeks earlier and signed up for a correspondence
course through the Institute of Childrens Literature. Let me state right off
the bat, I am not advocating this course. For me it was a good decision, but it
is not for everyone. I was paired with a wonderful instructor, whom I have
stayed in touch with long after the classes ended, and who was able to work the
assignments around to fit my schedule. However, the tuition was relatively high,
and the marketing techniques used by the school are aggressive. I was very happy
with the course, as are most of the people Ive spoken with who have also
taken it, but I am sure there are just as many students out there who were
dissatisfied. Still, the bottom line remains: did the class make a difference?
six months of starting the course I had, upon the advice of my instructor, sold
one of my class projects to a magazine that more than paid for my tuition. In
fact, over the years, I have managed to place several of the assignments I wrote
for the class, not to mention the stories I have written and sold using what I
learned. The information and feedback I gleaned over the eight months of
instruction, and the confidence I developed, have been invaluable. Could I have
eventually reached that point on my own? Maybe. Did taking a writing course get
me there sooner? Absolutely.
is out there. But it is up to you to ask for it. Realizing that my writing
needed help was a major step for me. However, it was a step I was ready to take.
I wanted to learn, and I dived into the material with abandon, devouring each
new section, each new challenge with an almost childlike joy. And after a while
I began to understand it was less what I was learning than the fact that I was
willing to learn that made the critical difference. Finding a course was only
the first part of the equation. In other words, how you approach a writing class
is just as important as what you are shown. For a student, attitude truly is
than once I have heard people comment that when it comes to instruction, you
only get what you pay for. Personally, I dont agree. Paying a high premium
for a writing class is no guarantee of success. Instead, concentrate on finding
a course and a teacher that you are compatible with, and more importantly, that
offers what you want to learn. Far too many would-be
writers throw away their pens before they ever have a chance to discover
their talents because some expert advised them that genre writing is
neither profitable nor a worthy pursuit of an authors time. Choosing the
wrong course or writing group, or suffering through a poor instructor/student
relationship is worse than no help at all. Look for someone who shares your love
and enthusiasm for the type of writing you want to create. If what you want to
write is fantasy or science fiction (or mysteries, or romances, or westerns, or
gothics...) and youre unsure how your prospective teacher views genres
outside the mainstream, ask him. Early is the time to discover that the class is
not what you were looking for, rather than after you have already invested your
hard-earned time or money.
finding the class is only the beginning. As with the horse that doesnt want a
drink, no teacher can make you learn. All she can do is give you the
opportunity. Dont simply approach a lesson. Attack it! Throw yourself into
each assignment. Tackle the new material. Squeeze the drops from every paragraph
you study. Push yourself to your limits and beyond with every assignment. And
dont be shy. Try to impress your teacher. Show her what youre made of, and
that youre not afraid to prove yourself a writer. A class is a good time to
experiment, a time to extend the boundaries of your skill. Part of the learning
process is the feedback between teacher and pupil, and the harder a student is
willing to work, the more an instructor can give in return. It is up to you, as
the student, to find the challenge in even the simplest lesson. It is also up to
you to listen to the criticism you receive, even when it is painful.
Understanding your weaknesses, as well as your strengths, is all part and parcel
of being professional.
Youve decided youre ready to take a writing course. You know what you want
to say, and youre convinced you have the stick-with-it to jump into the class
feet first with your eyes wide open. Now, where do you start your search? The
options can be overwhelming. Take your time. Ask other writers if you can,
preferably ones who have taken similar classes. Do you want to take an evening
class at a local college? A correspondence course? Perhaps you feel that an
on-line class will give you the best return. No one can make this decision for
you. Keep in mind how the class will affect (the rest of your life maybe change
this to: your daily routine). How much of your free time are you willing -- or
more realistically, able -- to give up for homework? Realize from the start that a certain amount of sacrifice is
required for any class, no matter what the subject, and if youre not prepared
to make the sacrifice, perhaps you should rethink your choices.
much should the class cost? Again, the answers can be staggering. Prices for
writing courses run from free to hundreds of dollars, and only you can decide
how much you are willing to spend. But, please, keep in mind simply because a
class is free doesnt make it worthless, nor is a high price tag necessarily
an indicator of quality. Scams exist, and its all too easy to fall prey to
the unscrupulous, especially where your most private dreams and aspirations are
concerned. Scammers rely on a persons insecurity, rather than their desire or
greed, to take advantage of them. Dont let yourself be a victim. Ask around
before you commit any money. Haunt the on-line bulletin boards and newsgroups to
get a feel for what is legitimate and what is not. Are the class requirements
and curriculum well defined? Are the prices in keeping with similar courses?
And, most importantly, is there a guarantee of publication lurking somewhere in
the pitch? If there is, walk on by. No professional teacher would ever make the
claim that you will be published by the end of the course. Writing is simply too
fickle a business for anyone to make that claim. After all, a teacher can only
present you with the basic tools.
rest is up to you.