Author Topic: Writing Class  (Read 3795 times)

Patx

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #15 on: February 10, 2007, 11:07:27 AM »
It's never wasted - even if it made you decide you didn't want to be a writer - at least you'd have learned it wasn't for you and could go and do something else that you wanted to do.

Offline Simon

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #16 on: February 10, 2007, 12:51:52 PM »
Since your only 13 I say don't worry about it. If you want to become a proffetional then you have lots of time and the more of writing you do the better. I'm in a highschool writers craft class, it doesn't help much, the only real advantage is that it forces you to write in someways that you normally wouldn't write in. Try different stiles, different topics, different lengths ect. I'd recomend searching through this site reading works and going to the games and challenges section. Experimentation is key, the only way you could be waisting your time by writing is by writing the same thing that doesn't work.

If you do take one of these classes I suggest focusing on the other students more than the teacher. Look at how they respond to the same exersise and see what's different about what they do, what works what doesn't.

Hope this helps.

N.Mott

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #17 on: February 10, 2007, 12:53:53 PM »
Excellent advice Simon.
The other thing to practice, Jordan, is editing/rewritng.

Offline orchid15

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #18 on: February 10, 2007, 01:57:41 PM »
writing is never a waste of time.  Everything you write helps you learn how to express yourself.  If you read thise short stories you will find some of them are probably pretty good and others leave you less happy.  just trying new things and analyzing if you like them or not, and discovering which are your best will imporve your skill.

I'd be surprised if almost everyone here doesn't have a stash of doxens or even hundreds of stories that will never be published.  Those things are the backbone of our craft.  That is just as much our practice as a basketball player alone shooting baskets from different places until then get it right.  A pianist never grows without practicing scales and we don't grow without practicing writing.

Congradulations,  You are doing great

orchid
"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't havto get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon." Robert Cormier
 

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Offline thatollie

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2007, 11:26:25 AM »
If you're enjoying the writing, then it's never going to be a waste of time. If you're concern is that you won't "make it," relax, it's not that important to be a successful writer. You can't force success, it happens if it happens. Anyway, if an eighty year old Ollie came to me today and said, "You're never going to make it as a writer."
I'd say, "OK, now can you let me get back to my novel."
Never make a decision standing up.

crystalwizard

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2007, 01:44:57 PM »
writing is never a waste of time.

no, but writing CLASSES usually are unless they are something like SMU's fast track to New York, where the best students also win a chance to go to new york, meet with agents and pitch their book.




Patx

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2007, 06:33:59 AM »
Bit of a sweeping generalisation there Crystal - you sound as though you've had a bad experience?

Offline thatollie

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2007, 06:57:20 AM »
Someone here said that what you get from writing classes is the chance to meet writers. That is  one of the most important things a writer ca do.
Never make a decision standing up.

Offline Symphony

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2007, 01:22:46 PM »
How can writing - for a writer - ever be a waste of time? No, no, no. Words put on paper are never wasted. Beware of going down the novice's road of 'It's a complete waste because all I've written in months is rubbish!'  Go back and analyse the rubbish. Now, I'm not suggesting you've written any rubbish- what I'm saying is that the only way to improve is to write, write, write. If you 'think' something's rubbish, then that's good, because you're discriminating. Maybe you can go back and improve it - or perhaps you'll just take that idea and transform it into something completely different. You learn as much from writing rubbish as you do when you write something and you're happy with it (warning: the latter is usually far less frequent!)

Don't ever think that writing is a waste of time. If it's your passion, then write, write, write to your heart's content. You'll know when you've hit on something 'big' - or something that you really want to pursue. Till then, it can be postcards, mind maps, a list of character names or the description of a place, a snippet of dialogue - don't think you have to write a whole story to be 'writing'.

Keep at it. Most of all, enjoy yourself!

Symphony

crystalwizard

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2007, 01:43:04 PM »
How can writing - for a writer - ever be a waste of time?

The comment was never 'writing is a waste of time'.

The original comment was 'writing classes are a waste of time'.

Some how that got promptly twisted into 'writing itself is a waste of time'.


Patx

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2007, 01:44:49 PM »
Why the downer on classes?

crystalwizard

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2007, 01:51:18 PM »
Why the downer on classes?

Because far too often, the teacher has a strong opinion of what the correct way to write is, and that opinion gets forced onto the students. The students aren't allowed to develop their own voices and styles, they either fit themselves into the teacher's mold, or they fail the class.

Every writer probably has their own opinion of the correct way to write, and in the case of individuals that's good.

However teaching someone to write, like teaching someone to draw or paint, should always be a case of helping the student explore and develop their own style/voice.

That rarely happens with writing classes, unless those classes are taught by private tutors.

I've known of too many cases where some one comes out of a writing class unable to write, or with a head full of absolutes that don't work for them at all... but feel impelled to follow them and guilty if they don't.

 

On a purely financial note, classes cost unless you happen to be in public school. However all of the information presented in those classes is available on the internet for free.

Also available for free on the internet are boards like this one, with plenty of people that are experienced and can do a far better job of teaching than most of the paid teachers (unless the teacher also happens to be an author with lots of experience).

This place is, if you step back and think about it, a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, class that meets when ever you want it to, and covers every possible writing topic you need it to.

for free.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2007, 01:54:34 PM by crystalwizard »

Offline SweetRosalyn

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #27 on: February 13, 2007, 07:57:51 AM »
I would like to present having had a completely different experience.  I did a degree in Creative Writing (and English) and my tutors never tried to force their style on us or teach us hard and fast rules that *must* be obeyed.  If anything, the experience was a lot looser than I'd expected, and there were times when I wish they *would* give us a little more solid technique work.  The main ways in which the class was helpful for me were as follows:

~ Having to write.  That may sound strange, as writing is often something that flows out whether you like it or not, but learning to be able to write even when you're not in the mood, learning to find inspiration instead of leaving it to come to you, was great for me.  Having deadlines and exercises to do every week meant I wrote regularly, whereas without that I go through long dry patches where I don't feel inspired.  The more I write, the more I feel inspired to write, generally, and the more my writing improves. 

~ Getting regular feedback off people - depending on which tutor (they had different methods), I got my work critiqued somewhere between every other week and every few weeks, and there were online fora for getting more critiques off your fellow students.  On top of the regimented critiquing (one tutor, for example, would give everyone a copy and then ask each person in the class to give a short critique of the piece, in the seminar), you meet other writers whose writing you appreciate and so whose opinion you learn to trust, the kind of person who is your ideal reader, and so gain private circles, people you can ask to read your piece through if you don't want to subject it to the entire class.  The advantage of the entire class means you get a wide range of readers, who are interested in different genre, and so a rough idea of what the general public are going to feel/think about your piece - it also led to big discussions about concepts in writing, which were extremely interesting. 

~ Getting critique practice - you have to critique several pieces every seminar, so you get to see what the main errors that crop up time and again are, your grammar/spelling/punctuation skills get honed, and you get used to being able to sum up the strengths and weaknesses of an entire piece in just a few words, if needbe.  This really helps you look at your own work and treat it the same way.  The fact that your work gets critiqued in the same way means you learn what kind of critiques are more helpful than others, so you can improve your feedback as well. 

~ Getting introduced to new ideas.  Good tutors did introduce some techniques or concepts - we usually started each seminar with a piece of writing, sometimes issued that day, sometimes give to us at the end of the last seminar, by a published writer, which we would read, and then discuss what we thought of it, the ideas, the techniques, etc., and then our next writing exercise would be connected in some way to it - it was sometimes a very loose way, but there was always a connection. 

I did have one tutor that I had some issues with; he valued different things in writing from me, and I received slightly lower marks from him than I did my other tutors, but he was an exception, not the norm, and I still got vast amounts out of the seminars - the tutors were often there just to guide and oversee, to drop ideas in our laps and see what we did with them.  It was the interaction with the other students that was helpful, for the most part, within the structure laid out by the tutor.  The fact that my tutor and I disagreed led to me understand better what it was that I valued in writing, it *helped* my writing.  It just didn't help my grade ;)

Anyway, I'm not saying there aren't dreadful tutors out there, just that I've never had a bad experience with them (and creative writing was part of English throughout my school career, especially GCSE English and A Level English Language, and I never had an issue with teachers forcing their preferences onto me, or putting me off writing). 

A lot of peope seem to think it's impossible to 'mark' creative writing, saying everyone has different preferences, it's all about personal opinion.  I disagree.  There is a degree of personal opinion, but there are also certain criteria by which you can mark whether something is a good piece of writing - not whether you *liked* it or not, just whether or not it has merit.  Things like punctuation, grammar, spelling, are obvious - if you want your reader to understand what you have written, it needs to be written in accordance with certain conventions, so the meaning is clear.  Then you have stylistic errors, like repetition of words simply because you couldn't/didn't come up with a synonym - repetition not for effect, in other words, or awkward sentence construction, etc.  Then you have structure - there ought to be some sort of definite structure in piece, even if that structure is deliberately fragmentic/chaotic - there should be a link between structure and meaning.  Then there are cliches - I'd hope I don't need to explain why cliches are bad.  In poems, one would consider the aural effect of the poem - does it make use of things which affect how the poem sounds, like assonance, alliteration, sibilance, rhythm, rhyme, etc.  It does not need to have all these, but in a poem the poet ought to have considered how it sounds, and thus used techniques to connect meaning to sound in an effective manner.  Then there's consistency - are the plot, characters and setting consistent, and believable? Does the plot itself make sense, are there any logical errors?  Then we have literal errors - are there errors in any of the scientific/historical/geographical facts? 

There are probably more factors than this to consider, but these are the first ones that sprang to mind.  Creative writing tutors aren't judging whether a piece is going to be their favourite book or not, they're judging whether the writer has considered the piece in depths and created it skilfully.  They're judging whether the writer has attained their own aims, basically.  They aren't there to judge, for the most part, what those aims should be.  They don't care what genre is it, what your target audience is, whether you want to entertain your audience, or upset them, or make a point, or make them sad, or make them happy; they just want to help you learn how to do whatever it is you want to do.  This is part of the reason tutors usually require commentaries along with writing - either verbal or written, depending on whether it's homework or coursework - so that you can tell them what you aims were, to help them judge whether you achieved them or not. 

People often dislike the commentary requirement, saying that a piece of work should stand alone without explanation, that whatever the reader takes out of a piece is fine.  And if all you are doing it putting your work out there for people to enjoy, or not, then that is fine.  But tutors, and people critiquing your work, are not your target audience.  They are not there to enjoy your work, they are there find out whether you're achieving your own aims or not, and if you won't tell them what your aims are, they can't tell you if you're achieving them or not. 

That said, there are advantages to putting work up for critique separately, without a commentary, if you are not wanting help with your writing in that sense, you just want to field test your work, so to speak - find out what people's reactions are, and judge them against what you were trying to achieve yourself, rather than asking them to do it for you.  In this case you're the one 'marking' your work, - not the people critiquing you. 

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Patx

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #28 on: February 13, 2007, 11:43:20 AM »
I enjoyed your considered response SweetRosalyn. It's a shame you feel your tutor's differing values in writing contributed to your lower grade.

On the whole, I think you paint a pretty accurate picture of the way in which creative writing is studied/taught within the British higher education system.

Tutors do not try to impose, or restrict students to, any particular 'right' method. They're not selling anything other than themselves and there is literally no incentive to apply such restrictive teaching methods.

It's fair to say though, that some students will find that their style of writing may not always be highly regarded - hence, as you say, the requirement for students to provide critical commentaries with their work.

Those who might find themselves in this position could include 'genre' writers. On British, university based, writing courses, it would be truthful to acknowledge that fantasy or romance for example, are areas of fiction not particularly highly thought of in academic circles.

I would have to disagree with Crystal's point on the usefulness of 'the internet'. The notion that you could learn anything on the internet that you could in an undergraduate or postgraduate writing class is misguided.

A university writing class will consist of students who, over many years, have made positive choices, which have brought them to that point. They will all have attained, at the very least, a required minimum standard of language and they will have a shared literary heritage. They will have studied much of the literary canon and have an understanding of the basics of literary and critical theory.

I'm not saying they'll never put an apostrophe in the wrong place - but they certainly won't need to ask someone else where to go to find out where the apostrophe should go.

Unfortunately, the internet is thronged with people wanting to run before they can walk. It will take most people 17 years of full-time education to reach the point where they can apply for a place on a postgraduate writing course and they might still find that at the end of it, they can't get a book published.

On the internet, you'll find thousands who (for a few quid) will tell you how to write a book in a few weeks. There are people on the internet, on writing forums, who struggle with the very basics of reading and writing.

But we live in the world of instant gratification. They don't want to believe that not having mastered the basics is a handicap; they don't want to accept that simply wanting to be a writer does not automatically make it so.

Many successful writers (what is a writer? what is success?) have never studied writing. Many have.



« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 11:58:59 AM by Patx »

Offline SweetRosalyn

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Re: Writing Class
« Reply #29 on: February 13, 2007, 12:02:36 PM »
Aye, I'd thoroughly agree with most of what you've said there, Patx. 

As regards fantasy and romance, though, I'd actually say that the majority of my tutors have *not* been biased against these forms of literature, and have in fact argued the toss when people have criticised them.  What they don't like is cliched/lazy writing, which a lot of people feel fantasy/sci/romance is a good excuse to use - they seem to feel they're using 'traditional' plot lines, rather than bothering to invent their own, and they just spurt out the language they've absorbed through their reading, without really thinking about trying to find an original way of putting what they try to say.  I know so many people who feel they can write fantasy/sci fi, simply because they've read a lot, and they just regurgitate plot-lines and characters they've read, which is not what good writing is about.  Tutors clamp down on this, and a lot of people feel they're being picked on because of their choice of genre, rather than the reality of their bad writing.  My first seminar tutor made a point of going off on a rant when I said that my favourite book at the time was an Anne McCaffrey novel, even though it wasn't really 'high' literature - not because that was my favourite book, but because of my mention of high literature - she wanted it made very clear that there was no such thing, in her opinion, and fantasy and sci fi could be just as good as postmodern philosophical novels, or classics, or anything else.  Another seminar tutor helped the English Society organize a science fiction workshop with a visiting writer, because it happened to be an area of writing he was very interested in.  I never heard any of the others badmouth fantasy in the slightest - it is possible that some of them did dislike it - I rather got the impression the tutor I already mentioned disliked it, but then I felt he was rather unprofessional, and certainly not representative. Even he never outright said so, though.

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