Friday, February 17, 2012

Getting the Most from a Writing Class

Considering taking a writing class to perfect your writing skills? Getting one that will really help you to move forward may not be as easy as you think.

I took various writing classes when I attended college but they were usually a far cry different than the night classes offered by my local high school. The money spent on the class did not always reflect the type of education given.

Photo by: The Wu's Photo Land, courtesy of Flickr 

Let me explain what I mean. If I took a college class in fiction, I did not always get a class in fiction as most of us look at it; rather, the class was literary in its design. College writing did not always connect with the average paperback novel. And that created some problems for me.

Though I enjoyed much of my college experience, especially those where creative writing was involved, as a rule I have usually favored the night classes I have taken through my local high school or the monthly critique group I have joined. This isn't because most of my college professors weren't proficient in what they taught, rather, the writing I did didn't always reflect the kind of writing I enjoyed or the writing the professors wanted.

A writing class needs to focus on those areas you need help with and the professor or other instructor needs to understand the type of writing you do. For this reason I try to find out as much about the teacher as I can before signing up for the class. I want to know the teacher's focus. Will it be on grammar, novel writing, plot, characterization, critiques, or what? I like to know before I step into the class if the class is best suited to the beginner, intermediate or experienced writer.

Do the writers need to be published? If not, a different group of writers will be sitting in the class. Will the instructor focus primarily on fiction or non-fiction writing? Will it be on novels or short stories?

It's important to ask all the questions before you go into a class and find that it's found wanting. One thing I have done if I'm not sure about the class is to go to the first one before paying for the entire enchilada.

And when I can't do that, I find someone who has taken the class before to share with me what they liked about it. I also do my research and find out how long the teacher has been teaching, or what works the teacher has published.

Getting the most from a writing class means more than taking great notes--it's an opportunity to get to know other writers and to learn from them. Critique classes are also a big help because you are able to practice up on your own editing skills (or lack of them) in behalf of someone else. You are also able to get real feedback from those who read your work.

Attend the class you've signed up for as often as you can and make sure you get contact information from those class members that you connect with. Great critique groups have come from such a union.



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