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Oberon
08-24-2008, 12:51 AM
There have been a number of threads about writing classes. Books required, methods of teaching, etc. I have only my own experience to go by, but it seems to me the best way to learn writing is to write, to have your writing criticized and to criticize others' writing. I think my first creative writing course recommended Strunk and White. Other than that, the time was spent on writing assignments. The instructor would read papers out loud and the class would discuss them. At Antioch, three of us failed to sign up in time for the advanced creative writing course, but the professor signed us up as assistants. We read papers and critiqued them. We did not grade them. It was a new experience that gave me insights into the craft of writing. The same thing happened in the course I took at Wisconsin, writing, reading other student's work, critiquing. I am convinced you learn more from teaching than you learn from being taught.

Issues of grammar and spelling were dealt with along the way, not really part of the course ("Today we will discuss past participles'). It was assumed that every student had a dictionary, some had a Thesaurus. I don't recall any books assigned, except encouragement to read and read a lot.

Maybe others have had different experiences that worked for them. Or didn't work, as the case may be. I am leery of online or correspondence courses. Maybe I just don't know enough about them. For those who have no access to an actual class with warm bodies, perhaps they fill a void. I still say the best way to learn writing is to write. AW offers a wonderful resource. You can have your work critiqued by knowledgeable and kind professionals, and you can critique in your turn. This site is a writing course in itself.

The first question from Creative Writing 101: "What is a writer?"
Answer: "One who writes."

Ken
08-24-2008, 01:26 AM
once took a creative writing class in college. Professor threw me out for being so bad and told me I'd never be a writer. He made an indication in my records, too, cautioning other professors in the department to contact him if I ever tried enrolling in another writing course.
Two years later I did just that, and got me an A :-)

Grrarrgh
08-24-2008, 02:29 AM
once took a creative writing class in college. Professor threw me out for being so bad and told me I'd never be a writer. He made an indication in my records, too, cautioning other professors in the department to contact him if I ever tried enrolling in another writing course.
Two years later I did just that, and got me an A :-)

Oh, my God! What a terrible experience. Good for you for believing in yourself enough to let those comments go and stick with it anyway. A lot of people (myself included) would have taken those words to heart and walked away from writing forever.
I'll never understand why some people go into teaching when they so clearly lack the necessary traits.

Snowstorm
08-24-2008, 02:48 AM
Oberon: try looking for classes that are workshop classes. They don't require any books, and all you do is write and critique. I've taken several through UWyo and they're the best. The profs gave us a requirement of fiction/nonfiction, length, and format criteria, and that was about it. After that, one or two students would hand out copies of their work, and we had a week to critique it. In class we provided feedback. Then we rewrote our work and presented for a grade. I loved those classes.

tehuti88
08-24-2008, 06:30 PM
My "creative writing" class in college was with an instructor who

1. Loved Hemingway (that's fine for him but not for everybody, and Hemingway is not the God of All Writing who can say nothing wrong, like some people think);

2. Hated genre writing (at least based on his reactions to the genre writing I and another student produced);

3. Hated when one could visualize a written scene like one from a movie (horrors!);

4. Detested novellas or longer stories (unfortunately for me--when I produced a novella rather than a short story, and finally finished reading the thing to the entire class (I have terrible social anxiety and the reading took FOREVER), his reaction was, "Wow...(long breathless pause)...that was long"--*commence criticism of everything that was wrong with it and nothing that was right* :( );

5. Despised the word "seem" ("Something either is or it isn't, it doesn't just 'seem'!"--I guess he doesn't read mysteries then);

6. Frowned upon words like "infinitesimal" (because it's too complicated for a reader to understand, I guess--"Why not just say, like a small drop in a big ocean?"--I guess he was okay with trite similes and cliches).

I think I got a B in his class, whereas in all my other English and writing classes, in every other grade, I'd gotten A's.

Needless to say, my "creative writing" class just dampened my creativity over all. Fortunately I didn't take all his negativity to heart, otherwise I'd have probably given up writing then and there. There was another student, the one I referred to, who angrily got up and left the class never to return when he criticized her work. Like another "creative writing" teacher I had in high school, he seemed to forget the key element of critique--to show the good with the bad.

He did have some good points (especially regarding my wandering POV, though I didn't understand it back then), but he seemed to think creative writing was all about being literary, and not about just being creative. I learned far more from basic junior high English classes, and from just writing and reading!

I know there must be good writing classes out there, but after such an experience I'm leery of looking for them, even if I did have the time and money. It's cheaper to just write and read. To each his own. :)

--Tehuti, who hates being told her writing is long like it's not perfectly obvious

Word Jedi
08-24-2008, 10:23 PM
My "creative writing" class in college was with an instructor who

1. Loved Hemingway (that's fine for him but not for everybody, and Hemingway is not the God of All Writing who can say nothing wrong, like some people think);

2. Hated genre writing (at least based on his reactions to the genre writing I and another student produced);

3. Hated when one could visualize a written scene like one from a movie (horrors!);

4. Detested novellas or longer stories (unfortunately for me--when I produced a novella rather than a short story, and finally finished reading the thing to the entire class (I have terrible social anxiety and the reading took FOREVER), his reaction was, "Wow...(long breathless pause)...that was long"--*commence criticism of everything that was wrong with it and nothing that was right* :( );

5. Despised the word "seem" ("Something either is or it isn't, it doesn't just 'seem'!"--I guess he doesn't read mysteries then);

6. Frowned upon words like "infinitesimal" (because it's too complicated for a reader to understand, I guess--"Why not just say, like a small drop in a big ocean?"--I guess he was okay with trite similes and cliches).

I think I got a B in his class, whereas in all my other English and writing classes, in every other grade, I'd gotten A's.

Needless to say, my "creative writing" class just dampened my creativity over all. Fortunately I didn't take all his negativity to heart, otherwise I'd have probably given up writing then and there. There was another student, the one I referred to, who angrily got up and left the class never to return when he criticized her work. Like another "creative writing" teacher I had in high school, he seemed to forget the key element of critique--to show the good with the bad.

He did have some good points (especially regarding my wandering POV, though I didn't understand it back then), but he seemed to think creative writing was all about being literary, and not about just being creative. I learned far more from basic junior high English classes, and from just writing and reading!

I know there must be good writing classes out there, but after such an experience I'm leery of looking for them, even if I did have the time and money. It's cheaper to just write and read. To each his own. :)

--Tehuti, who hates being told her writing is long like it's not perfectly obvious


That's exactly why I decided not to take the college class I was looking at.

First, the teacher is a poet.

Second, after checking with rate-my-professor I learned that he scoffs at genre fiction and despises anything longer than 2,500 words.

I will keep writing without the class; I've promised myself that much. This past week I have averaged about 3,000 words per day.

Also, I will continue to mine the gold nuggets I find in this forum. And when the time comes, I will find someone to critique my work.

Thanks again, all!
Mark

WendyNYC
08-24-2008, 11:44 PM
There have been a number of threads about writing classes. Books required, methods of teaching, etc. I have only my own experience to go by, but it seems to me the best way to learn writing is to write, to have your writing criticized and to criticize others' writing. I think my first creative writing course recommended Strunk and White. Other than that, the time was spent on writing assignments. The instructor would read papers out loud and the class would discuss them. At Antioch, three of us failed to sign up in time for the advanced creative writing course, but the professor signed us up as assistants. We read papers and critiqued them. We did not grade them. It was a new experience that gave me insights into the craft of writing. The same thing happened in the course I took at Wisconsin, writing, reading other student's work, critiquing. I am convinced you learn more from teaching than you learn from being taught.

Issues of grammar and spelling were dealt with along the way, not really part of the course ("Today we will discuss past participles'). It was assumed that every student had a dictionary, some had a Thesaurus. I don't recall any books assigned, except encouragement to read and read a lot.

Maybe others have had different experiences that worked for them. Or didn't work, as the case may be. I am leery of online or correspondence courses. Maybe I just don't know enough about them. For those who have no access to an actual class with warm bodies, perhaps they fill a void. I still say the best way to learn writing is to write. AW offers a wonderful resource. You can have your work critiqued by knowledgeable and kind professionals, and you can critique in your turn. This site is a writing course in itself.

The first question from Creative Writing 101: "What is a writer?"
Answer: "One who writes."

I minored in Creative Writing in college and I had your same experience. ALL of my CW classes were workshops. No textbooks, ever. I've also taken writing workshops through UCLA and Gotham Writers, and both were similar in structure. The teacher might talk about an element of writing, but the rest of the class was dedicated to writing and/or critiquing others.