View Full Version : Continuing Ed

01-01-2007, 06:31 AM
OK I would like some unbiased opinions on this topic if you have a moment to chime in........

I have a friend telling me a new writer should take continuing education classes to learn how to write properly in order to get published.

I say once the book is written start mingling at writer conferences and meet some agents. Why take the CE class if that's not really what you need to work on. CE classes won't get a book published, meeting an agent or author with agent contacts who will help you, seems to me the logical next step to take. Taking a CE class at that point seems redundant to me.

What's the consensus???


01-01-2007, 06:42 AM
Have you had any feedback about your book? See if you can get some beta readers who will give you their honest opinion about your writing, and then determine whether or not you want the class. Of course, if you can get into a conference, go for it! I wish I could, but it's just not possible under my current circumstances.
I've had about six people read my book so far. Some just said "I liked it," while others gave me some helpful criticism.

01-01-2007, 07:25 AM
So far everyone who has read it, 6 adults and 2 children, loved it before they knew I wrote it. Even the person who thinks CE is a good idea loved the book. She thinks it would be cheaper, and a better way to learn, since conferences are a day and classes obviously are longer. I think the problem also is that this person has written childrens books, is a family member, and is older than me. None of her books have gone anywhere, she has had no good feedback at all. I have 4 conferences in my area in the next 6 months that I would like to attend.

01-01-2007, 08:11 AM
I'm no expert on anything at all, but I think if you can figure out how to put sentences and paragraphs together, the best use of your time is to sit down and write. If you have specific areas you need to learn more about, there is probably a book out there somewhere to give you the help you need.

I agree about the conferences if you're ready to market your book. With the thousands of query letters even small agencies receive per year, having an opportunity to pitch in person seems invaluable.

Good Luck in the New Year! Verbie

01-01-2007, 08:31 AM
A good class probably won't hurt. But agree that if you have basic writing skills already it is probably just as good to learn by doing. Write, get input from other skilled writers, submit and study the responses.

01-01-2007, 10:01 AM
I was a computer science / economics / bio major who only took one writing course in college and I go a 2.5 in that. I really wasn't into the writing class at all. If you have the basic skills and are willing to put in the work you can do fine without taking formal classes.

(Of course I'm sure there are people who read my stuff and think, "wow this guy needed to take a few more classes..." ;-) )

01-01-2007, 01:00 PM
I majored in English, Writing Option, in college. The writing classes I took were basically extended critique sessions. They did give us some writing exercises but once we got past the first level courses, we were supposed to be working towards publication. We would take turns photocopying enough of our latest stuff for the whole class, pass 'em out, and critique each other's stuff. The critiques from my fellow students were often worthless. ("Wow. You write good dialogue. It sounds like people really talking.") The critiques from my professors, who were published authors themselves, were much more valuable. ("Characters should not spit their dialogue. They should just say it.")

So I would say it depends on who is teaching the class, and who is doing the critiquing.

If you have trouble with mechanics, with grammar and form, a class in those subjects might be valuable. Otherwise, a good critique group will serve the same purpose, along with close attention to the Learn Writing With Uncle Jim thread. A lot of the valuable things I learned from my professors are in there.

And there is nothing like practice. Write, write, write.

01-01-2007, 05:18 PM
What works for one, may not work for another writer. As others in this thread have said that if you have the basics and keep writing you may not need classes - especially if you get some knowledgable people critiquing your work. If your friend made this remark after he read your book, perhaps he had some criticisms and didn't feel that he should voice them.

Leah J. Utas
01-01-2007, 06:18 PM
Do you think you need classes? And how did your friend's remark make you feel?
Echo above remarks. Write. Write. Write.

Linda Adams
01-01-2007, 07:02 PM
I agree that you should definitely go to conferences and start mingling with agents. Volunteer if you can (some conferences will give discounts of cost). What you learn there--and not just from workshops about writing, but from what the agents say during roundtables, at lunch, etc--will help shape your book in unexpected ways. Those people are representative of the business of writing, and understanding it will help you figure out how to sell your book. I've been to three conferences, volunteered at two of them, and am attending two more this year, one as a volunteer. Unfortunately, college glasses only go so far with learning about writing. They can teach basics and some technique, but I also know there's quite a few things that they don't teach because they're things that can only be learned by writing and revising.

By the way, I noticed you're in West Virginia. That's not that far from Washington, DC. Do you know about the Washington Independent Writers Conference (http://www.washwriter.org)? They have an agent breakfast where writers get to eat with the agents, agent roundtables where writers get to ask questions, and agent pitch sessions. They haven't yet posted any info about the conference, but that'll be coming soon.

01-01-2007, 07:19 PM
Write. Write. Write. Get critiques from fellow writers who are willing to be honest and offer help with any writing mistakes you make. Conferences are great, but I've found that many who attend are wannabees and haven't written word one.

01-01-2007, 08:04 PM
CE is not necessary if your only goal is to get your CURRENT ms. published. But "you learn something new every day" and I don't think you can ever stop learning, even if you think you know everything there is to know about writing or getting published. Of course, there comes a point when all the classes seem redundant and you're not learning anything new. But I would not say NEVER further your education -- the lit world is changing all the time, albeit rather slowly.

01-01-2007, 08:54 PM
Do you think you need classes? And how did your friend's remark make you feel?
Echo above remarks. Write. Write. Write.

I don't feel I need classes. I agree that I can find anything I need in books or on the internet. I have a wonderful library down the street and a very helpful staff there. I feel that what she is suggesting is not going to put me where I want to be. It's like saying to go to NY from WV
I need to go to FL, then TX, then CA, the MO, then Canada, then maybe get to NY. I am not saying I know everything, I could stand to learn how to develop characters better and plots better for my novel. But, right now I have two childrens books I would like to get published. Some of the conferences I am targeting discuss developing characters and plots. They target both genres so I kill 2 birds with one stone. I know she hasn't joined any forums, so she has no one giving her advice. She joined one on line class a few years ago and no one there seemed overly helpful to her. I know she wants to give good advice I just don't think she has any on this topic.
It sounds like that is the general consensus here as well and I thank you all for your opinion.

a tree of night
01-01-2007, 09:06 PM
...I could stand to learn how to develop characters better and plots better for my novel...

You've clearly got a good library. Raid the fiction section. You'll get more out of reading quality novels (or even bad ones) than your average class.

01-01-2007, 09:06 PM
Agreed - write, write, write, and see if you can get into a good critique group. They can point out things you miss! :D I have a Master's degree in English, and I don't presume that my writing is perfect--not at all! I value other opinions, because I know what I meant to write, but others may not see it. If you don't feel comfortable with your grammar, you can always get a book or sign up for a workshop, but if it's prose you want to work on, one idea is to analyze current popular works, or find works that appeal to you.

Dissect them. What is the structure? How does the author keep the conflict rolling? Were you satisfied with the plot? How does the character grow throughout the novel? Those kinds of things can help you learn how to develop your own structure.

Hope that helps! Feel free to drop me a line if you need any help!

01-01-2007, 09:22 PM
Thanks all, I do read, all the time in fact. I always have a book started somewhere. I just inherited my father in laws library too. That's going to be fun. Right now all those books are in bins in my garage. He was a Robert Frost, Keat's kind of person and I am not, but I still want to read at least parts of them. Read, Read, Read.......Write, Write, Write.


01-01-2007, 09:28 PM
Ohhhhhh I love Frost and Keats. LOL. I hope you can find some useful info in them to help you! :D

01-01-2007, 10:06 PM
I'd majored in English, and had read tons and tons of books on how to write fiction. Then I enrolled in some novel writing courses, mostly because I had just begun my WIP and wanted an outside incentive to keep going. Maybe I was just lucky and had a great instructor, but I learned more in those classes about craft and structure than everything else combined.

There is still more to learn. Every day. Will the classes help you? If you're writing children's novels exclusively, the conferences might serve you better in terms of specifics to the genre. And clearly, they're better for networking, but that assumes what you're submitting is ready to be published. If it is, then conferences are probably where your focus should be for the moment.

But if you want to improve your storytelling, develop your voice, and polish skills like dialogue, characterization, conflict and scene structure (etc., etc.), IMHO a semester with a good instructor and crit group will do far more for you than a few hasty comments from a swamped agent. That, and writing your butt off, like the others have said :)

01-01-2007, 10:24 PM
I used to teach adult ed writing classes, and I would like to think that I helped a number of very good writers become even better writers. I also dispensed a lot of basic crafting information to new writers. I was delighted when I could have a direct hand in helping someone get their work published.

Long after I no longer taught these classes, I wholeheartedly encouraged other people who are serious about getting recognition for their writing to take writing classes at the adult education and university level if possible. I have also encouraged people to look for writing organizations in their area to join and to participate in critique groups.

Now, I still make the same recommendations, BUT with an added caution to watch out for the high number of people who are running their own self-publishing operations who seem to now be teaching these classes, looking for people to give their so-called help to.

I'm finding people with self-publishing companies now sitting on the boards of several writing organizations in my area, as well as people with self-publishing venues heading up writing classes at community colleges, recreation departments and bookstores. I can't get past the idea that there is more than a little bit of a conflict of interests involved.

Like I said, CAUTION is the operative word these days with all things related to writers getting "help" to bring their writing into print.

01-02-2007, 03:50 PM
I took a number of creative writing courses in college and they're very useful for learning the basics behind craft, but beyond that they don't do much else. They're mainly critiquing sessions, and not very good ones since the critiquing is done by inexperienced writers. The teachers can't teach you how to write great stories because they don't know how. If they did they'd be writing for a living, not teaching. That said, a teacher of creative writing will have had a number of publishings under their belt, and they can teach you the basics for putting a story together, but if you already know how to do that, then you'll just be getting your work looked over by people who don't know much more about writing than you do.

Linda Adams
01-02-2007, 04:44 PM
They're mainly critiquing sessions, and not very good ones since the critiquing is done by inexperienced writers. The teachers can't teach you how to write great stories because they don't know how. If they did they'd be writing for a living, not teaching.

When I attended one of these critique classes at college, I found none of the students had any writing experience, and the teacher was published only because he went the self-publishing route. It was an awful book of poetry that he required us to read for class (thankfully, it was available at the school library).