Purple Prose + writing courses

Better Than A Writing Course?

A year ago, I received a rejection on my full in which the agent suggested I hone my writing skills some more (okay, more like a lot more). Within 24 hours, I had signed up for two writing courses (one focused specifically on YA) from a reputable online organization.

The advantage was that the instructor in each (along with my fellow students) would provide feedback on the assignments. While I did learn a few things I didn’t know, most of what I learned wasn’t new to me. Actually, I learned a helluva more by reading blogs—for free.

So what about the feedback? Wasn’t that worth it?

Let’s just say I’ve had way better crits from beta readers than I got from my instructors and classmates. Again, for free. After receiving feedback on my first chapter during the class, I sent it in for the critique at the LA SCBWI conference last year. Shortly afterwards, several beta readers read it and gave me much better feedback (especially on how I could tighten my writing). Even Ellen Hopkins had a lot to say about it. Things the instructor should have pointed out. #epicwritingcoursefail

Recently I took an online workshop for writing love scenes. Too bad I’d already read Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Erotic Romance. The class would have be great if we could have had feedback on our work (or at least on some students' work), but that didn’t happened.

Fortunately not all workshops I’ve attended have been a complete flop. A lot of the workshops at the LA SCBWI conferences have been awesome, and I’ve heard great things about the workshops/conferences held through my local RWA chapter (which I’ll be going to this year). And WriteOnCon (the free online conference) is awesome. If you haven’t already, check it out from last year. The organizers will be announcing the 2011 conference dates soon.

If you’re looking at taking an online writing course, here are some things to consider:

  • Who’s teaching the course? Have you read any of the author’s books? Some instructors (like in my ‘writing love scenes’ class) spend more time patting themselves on the back than teaching you anything. Warning: This happens at conferences, too.
  • Will there be an opportunity for feedback?
  • How many people are in the class?
  • Is the class for beginners? (This might affect the level of feedback you get or the level of information you’ll receive.)
  • What kind of time commitment is expected from you?
  • Is the class being held by a reputable organization? (Not that it helped me.)

For those of you who want to take your writing to the next level, my suggestion is to read as much as you can. This includes blog posts (hence why I do Cool Links Friday) and non-fiction books on writing fiction. Adventures in Children’s Publishing compiles an extensive list each week on blog posts pertaining to writing and publishing. It’s a must read, no matter what genre you write.

For feedback, check out forums such as Absolute Write, the Query Tracker Forum, and Verla Kay’s blue boards (for kidlit and YA writers). They are all free.

Has anyone else had good/bad experience with writing courses? Any other recommendations to help a writer hone his skill?

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Better Than A Writing Course? + writing courses