Planning out a writing course, week by week.

Trying to figure out what I'll tell these students...

 

I’ve talked before about my writing course that I’m teaching in September. The planning is slow, but I keep chugging away at it. I changed my textbook – now I’m using Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. I choose it because the exercises there are easy to reword for my ESL students.

I’ve also had to devise a way to “filter” my students. I hate to impose any kind of filter on my class, but I feel it will be necessary to turn away students who have not had practice with basic creative writing. I plan to give a very simple exercise in my very first class, and I will tell students that it is a sort of test. Any students who struggle too greatly with it will be advised to take more basic writing classes instead of mine.

My new choice of book has made creating homework much easier! Every chapter in the book has great little exercises, and I’m finding it easy to reword these into assignments for the students. Each week, the assignments will practice some aspect like Setting, Characters, POV, etc. I think I will handle evaluation mainly with in-class readings and peer-review sessions.

After the midterm test, I have a series of lessons that focus specifically on short-short fiction. As you can see in the picture above, I’m not going to be incredibly strict with the definition of “Flash Fiction” – I’d rather see my students tell whole stories coherently before we worry about the word count.

During these lessons, the students will each write 3 short pieces. In the editing phase, they can choose 1 of the 3 to revise again and again into better work. They will give me that best piece at the end, instead of writing a final exam.

I hope I can get a good class out of this plan. It’s still very much in the works – as you can see, I have until September 4 to plan things out. It feels very good to work on this, though. No matter what, I’m certain that I can give my students a writing experience that they will appreciate and enjoy.

I’m judging a flash fiction competition too!

I’ve had a really great opportunity, and I just had to take advantage of it! The annual “Twisted Tales” competition is going on now, in conjunction with Raging Aardvark Publications and Ether Books. Ether writers were asked to judge, and I quickly volunteered.

I’m really glad I did. It’s going to help me so much with my writing, and it will surely help as I devise ways to teach the basics of short-short fiction to my university students.

It’s an odd experience, though. Some stories strike me as very amateur, right up until I go back to my writing and see that I wrote stuff at least as poor. Some has blown me away, making me wonder just how I can ever write like it. For the most part, though? Middle of the road. Stories with no strong punch, yet not really bad.

I can now kind of imagine what editors have to deal with. Terrible stories? Easy, just ditch them with the standard decline. Great stories? Okay, publish! But kind-of-okay-but-lacking-a-certain-something? Yeah, I can imagine those stories causing the greatest headache with publishers who have multiple editors vote on each story.

Anyway, my greatest takeaway from this is that it’s got me reading and critiquing. It’s got me thinking a lot about how I will write and submit my stories. To my readers I say: If you have a chance to judge a writing contest, take it! Search and talk around to see if you can find such chances. It is very worthwhile, and gives you an interesting view of the other side of writing.

 

More about Twisted Tales:

http://ragingaardvark.com/titles/twisted-tales/

More about Ether Books:

http://www.etherbooks.com/

 

I’m Teaching a Writing Class!

Well, I can’t believe I proposed it, got accepted, and I’m going to do it.

I’m going to teach a flash fiction course at my university.  The students are mostly Koreans who speak English as their second language. What can I teach them?

I know what I CAN’T teach them – I can’t teach them to be expert, professional writer (even if I actually fell into that category myself). I’ve 15 weeks of semester, so that’s just not possible.

Okay, so what CAN I teach them?

I will run through the basics of writing, with Making of a Story as one guide, and a multitude of internet resources. I can share flash fiction pieces I find online, and I can get my students reading sites like Every Day Fiction. I can teach basic critical analysis, and I also plan on giving a primer on the world of e-publishing.

There’s no final exam in my plan for the course. Instead, I’m thinking of having a self-published anthology of the students’ best works that goes up on Smashwords, Kindle, Lulu, CreateSpace, and anywhere else that accepts self-published writing.

This gives the students a look at the basic process, and my university likes the idea because it puts the name of the institution on internationally published work. Will the book be a masterpiece? Well…. let’s say I hope it at least gives the students confidence that they CAN keep improving and that they CAN get published.

After I’ve done this course once or twice, I plan to publish my curriculum and syllabus – I hope that what I get out of this will also prove useful to other aspiring writers.

If you, my readers, have any ideas or suggestions for what I should put into a flash course, please leave your comments!

Until next time, I’ve got A LOT of work to do!

#IWSG – Write-ins are fun (and essential)

My little contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Group this month is a commentary on a write-in I went to today.

The Busan Writing Group met today, and we all wrote away together. One member supplied the prompt from a workshop he had attended in the past:

I don’t know why I remember {something}, but …

We all agreed to start our works with this line or a slight variation. We gave ourselves a limit of 1 hour and 1000 words.

What came out?

One member devised two poems from the line. Another wrote two whole pieces, each around 1000 words. I managed one, terrible work, of around 650 words. Maybe it just seemed to me that mine was really bad – the other works all sounded much better!

I asked if the other members had MFAs or other similar degrees. No one did, yet. What was the difference? They practice. They write. Every day. I write often, but every day? No, I can’t claim that – and I think it shows as my concepts that develop as I write are far bigger than my writing skill can handle. I need more experience writing to both a) know what ideas I can work with in a certain word limit and b) know writing tricks to handle the big concepts in my head.

I think everyone at the write-in got something out of it. The time-limit, and the kinship of knowing that your peers are writing alongside you is just invaluable. I’m not sure the feeling can be adequately recreated online – I felt far more motivated to write than I’ve ever felt in any online group.

So my questions for the IWSG are:

What are your experiences with write-ins?

Have you ever tried an online “write-in”?

Do you also find that meeting in person motivates you more strongly than meeting and writing online?

A quick post about the Busan Writing Group

I met with a few fine folks in Busan last night – folks who like writing. As always, it was very relaxing, very laid back. We all had good comments on each other’s work, and there was no pressure at all. I’ve also come to love the way we handle submissions – we share work on Google Drive, and each member can either comment online or print stories and write notes on the paper. It allows everyone to read stories and do some brainstorming alone, and then refine those comments when we get together.

It’s totally awesome when we meet – my creative instincts go into overdrive, and I always feel so smart when I can offer decent commentary. It’s a great boost to the ego, and a great motivator to keep writing and sharing.

There’s no substitute for a good writing club – I think every writer needs one. If you ever happen to be in Busan, come look up the Busan Writing Group – we’ll be happy to have you.

#atozchallenge 2014 – Reflections

The A-to-Z Blogging Challenge was an interesting discovery. As soon as I learned about it, I knew I wanted to do it. I put the badge on this site before I even knew what I wanted to blog about! The idea of Evil Spirits came to me as I remembered my most recent foray into NaNoWriMo and the creatures that had barred my hero’s way in that story. They were all generic evil demons, created from my own love of dark fantasy, with not much real rhyme or reason for harassing the hero. Thus the idea came to study notions of evil spirits from around the world.

As research for my novel, the A-to-Z challenge was great.  I got a feel for seeking out and taking in different ideas for my stories, and I got a chance to write a little something for each find. Determined not to copy-paste, I made sure to reword my findings as much as I could, so that the info would be presented in my voice. I was able to share lots of cool things this way, and I can hardly complain about the flood of new visitors it brought in.

I found some other posts from past A-to-Z challenges in my adventure, and those were extremely helpful. From this year, my favorites were Moon, Light, and Shadow (the author had a theme very similar to mine, and did it extremely well) and and e-bookbuilders (which featured some very awesome and useful information for writers).

I’ve already decided that I will try the challenge next year. I’ll try something a little more directly and obviously related to writing – may be I’ll even do a themed series of super short fiction, as I’ve seen other authors do for this challenge.

Anyway, I’m very satisfied with the A-to-Z Challenge, and my thanks go out to the organizers for setting it in motion and bringing bloggers together!

#IWSG – April was … Frightening, exhilarating, overwhelming

The path of writing is narrow and treacherous.

It’s a good thing I’ve gotten more involved with a local writing club, and that I’m meeting them in person every two weeks. I’ve felt like I’ve been going at this alone, with only myself, the information I find online, and the books I have about writing. Meeting other people who are writing and who are serious about it has been great for me.

I often regret that I didn’t get serious about my writing sooner. I don’t hold any illusions – I know I’ve got an uphill battle now. My first published flash fiction was more of a fluke, it seems – it was accepted early on, before I got many rejections. Now I’m seeing the rejections, and it’s disheartening – what if I can’t do it again? What if I can’t get another work published by a reputable website or magazine? I’ve been steadfastly refusing to share these rejected stories on this blog – I don’t want to narrow my options for future publication (and so many publishers won’t publish something that has been blogged).

My ideas have stagnated somewhat. I have been working with drafts of older work lately – it’s been a while since I’ve written something entirely new. There were so many times I wished I could just hand off my ideas to a ghostwriter. Somebody who has higher degrees in creative writing, someone who’s been published many times. But I know I can’t do this – not only could I never afford a ghostwriter, the stories that came out wouldn’t seem like mine. I have to do this, I have to get the ideas out in my way. Nothing else will truly satisfy my urges.

April’s A-to-Z blogging challenge helped to reinforce this determination. Those Evil Spirits that I researched are ideas for a novel-length piece I’m working on, and doing the research helped me get some more ideas for the beings that will populate my dark fantasy world. The downside is that I didn’t do nearly enough writing in April. I couldn’t find the balance I needed between blogging, studying my edX course, preparing for the classes I teach, and writing. I won’t be doing daily posts on my blog any more. But I will post 2 or 3 times a week, and those posts will be helped by pre-scheduling – a trick I gained full appreciation for in the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. I also learned ways to keep my posts  shorter, to keep them from taking too long to compose.

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With my slightly reduced workload now, I need to get back to writing as much as I should be. I’m glad I did the A-to-Z challenge, but now I really need to get more manuscripts submitted. I must also try not to worry so damn much. I’ve got a long way to go, but I do have people I can meet – people traversing the same road of words & narrative.

 

My discussion question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is: What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? What is the cure for stagnation caused by just having too much to do?