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:

More about Ether Books: