What Makes a Good Writing Class

I’ve taken courses and workshops in English, journalism, fiction writing, poetry writing, technical writing, grant writing, and probably more that I’m not thinking of this moment. Quality has varied, but many were excellent. Based on that experience, here are some elements I consider essential for a good writing class:

  • The instructor is a good teacher, someone who builds on your strengths rather than focusing on your errors.
  • Once you have basic skills, the instructor helps you refine your writing style rather than forcing your writing into a template or their personal style.
  • The instructor is a writer, preferably someone who’s published or is in the process of trying to be published, so they know what it’s like to risk rejection repeatedly.
  • The instructor regularly writes the form they are teaching, be it short or long fiction or non-fiction, plays or screenplays, or academic work.
  • Students are there because they want to improve their writing. If it is a required class, the majority of students become enthused as they see their writing improve.
  • Everyone is expected to write for every class meeting, whether that’s bringing in new or revised work and/or doing spontaneous writing in class.
  • The class as a whole or in small groups critiques each other’s work with the instructor modeling and supervising constructive critique methods. The emphasis is on the work, what works, and what can be improved. This way you will learn from everyone’s writing.

If you have other criteria, please post them.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

 

 

 

www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

 

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Resources to Improve Your Writing

WMWDWMPicsLast week I listed resources for selling your work, because that’s my current focus.This week I’ll back up a step for people who know their writing still needs work. Some of the resources listed last week also include articles on writing that are very helpful for writers at any skill level. Those were: Writer’s Market, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer Magazine, and Writer’s Digest Books.

Internet
Today, the internet is my primary resource. My personal preference is Yahoo’s search engine, but I use Google Maps for maps and when I have access to Chrome, and I use Google Earth to view places. Wikipedia has an extensive list of search engines divided into useful categories to get more targeted results.

I use Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and thesaurus when I’m searching for a word. For access to style guides, I use Purdue Online Writing Lab, but they have free basic writing instruction there, too. I haven’t used it yet, but The International Writing Program offers massive open online writing courses (MOOCs) for free – and this is supported by the University of Iowa, which is known for its writing programs, so I would expect the courses to be excellent.

BONOWWPbooksBooks
I have about seven feet of bookshelf taken up with books on writing, screenwriting, self-publishing, and marketing – about half of them published by Writer’s Digest – and I’ve given away twice that many over the years. As much time as I spend with a computer screen, curling up with a book to dive into the details of a topic is a pleasure.

You should go to Writer’s Digest Books and pick out ones that are relevant to your skill level and interests, so I’m not going to list all of mine. For fiction writing, my favorite is Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. My favorite non-WD book on writing fiction is Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s a memoir and a textbook for writers. I underlined key comments and marked them with sticky notes so they’re easy to find.

Finally, for grant or other technical writing or editing, the Allyn and Bacon Series in Technical Communication is well-designed. Whatever kind of writing you do, keep developing your skill.

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessional
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Basic Resources: Selling What You Write

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessionalSheri McGuinn
I write.
www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

It’s Friday! I lost a day helping with the Gold Country Writers’ booth at the Gold Country Fair in Auburn, CA. All of my books are on sale there and I’ll be available to sign on Friday (today) and Saturday, 4-9 PM. My brochures on writing services are also there. The Fair runs through Sunday.

Today’s blog is about the basic resources for selling what you write. It’s not enough to have these resources on hand – you need to read the book(s) and magazine(s) first, then search in them and online with a specific project in mind, looking for markets that will be interested in that particular work.

Target your submissions for the best results.

20170907BasicResourcesForSellingYourWork

Links: Writers’ Market, Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide, Writer’s Digest Magazine, The Writer, Submittable, Duotrope

 

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Levels of Edit

The world goes on while we write: The term “buckets of rain” became real to me in 1972, when Tropical Storm Agnes stalled over Pennsylvania for days. So I checked – total rainfall that caused massive flooding back then was less than Houston got in the first twenty-four hours. Cousins – glad you’re safe.

On to levels of edit. I’m going to repeat one piece up here:

Don’t submit rough drafts for critique or editing!

If you’re working with a critique group, it’s rude. If you’re paying for an editor, it’s a waste of money. Always read, revise, and correct to the best of your ability first.

At least use your word processor’s spelling and grammar checks. These are flawed – you need to look at each suggestion before accepting corrections – but there’s no excuse for asking people to read something that looks like you threw letters and words into a blender, then poured them onto the page. Grammarly has a free app that gives feedback on grammar and Natural Readers has a free download that will read your documents aloud. It’s mechanical and makes pronunciation errors, but if you have a problem with commas, you’ll hear if you’re missing pauses or have too many.

Sheri McGuinn
I write.
http://www.sherimcguinn.com
http://www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

20170831LevelsofEdit

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Writers Revise

Last week I wrote about not getting ripped off when you self-publish.
My favorite resource for this is the free annotated list of companies you get when you sign up for Carla King’s mailing list for Tools & Services at authorfriendly.com.
This is a marketing strategy for her 4th edition of Self-Publishing Boot Camp and for her services, but she has NOT buried me in promotional emails and she DOES send updates. This is an excellent tool for any self-publisher, but if you’re new the knowledge is essential.

20170824WritersRevise

Sheri McGuinn
I write.
www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

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Never Pay to Publish – and OMG

I had this writer’s blog, Never Pay to Publish, ready to post today. For anyone following this for writing tips, it’s below.

But sometimes life happens.

KatieRiver2My daughter Katie has always been a risk taker – when she was twelve, she bought two tickets to whitewater the Colorado River for my birthday. She knew it was the only way she’d get to go. That’s her grinning. I’m under the wave, still in the boat.

After college, she surfed the beach off San Francisco alone – worried me sick. When she and her husband first met, they surfed the Pacific beaches all the way to Panama. She has a little scar where coral ripped open her lip in Costa Rica. Now she lives in far northern California where she can teach safe kayaking and surf year round – with a wet suit.

She’s gotten old enough to call people in their late teens and twenties “kids” and when she and her husband saw the surf near home was big and rough this morning, they decided to go north to a different beach. On the way home, they stopped on the cliff overlooking the beach they’d decided was too rough to surf – they always take time to enjoy life like that. What they saw was three “kids” on boogie boards in an area they NEVER surf because of the rip tides, two boys and a girl in their late teens or twenties. They saw the white of the boys’ backs and realized they had no wet suits. Even in August, the water up there is icy cold. The “kids” were caught in a rip.

Katie and her husband drove down to the beach, where the kids’ friends were finally calling 911 – they’d already been in the water at least 45 minutes. Katie and her husband got their boards and headed out, through the waves they’d chosen not to surf, out into the rip they’d never go near.

When they got to the kids, Eric took charge of the two who still had some strength to help them back to safety. Katie took the boy who was sinking into hypothermia.

At first she tried to tow him to shore, but he was too weak to hold onto the board. So she pulled him onto it, got on top of him, and paddled the best she could.

Once they got back to the break, they still had to ride the waves into shore – the waves that were big enough Katie and her husband hadn’t surfed that beach earlier. The other two were still strong enough to ride in on their own and walk out of the water. Katie’s kid couldn’t hold onto the board. She had to ride in on top of him.

They made it most of the way before they got dumped and she lost him. But by then, the fire and rescue crews were on the beach, ready to help, and they got her kid to shore and onto a stretcher for the ride to the hospital.

The helicopter that would have looked for them at sea was still at least 15 minutes away.

Today, my daughter called me from under a tree, where she’s sitting, still shaken up by the whole episode. She didn’t want me to find out by reading about it somewhere. But there were no news cameras, so it may never be noticed by media. She found out the kid she helped warmed up and was released from the hospital.

I’m still tearful. My daughter saved that kid’s life by risking her own. I’m terribly proud of her – both her actions and her need to sit under a tree and absorb it all today.

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Critique Groups – Key Elements

I was extremely lucky in my first critique group. Running Away was losing agent interest in the first pages. I read it to the group and they unanimously proclaimed I’d started in the wrong place. They were absolutely right!

The best critique group is going to include people with diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and skills. They’re going to be supportive of each other, even when they’re giving negative feedback. Every person will leave the meeting energized.

Aside from that, there are a lot of different ways critique groups may work. Here are a few variations.

Sheri McGuinn
I write.
www.sherimcguinn.com
www.amazon.com/author/sherimcguinn

Critique Group What to Look For

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