Tag Archives: how to write better

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.

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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.

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