Tag Archives: flash fiction

Writing Classes: Pros and Cons

Last time I discussed literature classes and some of the pros and cons associated with them, so today I want to talk about writing classes and some of the various pros and cons regarding them.

Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a knack for it and I always wanted to do something with writing (hence the blog), but when I took writing classes at my university I started to learn much more about writing and just why I chose it for my concentration.

Writing is a great way to open doors to new worlds, people, places, smells, and it is a great way to relieve stress if you’re having a rough time. Writing classes can be the same way, and to start off, let me state some of the writing classes I took at my university: Fiction Writing, Creative Non-fiction, Journalism, On-line Magazine, Writing for Business and Technology, and Creative Writing. Each of these classes had their own style of how we would write and different “tools” we could implement into our own writing.

Not every college will offer the same classes, and some will have completely different ones, but these are just a few I took during my time at my college.

So, with that being said, let’s start with some cons, shall we?

  1. If you don’t like writing, don’t take the classes. Kind of self explanatory, but it needs to be said. There’s a difference between being good at writing and not liking it, so make sure you know that difference because you can only improve if you’re not good at it.
  2. They’re writing intensive. Shocker, I know, but it’s true. Depending on the professor and the level of the course you will be writing a lot of material, and frankly, it can get confusing if you have multiple writing classes in one semester.
  3. Sometimes you’ll get reviews that “rip” your paper to shreds. Some professors, and even peers, can take that red pen to a page and find every little thing that’s wrong with it – don’t take it too heart, though, as it’s typically a way to help improve your work.
  4. There’s reading involved. Oh no. Reading really boring books on how to write can be torture, yes, but if you don’t read you won’t be able to improve your writing – keep that in mind!

Okay, now that I’m done with my sarcastic cons, let me move onto the pros (disclaimer: I’m biased):

  1. You learn techniques you might otherwise have never known. I never knew about the “show, don’t tell” technique to apply to writing, or that flash fiction existed. You can learn a great variety of tools and tricks of the trade, which is fantastic to grow in your craft.
  2. You gain a new appreciation for reading. Surprisingly writing is a great gateway into reading new and different works that you might otherwise not have read until further developing your style.
  3. You get to hear others’ styles of writing. It’s always fascinating and fun to hear other people’s stories because not everyone thinks the same, so not everyone is going to write the same.
  4. They help to build your portfolio if you’re planning on doing writing as a career. I know that the many classes I have taken have helped me to grow my own portfolio, which can be a great way to appeal to employers.

Now I’m sure I’m missing other pros and cons for the list, but these are some of the tops reasons why I prefer writing classes. They’re more engaging and enjoyable and they help to develop skills that I might otherwise not have learned. Of course literature classes can do the same thing, but I prefer writing, myself.

If you’re thinking about taking some writing classes, think about what your university might be offering. Though I’m graduating this Saturday, May 17th, I know that the Fall 2014 semester my university is hosting a whole ton of new types of writing classes, such as Environmental Writing, The Short Story, Experimental Writing Workshop, and Digital Journalism, just to name a few. Take the time to look at your university’s catalog and decide if what they’re offering will help you grow as a writer or if it piques your general interest.

 

Have you taken any writing courses? If so, how have they helped, or hindered, you in your own writing? Let me know in the comments!

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Creating a Story 101

Creating a story is like creating a baby: you have to love the idea before pursuing it.

Okay, well that sounded like an odd example, but it’s true! If you don’t love your plot or idea for a story, then what’s the point in even writing it?

If your objective is to reach out to an audience of high school girls, write a book about teen love or paranormal romance (are vampires still in?). If you’re writing to an audience of students in college, then make it sound more formal, but relatable. If you’re writing for a broad scope of sci-fi/fantasy fanatics, include awesome details about your setting so the person can imagine themselves walking inside of that world.

Whoever your audience is, creating the first words to a story can be hard. I, myself, find the hardest part of writing a story, whether it be flash fiction or a full out novel, it is always the middle of the story that’s the hardest. Beginning it is easy – continuing with it is hard.

I’m going to give a few tips as to what I think are helpful ways to creating a story. These have worked for me in the past, but they don’t always work for everyone.

  1. Start with the title. I know, sounds crazy, right? Most people add the title last to their piece of work, but I’ve found it to be the leading cause to starting the first sentence of my story.
  2. Start by writing, “Once upon a time…” Yeah, yeah, it’s corny, but it’s a good segue into starting a story. You don’t necessarily have to keep it once you’ve got your gears turning, but it can help in the process.
  3. Start with the end. It can feel weird to start with the end of your story, but if you know where your story is eventually going to end up you can then plot and think about what you want to happen that leads up to that moment.

Those are just a few simple tips to get you going. I’m sure you can think of, and find, many more ways to start a story, but I figure that this will at least help get the juices flowing and the gears turning.

Now I want you to actually write the beginning (or end) of your story. Go on, do it right now. I want this to be an interactive experience, so start writing by using one of my three tips above. If you find that you’ve gotten stuck, don’t worry, just stop and come back to this once you’re done.

Okay, you’ve got some things written up? Great!

Now that you have the beginning (or end) of your story, look at what you’ve written. Read over it and see if there’s anything you want to change or add just to the piece you have.

Sometimes the easy part is writing the beginning, but figuring out if you have an idea that’s viable or that’s entertaining and will keep the reader on the edge of their seat is the really hard part. Don’t worry so much about whether or not someone else is going to like it right now – do you like it? If you don’t like it, then there’s no point in writing it.

Now that you have the beginning of your story, think more in depth about what you’re writing. Maybe even before you begin a story you want to make an outline of who your characters are, the setting, the time period, the main plot, the climax, etc. There are different methods that work for everyone.

Think about your characters for a second. Who are they? Are they you? Are they your best friend from elementary school? Are they the bullies from your neighborhood? Or are they even your pet? Whoever they are, you have to come up with a personality for them. Don’t make them into average Mary and Gary Sues. No, you want them to be different and creative! Here’s a few tips to think about how you can think about your characters as you’re writing them:

  1. Create their own separate folder with all personality and appearance traits and ideas. Not only will this help to organize your thoughts, but seeing them in front of you will help you to realize whether or not your character is too ordinary and overused, or if you think you’ve found a keeper.
  2. Don’t make too many characters at once; just stick with the main character and maybe one supporting character for now. You’ve only just begun, so don’t throw in all ten characters (or more or less) at once at the very beginning. You need to get a feel for the character who’s going to be your main hero/heroine in the story before you add in the supporting cast.
  3. Think about how they would react, feel, think, etc in the environment you’re placing them in. If you’re going to have a young cyborg adult living in the Amazon Jungle with no real reason as to why he/she is there, then you might want to either rethink your character or your setting.
  4. Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and make the main character a little “messed up” in the head or have a super traumatic (or lack thereof) backstory. Or even make your main character the villain and make some awesome twists throughout. Don’t be afraid to take big leaps that may be “out of the norm” for a lot of popular story ideas today.

Characters are the heart and meat of your story, so think carefully when creating them.

If you haven’t done so already (especially since I made you write the beginning of your story), create some characters. But first, just start with one main character. Is it male or female? What is his/her sexual orientation? What does he/she believe? What kind of education does this person (is it a person?) have? Who can he/she trust? Did he/she have a tragic backstory or did he/she lived a charmed life? Is he/she tall and lean or short and pudgy? Is he/she the villain or the hero/heroine? Write down your main characters from appearance to the inner workings of their mind (and if you can’t figure it all out, don’t worry, your characters usually come to life on the page on their own without your knowing).

Now that you’ve got your main character figured out, do the same for your first supporting character.

When you’ve got all of that figured out, try thinking about your plot and your setting. These are entirely up to you and you can base them on either real life situations or you can make them totally out of this world. Try your hand at both and maybe you’ll find that you like one over the other, or that you want to somehow combine the two. Either way, think about what you’ve read in the past and what has struck you as really cool or really fascinating.

Story writing has a lot of elements to it, and though I’ve barely scratched the surface, I’m sure that if you start writing and are able to work through getting to know your characters, your setting, and more, that you will find yourself successfully writing a masterpiece (in your eyes or in the eyes of a publisher). Get to work and start writing your story!