Thursday, July 21, 2011

Writing Classes

Writing classes are a great way to get feedback on your writing. That is probably the best cliche any writer can ever write.

I remember one writing class I had. The class was in the darkest corner of campus, and the room was always poorly lit. The class size was small, but yet never seemed to fit into the small room--it almost felt like the professor needed to remove a few bodies from the room, so we had room to breathe.

I did look for Rod Serling to appear in the classroom, but I realized he probably got kicked out of the building because the building was smoke free. 

I took many writing classes as an undergraduate, but none like this class. The professor was middle aged and still lived with her mother. I don't think she had any friends, except for her mother, because all her personal stories involved her mother, if she told a personal story.

This professor was waiting to publish her first novel, but seemed a little bitter about the publishing world, because she never had anything nice to say about it, even her own publisher. I don't remember her ever having anything nice to say about anyone stories, now that I think about it.  She had a way for making a positive comment seem negative. It probably had more to do with the fact she had no range in her voice, because it always seemed condescending.

My classmates were an interesting bunch, too. I can remember one woman was taking medication for a psychotic disorder--she could share she had issues but not what kind of issues. I can remember one woman was still learning English, so her stories were hard to follow. I can remember one guy never spoke, unless he had no other option--he didn't even show the day his story was critiqued. I can remember another guy who was oblivious to any reference to popular culture--he was a product of homeschooling. I could tell you about the rest of the class, but I think I made my point that it was an interesting class.

What should you learn in a writing class? I liked asking myself this question when I sat there listening to my classmates talk about writing. You should learn how to write a good story and learn how to spot a good story--another cliche. You should learn how to give feedback, and you should learn how to receive feedback, and these are skills that require some sensitivity, because in a small setting you don't want to be known as the mean person.

I really can't say that I remember anything this professor said about writing and how to become a better writer, but I do remember that she loved Faulkner and made use read a lot of his short stories. A few clever students even went as far as to borrow some of Faulkner's themes for their stories, and this seemed to temporarily please the professor, because she loved to talk about Faulkner.

I would say that all my other writing classes were normal in comparison. I won't say that there wasn't some classmates that stuck out in a room full of writers, but creative writing is a strange subject to pursue in college. 

I do believe writing classes help writers improve their skills of critiquing another writer's work, but I am not sure these writing classes help improve the skill of writing a good piece of fiction.I believe to learn how to write good fiction you need learn how to write for yourself and not for what you think will make another person happy. I am not saying that everyone in a writing class does this, but just pay attention to the second story a writer shares with the class.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Being Walter Mitty--Writing Prompt

What if you were Walter Mitty and how would the story change if you were Walter Mitty?

I am including a link to the Walter Mitty story if you never read it, or if you would just like a refresher.

You can post a link to your story in the comment section.

Getting Paid

A few months ago, in the distant past, I joined All Voices. I joined their website because I wanted to write opinion pieces and news stories about current political issues, and get paid for my writing, if I got enough page views.

I found I was spending too much time on All Voices, and for the amount of time I spent on the site, well, I  just don't get paid enough. I know any pay is better than no pay.

I just spent too much time on the site reading stories written by other writers and then commenting on those stories. You have to do this to increase your rating, and an increased rating means more money for all my page views.

The comments I found on my news stories were along the lines of "nice piece and keep up the great work." It seems these comments cheat the system and count as a writers contribution to All Voices.

Yes, there are people on the site that don't mind writing and not getting paid for their writing, but that isn't the reason I joined the site. I joined the site because they offered to pay writers for their writing, and maybe in the future they will pay writers more for the time they have to spend on the website.