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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some thoughts and advice on online writing classes

I’ve been thinking a lot about online classes lately, in part because I have spent the month of October teaching my first one, WITCHCRAFT FOR THE PARANORMAL AUTHOR. The class is going great: 40 participants, great folks taking part, and an enthusiastic and positive response from those who are taking it. They’ve already asked me to teach it again next year. Who could ask for more?

Which got me to thinking about what makes a good online class, and how to choose the one that’s right for you. I’ve taken a bunch of classes online over the last couple of years, and I got more out of some than others. What made the difference between a class that was right for me and one that wasn’t?

In some cases, it was the teacher. There are some folks who teach A LOT of classes. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good teacher, but it often helps. There are also particular sites (especially some of the RWA chapters and associations) that specialize in presenting great classes. The Low Country RWA (www.lowcountryrwa.com) is where I took my first bunch of classes (and where I’m teaching my current one) and they have a fabulous assortment at a really reasonable price: only $16 for a three-week class!

I found one of my favorite online teachers at lowcountry, and have since taken a bunch of classes with her (pretty much every time she offers one, I take it—she’s just that good). Lois Winston is both a writer (TALK GERTIE TO ME) and an agent. She and a friend have started a site specializing in classes for writers who are just starting out. I asked her to give me the lowdown on her new venture:
The url is www.beginningwriterworkshops.com . We offer 10 workshops a year, stressing the fundamentals and skills needed to succeed as a published author. Most of the courses are geared toward writing fiction, but we also offer one workshop in memoir writing and one in non-fiction writing. All workshops are given by me and author Dianne Drake. As you know, I'm an award-winning author, multi-published in novel length fiction and short fiction, as well as non-fiction, and am also an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Dianne is the award-winning author of 25 novels and 7 non-fiction books, as well as over 500 national magazine articles.

Another one of my favorite places to find classes is at Write_Workshop, which is the creation of author Candace Havens. The loop is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Write_Workshop/

Candace gives classes herself, gets lots of her author friends to give classes, and also runs a yearly Fast Draft for those on the loop (kind of like NaNoWriMo, but with periodic boots to the butt applied lovingly by Candy). The best part of all? All the classes on the loop are FREE. That’s right, you heard me. Free. The only thing Candy asks is that you support those giving the classes by buying their books. [Candace has two series out, both paranormal romance, and I HIGHLY recommend them both.]

Other online teachers who come highly recommended by some of my current students include Terry Spear (especially her “Show vs. Tell” class), Connie Flynn (“Conflict”), Beth Cornelisan (“Secondary Characters: The Good, the Bad, and the Quirky”), Mary Buckham (“Sex Between the Sheets”) and Margie Lawson. And here is a link to a loop that lists lots of online classes and will send out notices to let you know when they are: http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/Announceon linewritingclass es/

When looking for an online class, you may want to consider a few of the following issues: what does it cost (they can range from free to very expensive) and how long does it run (some classes are one day, some are as long as a month—do you have the time to do a longer class justice, and do you need lots of time to get the assignments done?). And look for the classes that will give you help in the areas you need most. If you are already pretty good at developing characters, you might want a class on conflict development or pitching queries.

No matter what the topic is, or who is teaching it, you will only get out of an online class what you put into it. Since there are no grades, and no one looking over your shoulder, it is up to you to pick a class that will interest you enough to put in the necessary time and energy. But if you do, I guarantee that you will have fun, learn something, and –hopefully—come out of it a better writer. And those are pretty good reasons to take a class.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writing Class Update

I am pleased to report that the online writing class I'm teaching all month is still going REALLY well. I have 40 students, when all is said and done, and they are a great bunch of folks. Everyone is cooperative and helpful (they give each other tips on research, and everything). And everyone is being very nice and complementary to me, even though I'm not giving out actual grades :-)

I wasn't sure what to expect from the experience, since this is the first online class I've given [I've taken a bunch of classes online, and taught in person--but that isn't the same thing]. I am pleasantly surprised, and having a great time. Also working my butt off, of course. It is amazing how much time it takes to keep up with posting the lessons, responding to the students' homework, and answering all the misc. questions that everyone has come up with.

But I like it.

Some of the students even suggested that I make the class up into a booklet and sell it on LULU. I'm thinking about it, although I can't imagine there is enough interest to make it worth the effort.

I'll be writing a guest blog at Texting Between the Sheets about teaching and taking online classes--it should be out this Saturday. I'll try to remember to post a link.

In other news--I'm making pretty good progress on the outline for the next novel, Pentacles and Pentimentos, an Urban Fantasy based on my short story that was published in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction (Llewellyn, 2008). I'm up to 21 pages, and not even close to the end, as far as I can tell. And I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time. I blame Shannon and Elysia :-)

Back to answering emails from my students,
Many bright blessings,
Deborah

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writing class has started

Today was the first day of my online writing class, Witchcraft for Paranormal Authors (that is to say, those authors who write paranormals...not actual paranormal authors).

So far, so good.

I actually posted the first lesson (an intro to me and the class) late last night, because I had a REALLY early meeting before work this morning. But even before then, lots of the class participants had signed on and introduced themselves. This is great, because one of the challenges of online classes is that one often gets lots of "lurkers" (who just read all the lessons but don't actively take part). This isn't a bad thing, necessarily--I've taken a few online classes myself [which is actually how I got sucked into giving this one, if fact], and sometimes I just don't have time to be an active participant.

But it is great that most of the folks taking the class are already excited and ready to jump in and get going.

No pressure :-)

I also found out from one of the organizers from www.lowcountryrwa.com where the course is given that my class has a higher enrollment than any they've given in quite a while. Wow. How cool is that?

So for the moment, I am cautiously optimistic about the way the class is shaping up--although also mildly freaked out by how much time it is already taken up, and that's BEFORE we get to the assignments I'll have to respond to. Wait, isn't this why I got out of regular teaching?

I'll keep ya posted. Wish me luck.

Teacher Deb

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