An on-line writing course: #1 purposes

Writers must take risks. Personally I hate those little motivational quotes that seem to flood through the twitter timelines of the writing community. Are there a lot of procrastinors out there, delaying the moment of getting down to it by searching for pithy emoticon-strewn one-liners?

Being a good writer is not about nailing it first time. It’s about not giving up until a piece is polished to perfection.

Thank you. I know. But how?

Easy reading is damned hard writing. (Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Thank you. I know. But what does ‘hard’ mean? How do you write harder?

The successful writer listens to himself. (Frank Herbert)

Thank you. Are all writers men? And what on earth does this mean in practice? And here’s my all time unfavourite:

Smiling is the best way to face any problem, to crush any fear and to hide any pain.

Not helpful. Smiling has not helped me edit one single sentence. Why do people write this stuff? I probably have to accept it comes with roaming in twitterland.

Despite my impatience with this stuff, the quotes that resonate with me are the ones about taking risks. Anne Rice says it:

145 Risk quoteHere’s my risk – blogging, that is going public, about an on-line writing course I have signed up for. I plan to write about my aims and purposes, about the processes and the outcomes. It’s that virtuous learning cycle of Do, Review, Learn and Apply for those of you in the education world. And risk can be a good learning strategy. Although I’m keen not to make a fool of myself.

Here goes.

Preparation for the course – clarifying my purposes.

The course blurb boils down to an intention to help writers develop self-editing skills. It begins in January 2015 and last for 6 weeks.

Some introductory explanation:

A long-term reader of this blog may have wondered what has happened to my novel. Is it still in the drawer, resting its way to perfection? Has the success of Retiring with Attitude since its publication in July 2014 led me to abandon the novel? Has it quietly been improved and is now ready for whatever the next thing is? No to all of those.

58 Bird by birdI had completed the first draft of the novel. All first drafts are ‘shitty’ according to Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. She was quoting Hemingway. Little of my first daft was raw, first splurge stuff, but I was still conscious that it was not yet ready to be shown to anyone. It needed work.

So I read through it. And I made notes. I began to work through different plot lines. I made notes. I read parts of the chapters to my writing groups that relate to one of the two protagonists. They commented. I made notes. And I say to myself, I don’t really know how to go about this revision. But I have lots of notes.

I want to make my novel the best it can be before sending it to a literary critique service. But after all the actions I have described above, it is clear to me that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do next. Intelligence is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do, according to the educationalist Guy Claxton.

145 inkwell on screenI know what to do. Find help! And this course, on self-editing skills will be the start of that help! I hope.

So here are my aims for the course:

  • To acquire the skills I need to move my novel on to the next stage.
  • To practise these self-editing skills.
  • To begin to identify the tasks and approaches I need to attend to to move my novel on.
  • To identify specific tasks I need to undertake related to these aspects: plot, character, voice, point of view and prose.
  • To connect with other writers through the Cloud who are involved in the same processes.
  • To blog about the experiences at least once more.

My very first task is to find out how to get to the course on-line. It looks daunting but I must be able to do it. I set up a blog for goodness sake. The tutors advise familiarisation and practice in advance. My faith in them develops. Not only are they published writers but they seem to know a bit about learning to write and learning on-line.145 old hands

Wish me luck and no procrastination. This is it. *Moves cursor to enter website.* Six weeks of writing and editing to the discipline of another’s drum. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’m smiling, by the way.

145 emoticonMeantime, you could tell me what you think I have missed out in my purposes/aims/objectives for the course.


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Filed under Learning, My novel, Writing

19 Responses to An on-line writing course: #1 purposes

  1. Good on you, Caroline! What a great way to start a new year – recognising a need for learning and seeking out a teacher. (Another quote: ‘Whenthe student is ready the teacher appears. ‘ Sounds like you may have had to do some looking though!) I admire your goals and I do hope you will be able to learn what you wish from the course. I look forward to reading your posts about what you learn (I hope there will be more than just one) as I am sure many others of us will also benefit from your learning. Writing and sharing is a risk, but so is life. Learn lots. Have fun. Keep smiling. And sharing!

    • Caroline

      Thanks for your encouragement Norah. It feels like a big risk going public, but I shoudl have remembered how supportive the writing community is in bloggingland! Hope your holidays are going well.

  2. Kathleen Bethell

    I, too, have enrolled in an online writing course that begins next week. I love your idea of setting out a short list of aims –it has prompted me to ask what, exactly, I want to take away from my own course of study. I do hope you will blog more than once about your experiences as an online student and about what you discover along the way.

    • Caroline

      Hi Kathleen. Best wishes for the start of your course, and I hope clarifying your aims will help you start really well. I plan to blog twice more about my course, at least. Please drop by again and let us know how your course is going.

  3. I took the WW Self editing course and it demolished my WIP to a wonderful extent. It opened my eyes to several facts:

    1. I can write.
    2. If I want to produce a marketable work I had better buy in professional help or actually take my writing seriously and learn and APPLY the techniques on offer.

    The course opened my eyes more than anything to the wide array of talent that is out there in genres beyond my immediate interests.

    There is a drawback to the course that only faded after a few weeks and that is the tendency for the other attendees to be too kind and thus less than forthcoming with actual critique of your works. This faded naturally as we became more familiar with each other’s WIPs.

    I have probably digested into my actual writing techniques, about 20% of what was offered on the course and I hope to be able to revisit my notes and re-work things to a better result when time allows.

    As you are considerably more advanced and further along with your writing ambitions, I suspect that you will be a huge asset to the course and will perhaps take different things from it rather than pure technique and method attributes.

    I look forward to reading your interpretations of the course.


    • Caroline

      Thanks very much for these comments and reflections Jeff. I aim to post at least twice more about the course so please come back again. I already have professional help in mind, but want to get as far as possible with my novel before enlisting someone else. I am looking forward to being stretched. Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. You will LOVE the course! I’m a graduate of it too, and there were so many lightbulb moments over the course of those six weeks, I could have lit a chandelier! Like Jeff, I widened my reading habits afterwards because I was exposed to so many pieces of fabulous writing in genres I’d normally pass over, and I am still trying to put some of the lessons learned into practise.

    What I got most out of the course was a confidence in my ability – I wasn’t dreaming impossible dreams – and a whole toolbox of editing help. As a result, took the plunge and self-pubbed last year.

    So grab all the learning you can over the next six weeks, then take at least six more to mull over the applications for your novel, and then… start editing! Good luck.

    • Caroline

      Hi Katherine, thanks for this enthusiastic endorsement of the course. Good to read that two of you have found it very helpful and with unexpected but welcome spin offs. Thanks.

  5. jon stein

    Well done – and good luck Caroline. I missed the deadline for my course!!
    A further aim/objective/benefit of doing the course might be to be able to recommend it to others – and that they sign up early…
    Looking forward to seeing you later in the year and perhaps comparing notes on where we’ve got to. Happy N Year!

    • Caroline

      Great stuff Jon. I did actually make quite a mess of the booking and i fear that I have gatecrashed, but hey, sometimes things work … Sorry you missed your course. Hope to hear you’ve booked on something soon.

  6. Hi, Caroline, I AM curious about your novel, which was partly why I wanted to pass the “why I write” blog hop onto you, but you have been rather quiet about it recently – of course good excuse with your non-fiction book being published. So I’ll be interested to learn more.
    As for your self editing course, I’m hoping it’s the one Emma Darwin runs which I’ve looked at on occasion. She comes across on her blog is such an excellent teacher, I’ve been tempted to join in even when I’ve got nothing major to edit! Look forward to your perspective on it.

    • Caroline

      You are a canny one Anne. Yes it is Emma Darwin’s course. I agree about her blog. I think I connected to her teaching through that route. As for my novel, well as it’s online and requires quite a bit of sharing woth other course members I may get a bit braver about writing about it on this blog. I might! I really appreiate your interest! Thank you

  7. Pingback: I can do this – one step at a time! | Norah Colvin

  8. Great post. You must have master “writing harder” for this one. 🙂 Kidding aside, I have felt similar angst over the lack of clear direction and practical advice in the book publishing industry. There’s tons of information but I feel the way you do about quotes–what does that information mean? I’m at the next step but there are no instructions for taking it. I think your aims are clear and I hope that is what you gain from the course!

    • Caroline

      Thanks Charli. Encouraging remarks. I seem to be collecting them!
      I think we often tell kids that they need to ‘work harder’ and I cant imagine they have a clue what that means. So I am hoping to learn what writing harder means. I’ll let you know if I find out.

  9. Nicki

    Hi Caroline,

    I’ve just spotted the self-editing course via the wonderful Emma Darwin’s blog and am thinking of signing up to the next one, in March or possibly June, depending on progress with WIP! Meanwhile have just joined Word Cloud so that I will be able to understand how it works before signing up. Good luck with the course – I’ll be really interested to hear how you find it.

    • Caroline

      Thanks for this comment, Nicki. I notice again how supportive fellow writers are. After some initial complications I am now signed up and have done one day of my 42. Already I can see one thing I need to do to my novel, not major revision but more like sharpening up. And already I have some useful advice and tools for looking at plot and structure (the focus of week one). I’m not quite sure when I’ll do my next post as the course itself is keeping me busy. But looking around the Cloud is a good starting point. Wish I had done that.Caroline

  10. Eileen

    I’m just beginning to catch up on things after the Christmas break – and was delighted to find this. I loved the blog and all the responses. It is lovely that you respond to all the comments.
    I look forward to hearing more about the course. Hope you find it thrilling and delightful.
    Smile and the world smiles with you – who wrote that!!!

    • Caroline

      Hi Eileen, Thanks for leaving a comment here and your encouragement about the course. I wrote and posted about my course aims in your flat during my holiday there. Very appropriate because of all the hours we have spent saying – lets make this writing like a 2 hour teaching session. And all the more hours we have spent thinking and writing about learning.
      I’ll let you know how I get on, in person and on the blog.
      Thanks C xx

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