Course Selection Advice
by Deborah Owen
Writing is a quickly learned skill for those who approach it properly. Within a year or two, most writing students are ready to charge into the future fully prepared.
But which writing courses should you choose and where should you begin? Take it from one who has tried all the shortcuts and found none – you’ll save yourself time and grief if you start at the beginning. This is an investment, and you’re worth the time and money it takes to reach your goal.
The writing course you should choose does not depend on what talents you have, what experience you have, what education you have, but on your level of knowledge and your goals. The chances are good that you already have some foundation, but you probably have holes in it. That is to say, you will know some things, and not others. In such a case, determine your lowest point, or “hole,” if you will, and begin there.
If you have problems with punctuation, start with a Basic Punctuation Review class. You’ll learn when and how to use proper punctuation, as well as some of the most common rules in grammar. This is an excellent refresher course for older students.
Dynamic Nonfiction is the base class that will provide you with the best writing foundation. It will teach you how to write for magazines and newspapers, develop creative thinking, develop articles, and cite properly with MLA and APA. Even if you hate nonfiction, this course is valuable beyond your wildest dreams. The values of learning nonfiction:
- This genre is the easiest to break into
- It is the easiest to write
- It pays the most
- Has the least amount of rules
- It writes more quickly
- 95% of all writers break into publication with nonfiction
Creative Writing 101 builds directly on Dynamic Nonfiction. Think of this class as the framework for a house. It teaches basic structure, foundational writing rules, and how to avoid pitfalls. It’s a great class for those who are interested in cross-writing (that is, writing for more than one genre instead of finding a niche and staying in it). This is the only course that includes both fiction and nonfiction, and thus provides you with the opportunity to try both.
Short Story Safari builds on the Creative Writing 101 class. This course will put the roof on your house. It will teach you methods, techniques, tips and tricks of the trade, Show, Don’t Tell, and much more. You should know the rules of English, have good sentence structure, and practice the basic rules of writing before you attempt this course.
If you like to write children’s stories, you would love Writing for Children, but this is an intermediate class. Writing for children is no easier than writing for teens or adults. It can, in fact, be harder, so be sure you have a good foundation before attempting this class. Be prepared with proper English and the basic rules of writing.
If you are into fantasy writing, you will love Fantasy World. Have you wondered how to invent those far away places you see in your mind? This is the class for you. It is an intermediate class, so be sure you get your foundational courses first.
If you are an advanced student, Wordsmithing is the class for you. There you will learn writing skills that no other class teaches. This class will explain how other authors can string words together in an artistic style. It will teach you to recognize things like assonance, consonance, asyndeton, and many more little known techniques so you can apply it to your own writing. This is the final stop on how to jazz and edit your writing with snappy styles and techniques. Wordsmithing is a unique class because you can take it at the beginning of your career, or the end. For me, it was the technique that put me over the top.
If you’re unsure whether you need a certain class to advance to a higher level of learning, the chances are, you DO. Your subconscious is telling you that your foundation isn’t complete. Don’t challenge yourself with more advanced classes. You need all the rules of writing in order to succeed. Skipping ahead usually means having to return to a lower class at a later time to pick up on what you missed.
When you have your foundation and pass through the various stages in order, the advanced classes will blend and mesh all your learning experiences into one vision. I can’t reiterate this strongly enough – get your foundation first. Start at the bottom and learn every single rule. You’ll save yourself grief in the future.
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