Monday, June 13, 2011

Are writing classes worth it? Part 2

Last Wednesday I talked about writing classes and whether I thought they were worth taking or not. Inadvertently, I caused some confusion because the post referred to workshop-style classes and I didn't bother explaining that. There are, in fact, two types of writing classes: writing workshops and how-to classes, and today I'm going to talk about both of them.

Writing workshops
  • What are they?
    Workshops are like a giant critique group. They consist of somewhere between 10-20 people and like to focus on short stories of the literary fiction persuasion. Students read published short stories and deliberate over what does and does not work in them. Students also write their own short stories, share them with the class, and receive a group critique. These are the writing classes I was referring to in last week's post.
  • Should I take one?
    Writing workshops are tricky because the quality of the workshop is based on the people in the class. I covered this in the last post, but for anyone who didn't read it, a quick summary: I think writing workshops are worth taking because you can learn a lot in a short period of time. Workshops force you to write and then teach why the elements in your story do or do not work.
How-to classes
  • What are they?
    These classes are kinda synonymous with the how-to writing books that you can find in any bookstore. You may or may not read published stories or write you own, but the professor definitely lectures. In general, these classes will cover basic story elements and writing techniques, but they can also get super specific and focus on stuff like genre. These are not the writing classes I was referring to.
  • Should I take one?
    I don't think so. Why? Because how-to classes set rules, and that boxes you in. Yes, I understand that taking a how-to class may be beneficial for a new writer. I get it. But you probably shouldn't be taking more than one how-to class. The best way to become an excellent writer isn't to listen to people telling you how to write. It's bucking up and writing. Maybe you don't know how dialogue works, but write some and then ask people what they think. Do it until you understand.
So there we go--my complete thoughts on writing classes. Now I know I already asked you guys about this, but do you have any new thoughts? What do you think about workshop classes and how-to classes? Is there an illustrious third class that I'm missing? Will I need to do another post on this subject? Tell me what you think in the comments.