Thursday, January 25, 2007

Learn Free

Thanks to the internet, writers can now attend classes and workshops from any spot on the globe. No classrooms. No spine-rearranging desks lined in wads of used gum. No snotty teacher to grab you by the sleeve and say, Well, Miss Smartie, why don't you stand up and read whatever you've been writing to the whole class?

By the way, kids, if you ever are caught writing an honest ode to your teacher's face, personality and the way she smells instead of watching her slaughter a sentence on the chalkboard, don't read your poem out loud to the class. Instead, recite Shakespeare's 29th sonnet -- she won't recognize it and you'll avoid a referral and a lengthy debate with the principal over your rights under the first ammendment (which I still think I should have won, Mr. Beale.)

Here are some online classes that anyone can afford:

Of interest to journalers and bloggers -- Gerry Starnes offers Conversations Within, an online workshop on journal writing.

Need a critique partner but live in the boondocks? Critters Workshop is described as "an on-line workshop/critique group for serious writers of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. You get your work critiqued in exchange for critiquing the work of others, both of which are invaluable ways to improve your writing."

The 2007 Crusie Mayer Writing Workshop is "A year-long workshop, updated twice weekly, on the craft of writing a novel presented by NY Times best-selling authors Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer" (appears to be free; is being used as a test/info gathering exercise for a nonfic writing book the authors are planning to write.)

If you didn't get enough of it in school, the fiends at will e-mail you a "short, fun grammar lesson Monday-Friday. There will also be a quiz each Saturday." Of course. There is always a quiz. No doubt given by the same twisted mind who paired the words "fun" and "grammar."

For 120 classes in a wide variety of subjects and courses, check out

Author Steven Barnes has a free writing class online: Lifewriting. He describes it as "the complete text of the 9-week writing class I've taught for years at UCLA."

News University offers some free courses like Get Me Rewrite: The Craft of Revision and Online Project Development for registered users; registration is free.

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant bills itself as "an interactive, menu-driven, online writer's guide and handbook written in HTML and distributed freely over the WWW."

According to the website intro, Storyarts six week on-line writing workshop is geared more toward helping writers who are just starting out; syllabus can be found here.

Now, your turn: what sort of writing classes (topic, length, type of class) would you like to see offered online?


  1. Anonymous12:24 AM

    No doubt given by the same twisted mind who paired the words "fun" and "grammar."

    *G* I was thinking something similiar... as in, whoever said grammar was FUN?

    I dunno. Plotting, I guess. That's my current obsession. I think somebody should write a book, the Complete Idiots Guide to Plotting.

  2. Anonymous8:09 AM

    I'd really appreciate something like: "How to revise without wanting to run away screaming". Having to reduce a 170k novel into something that is publishable seems like an impossible task sometimes. Something in small steps would be appreciated - haven't found the right approach yet.

  3. Anonymous8:11 AM

    I think grammar is fun, but I admit I'm an odd duck.

    I agree with Shiloh, I'd like to see more on plotting. I am so awful at it. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough; I don't know. (Doesn't matter if I outline or not, either way it gets mucked.)

  4. I took 20k out of a novel just by rewriting every paragraph with a less-than-full last line so that dangling line disappeared. Sounds stupid, but it works, and you only have to do it one paragraph at a time.

    Recently, I took another 5k out of it by removing two redundant scenes and a lot of redundant wordiness. I never think I'm wordy, but I am. Or rather, my protagonist is :D.

    Also, kill your darlings. Love the scene but know it doesn't advance the plot? Kill. It hurts but it helps.

    I'd like to see stuff on escalation, which seems to get forgotten. Or maybe it's information that's only vouchsafed to thriller and mystery or suspense writers?

  5. Hmm. Good question. There's a lot of stuff I'm enjoying in the He wrote/She wrote workshop. Dream workshop? Hard to say. Yours sounded pretty exciting. Guns! Swords!

  6. Thanks for putting these links up. I'm going with Charlene on this one - guns and swords are always fun! Especially when the person wielding said weapons is a red-haired SFF writer. :)

  7. I'm with Dawn and Charlene--guns and swords it is. Do we get to play with them too or is that just you?

  8. I'd like to see what kind of handouts you'd have for this class. Kind of like getting caught with candy in school- Did you bring enough to share? :o)

  9. How to conquer obstacles that writers face, like how to focus when too much is going on in your life and in your head, how to write through self-doubt, procrastination, how to tell if you have a write-able idea or a crappy one. Stuff like that.

  10. Anonymous10:36 PM

    Shiloh--Holly Lisle is planning on writing a "Create a Plot Clinic" soon. But first she has to finish her other projects.

    You guys all have awesome ideas for classes. I'd settle for a local crit. group for my area so I can see the writers as they crit me and vice versa.

  11. Hm. I'd like to a see a "five signs you know you're not going to finish this particular manuscript because it's fatally flawed so back out now and save yourself the trouble" workshop.

    Since I can't see that happening, though, I guess I could settle for a workshop on ways to repair a manuscript that needs a lot of work.

    It would be like a "how do you heal a plant that has wilted", sort of lesson. LOL. One minute everything was alive and kicking and flowing like it should, and the next minute everything about the story is...well, pretty much dead.


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