Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Educationally Free

Copywriter and Men with Pens blog owner James Chartrand is holding a contest for his Damn Fine Words online writing course; the winners each receive a free spot in the class. To enter, you have to write a blog article, minimum 450 words, on why writing is important to you and how better writing skills would change your business or your life, and post it on your blog, and then do some linking. No entry fee, deadline is May 1 at 7 am EST; see contest post for more details.

I'm at the halfway point of my online art class now, and I feel that I've already gotten twice my money's worth in advice and instruction, so that's working out quite well (and I will be relating more about the class once I'm finished, for those of you who were curious about it.) It's also nice to shed the authorial albatross for a couple of weeks and be a regular person.

Over the years I've been approached by various colleagues and organizations to do pay-for online writing classes, and while I've been flattered I've always declined. It's not that I think there's anything wrong with charging people to learn about writing; talented writers who share their knowledge certainly have the right to be compensated for it, and teaching for money helps them supplement their writing income which for most of them, let's face it, is probably never going to be the stuff of instant retirement.

I'm a child of public education, though, and my university was the local library; I teach for free to honor the librarians and public school teachers who guided me in this direction, and to be there for all the writers like me who could never afford to pay for classes. Aka my little personal Crusade.

My past efforts at online teaching have been both rewarding and frustrating. Early on in my career I moderated an online writer's think tank in a chat room, which made every Friday night a blast, at least until my arthritis grew worse and I couldn't type fast enough to keep up with the questions. My Left Behind & Loving It virtual writing workshops were also a lot of fun; they just got too big too fast to handle on my own. When RWA committed the ultimate irony by promoting me and my fellow writers' efforts to their membership as an alternative to their National conference, I knew it was time to let them go.

Likely the most successful teaching project I've done to date is The Novel Notebook. When I put it together five years ago I thought it might help a couple of writers organize their stuff better, but that was all. I can't tell you how many writers have since downloaded and used it, because I don't track things like that, but it's the most popular free e-book I've ever posted online. Last year during NaNoWriMo I heard that several groups were actually handing out CD and printed copies of it at their meetings, which was very neat.

I don't know yet what my next teaching project will be, but I'd like to do something along the lines of the Novel Notebook (whatever evolves, I promise I will keep it free.) Which makes me wonder: if you could get me to teach something online, what would it be, and how would you want me to teach it? Let me know in comments.

Graphic credit: © Yellowj | Dreamstime.com


  1. If you taught something on world/culture building I wouldn't care how you did it--even if it was with chalk on the sidewalk.

  2. the most useful things I've used from you have been the simple plotting templates. ;) the 10 point novel templates, etc.

    If you can teach simple plotting to the less organized thinker? Score.

  3. There's sooooo much I would love to learn from you. I agree with Darlene, anything and everything about world and culture-building. I'd also love to learn your process of taking a seed of an idea and work it until it's ready to be written. And also, how to write and plan a romance.

  4. Fran Kane12:22 PM

    I would love you to teach me how to sew those beautiful tote bags you make. I'm all fingers and thumbs and for some reason electric sewing machines don't do so well for me. My mum had an old Singer treadle and I loved it, but add electricity into the mix and I'm useless. Ah well..

    Sorry its not about writing *smile*

  5. Thank you, I downloaded your Novel Notebook. I can use all the help I can get. I agree with all the above about what to teach for writing. Do we ever know all we need to know, to be a great writer?
    The sewing hints I don't need. I learned to sew in high school home ec and have continued doing so through my life. Of course as my sons grew older they asked me not to patch their pants with heart shaped pieces. I told them I wanted them to remember I loved them and mommy was always watching. Sorry, got carried away. "grin"

  6. It's a pity you can't teach me how you stay so focused. That one would be worth gold to me.

    But since you can't, I'll take anything else you have to offer :)

  7. The ten point novel template has been great for me. I used to be so dedicated to 'letting it flow'... until I realise how much time I was wasting by not even having a basic outline or idea of where my stories were going.

    Anything more on outlining, plotting and organization are all good here!

  8. I clearly need to go look at the 10 point novel template again, say the comments. *g* But honestly what I envy most about you is how you produce so much while handling family commitments and still being so creative on the side. A class on how you do that I'd be all over. I type this having unpacked all the art supplies, still unused, in yet another house.

  9. Everything! Hearing about one element or another of craft is good but it would be incredibly useful to see how such a successful writer like you thinks about writing and craft comprehensively. Sooo, I guess what I'm saying is you should write a book/teach an online class (via YouTube of course) giving us some of your accumulated years of wisdom.


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