If you subscribe to enough writing blogs, you’re sure to see at least one workshop or course recommended. I see a few every week, and most of the time, I dismiss them easily. “Not writing a query,” I tell myself. “Not going to LA. Not spending $375.” Plus, I’d only have the recommendation of that one blogger (who might even be teaching the course).
Finally, there was a course where I ran out of excuses. The blogger posting about it included dozens of testimonials, I’d heard of the teacher before, it was online and it was $30 (which I consider affordable). So I signed up.
From the first lesson, I have found ways to improve my writing and push myself more. The course concepts—portraying character emotions vividly—pushed me to examine my writing, pointing out patterns and opportunities for improvement.
I think the most interesting thing I’ve learned so far is that some of the things I’ve tried to avoid are actually things that best-selling authors do—and do a lot. They’re things that readers actually like, and not violations of those “immutable writing laws” we can only break once we’ve sold 50,000 books.
For example, I actually avoided using more elaborate body language descriptions (although those can take away from a scene and should be used with care) or telling how the dialogue was said (not using adverbs, mostly: sentences like “She used the same patronizing tone she’d use with a two-year-old.”). Some best-selling authors, however, use those to portray emotions powerfully and vividly—and they have more than one of the “dialogue cues” per page.
Something else I love about this class is that it encourages us to look at our manuscripts so we can customize the lessons to our writing—the assignments almost all instruct us to go to our manuscript, so we can analyze how we work, and how we write, so we can discover where we need improvement individually.
About halfway through the course, I was so excited about what I was learning that I went on a big “sign up for classes” kick. I found some free classes online and . . . maybe I’ve gone a little overboard. By April 9, I’ll have been through seven classes. I’m taking classes on things I feel I already do well (can never hurt to get better, right?) to things I want to do better. I’ll let you know if that’s a little excessive—if I live through them all 😉 .
What do you think? What classes have you really enjoyed? What topics have you taken classes on?
PS: the class I’m taking is Empowering Character Emotions from Margie Lawson. Loving it! In addition to an online class, you could also take this as an “independent study” course—it’s $22 for the lecture packet (and no, I don’t get a cut or anything else for this endorsement). The free courses (with a $30 membership), mostly week-long miniworkshops, are on substantive editing, dialogue, revisions, marketing, POV and story structure.
Photo by Dave mcmt