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Online Courses for Writers – Sally Clements

Writing.ie | Resources | Developing Your Craft

Sally Clements

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No matter how well you write – you can always write better. I’m a fervent believer in the value of learning. When I completed my first full manuscript, I remember feeling great joy and satisfaction. I’d done it! Written a whole book! As time went on, and I became a more experienced writer, I realised that writing a complete manuscript is only one tiny part of it. An important part – but only the first step in becoming published. I needed help. And I set out to find it. I’ve taken many full day courses with Inkwell Writers Workshops, and found them brilliant, but I’ve also found fantastic courses online. Some courses are geared to the romance writer, but many aren’t and are valuable no matter what genre you’re writing. Read through the course syllabus to see if it is right for you. Here’s what I look for. 1.The course subject – which element of my writing do I want to improve. 2.The course instructor – are they qualified to teach me? I write romance and crime, so I want to learn from experts in the same genres – I want to learn about writing from writers. 3.The cost – can I afford it? 4.The level of participation available – I want to be able to communicate with my instructor and get feedback every step of the way. An online course, for me, has to be interactive! Do not leave it to the last minute. Familiarise yourself with what is available out there, so that you can schedule them in, and take advantage of courses when they are available. The courses I’ve taken break down into 3 distinct categories:

  • The inspiration and creative stage.
  • The honing and polishing stage.
  • The editing and submission stage.

Inspiration and creative courses I’ve taken are ones like ‘Plotting via Motivation’ and ‘Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw’.  Both are available from Laurie Schnebly Campbell whose website is http://booklaurie.com/.  From here you can subscribe to her yahoo group where she posts all the courses she is giving. Her current schedule of courses covers July 2011-August 2010. Laurie is a very talented writer. Her first novel was nominated by Romantic Times as the year’s “Best First Series Romance,” and her second beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition of the Year.” Most importantly, she is a fabulous teacher, giving tremendous support and feedback to her students. Many students wish to just ‘lurk’-to read and complete the assignments at their own pace, and not actively participate. I’m the opposite, I like to squeeze every last drop out of each course I take, and Laurie is great with feedback. Many teachers have come together to offer courses through online sites such as http://writeruniv.com/ Check the link for their upcoming schedule of courses. Savvy Authors also run excellent classes, http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/workshoplist.php, for their current list. And Writers Online Classes is another excellent site – http://www.writersonlineclasses.com/. If you write romance, it is worth googling Romance Writer’s of America’s online courses – many of their regional chapters organize courses for members that non-members can take too. The same applies to your particular genre. If there is an organization that supports writers, they will have online courses available at their chapters too. Crime Writers of America online courses throws up some good results too. Laura Baker and Robin Perini have an excellent course, titled Discovering Story Magic, http://www.discoveringstorymagic.com/ which I have used extensively and found invaluable. The basic course can be supplemented by continuing on to the advanced version and taking the turning points class. Both ladies are excellent teachers and the course is very much geared towards plotting and developing your own manuscript. Robin recently won the RWA Golden Heart for her novel In Her Sights. They gave a presentation of DSM in New York at the RWA conference this year and you can download the PowerPoint presentation they delivered at the conference here http://robinperini.com/for-writers/writers-notes-by-robin-blog/rwa-national-discovering-story-magic#comments.  Laura is also a fantastic teacher, check out her online courses on her websitehttp://www.fearlesswriter.com/ The honing and polishing stage is where you evaluate your manuscript and look at ways to improve it. For a really in depth pull apart of every element of your story, there is no-one better than Margie Lawson, http://www.margielawson.com/lawson-writers-academy-courses Margie’s courses are not for the faint hearted – but gosh, they’re great! She has developed a system of deep editing called the EDITS system, and as well as this course she runs an excellent one called Empowering Characters’ Emotions, and also Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues like a psychologist. Margie also offers Lecture Packets, which include all the course notes (the EDITS system fills a lever arch file), so if she doesn’t have a course coming up within your timeframe, you can buy the Lecture Packet and study it. Another wonderful teacher is USA Today Bestselling Author, Shirley Jump. http://www.shirleyjump.com/dynamic/default.aspx Here’s a link of her upcoming courses http://www.shirleyjump.com/dynamic/appearances.aspx.  I’ve taken the ‘writing compelling scenes’ course and it will really improve your story! The editing and submission stage is when you have a manuscript that you feel is ready to send out. I hate to break it to you, but it probably could still do with more work, and that is where learning about editing comes in! I’ve taken only one editing online course and in my estimation it was the best one. The instructor is Don McNair, http://www.mcnairedits.com/. Don has been a professional editor for more than 40 years and he has a course called ’21 steps to fog free writing’ and another called ‘editor proof that first chapter’. These courses are completely invaluable as they teach the writer what not to do and give the framework for starting into edits of your manuscript. Have a look at his editing sample page, to get an idea of how this works. http://www.mcnairedits.com/EditingSample.html. When it comes to submitting, you need to write a captivating query and a concise synopsis. I recommend Laurie (mentioned above) for both her query and synopsis courses, including the synopsis masterclass. And if you need to pitch online or in person to an agent or publisher, Janet Wellington http://www.janetwellington.com/ has an excellent class called Pitch Perfect which is well worth taking – I can’t find an upcoming class at the moment. So there we have it! Some online courses to check out. I hope they help you as much as they’ve helped me!

About the author

(c) Sally Clements, August 2011 Sally Clements writes romance. Her latest releases are Bound to Love and Marrying Cade, and her new book, Love on the vine, will be released in the Autumn. Her website is www.sallyclements.blogspot.com She’s @sallywriter on twitter.  Her one to one online course on writing romance is available from Inkwell Writers Workshop.

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