If you’re like me, you were not classically trained as a journalist or entered into a profession that utilized an English Literature degree. Instead, you entered into a different sort of career – for whatever reasons – and kept your passion for fiction as a secret hobby known only to a few close friends.
Perhaps you spent years dabbling with writing stories; trying to find those isolated pockets of time to jot down words in between the business of full time jobs and family. Or reading everything you can get your hands on about the craft of writing fiction, dreaming about characters and scenes, and maybe even attending a few workshops or book signings.
Until the day comes when you decide to tackle that fiction writing goal once and for all; it’s time to put up or shut up! Ok, that’s great – but where do you start? What do you do with all those half-finished stories, scattered quotes and observations scribbled in a dozen notebooks, and that novel which petered out somewhere in the middle of your first draft?
As I mentioned in my previous post, Creative Writing Jumpstart, I chose to enroll in a Creative Writing course through my local adult education program as a means to help me put some structure around my fiction writing goals. It was the first big bite out of eating the proverbial elephant.
For ten glorious weeks, we spent two hours on Monday and Wednesday evenings in the library of our local middle school. The first hour was dedicated to lecture on the various elements of fiction, and for the second hour? You’ll never guess…
Our instructor, Yawatta Hosby, would give us various themes or scenarios, and the class would write short-stories until our time was up. For example, after discussing the element of “setting” and its use in fiction, we were told to describe a forest hiking scene from a character’s perspective – what it feels like, the sights, sounds, animals, textures and so forth.
After Yawatta collected our in-class writing exercise, we would then receive another writing assignment for homework, always due at the next scheduled class time.
I learned a valuable lesson about the benefits of dedicated writing times and deadlines!
However, the best part was getting Yawatta’s feedback. She had a way of energizing the whole class and giving us the encouragement we needed to refine our skills and continue writing. I’d rush home after class, rubbing my hands in anticipation like a little kid with a bag full of candy, eagar to read what Yawatta had to say about my story.
My in-class assignments usually turned out to be around 800 words, and the homework stories a bit more. If you do the math, that’s almost 20 short stories ready to be expanded and turned into final drafts.