When I was attending Columbia College in my early twenties, I majored in Marketing Communications with a major concentration in Advertising. I took some classes in copywriting but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the fiction writing class. To this day I am glad that I took that class.
The class consisted of me and fifteen to twenty other students making up our own short stories and having to read them out loud to the class and having the class critique it. That was kind of scary because up until then, I had never let anyone read my work before. I was always so afraid to let anyone read my writing because I was afraid of the kind of feedback that I’d get. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
Back in those days, I didn’t write novels yet but this class taught me how to come up with story ideas on the spot, to lose my fear of criticism, and how to use the correct story structure. Everyone’s dialogue use to run together to the point where you couldn’t tell who was saying what to whom. It was bad. I also had a tendency to end all of my stories with a surprise ending and it unnerved my professor so much. But at the time I was inspired by tv shows like The Twilight Zone and One Step Beyond. Those were some of the shows I used to watch as a kid. It was a hard habit to break but I eventually broke out of it.
One of my favorite short stories that I wrote for that class was about a husband who could use his tv remote control to make his nagging wife shut up. It was supposed to be funny. Another one was called The Sock Monster and it was about a monster that lived inside a woman’s dryer and kept eating the socks so that she could never find a pair of socks that matched and tried to kill the monster inside her dryer. That was something that happened to me a lot when doing the laundry so for the story I envisioned a real monster living inside the dryer. Although this class taught me a few things, there were a few things that I didn’t learn in this class that I wish I could’ve. I wanted to learn how to write a full-length novel, how to plot a story, character development, and anything else that would’ve prepared me for what I do now.
I have to say that being in an actual classroom full of other writers was a lot more fun than the online writing course that I took last year. So, if you get the opportunity to do in classwork, do it. This gave me a chance to experience having my work judged and also having to see their faces when they did it. Which is scary. The class was pretty diverse and everyone had their own opinion and couldn’t wait to share it. Now, this could’ve been very detrimental to the low self-esteem that I already had. But luckily the class was not filled with mean and vindictive students. Everyone got along and just had fun with it.
Having people judge your writing in person is far scarier than having your books reviewed on amazon. The only difference is that millions of people could see your bad reviews and it can make other people not want to buy your book so it’s better to develop a thick skin early so that it won’t devastate you as much later on. The first bad review is the hardest but you get over it. Don’t let it break you.
A writing teacher can teach you how to write correctly but only you can teach yourself how to make it entertaining. If you have a gift for storytelling this should come easy. But it’s okay to get a little extra help and take a class or two to polish your skills. Reading books on writing is also helpful since not everyone can afford to take a College course. There’s also plenty of online writing classes to give you more knowledge. You can never know too much about anything so if you want to make writing your career, learn everything you can. I promise you it will make a huge difference and turn something that was just a hobby at first, into something that could make money and turn you into the kind of writer that you’ve always dreamed of being. Always remember that you are never too old to go back to school.
Until next time…