Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creative Writing Classes: My Experience

Okay so this is not a post about if taking creative writing courses in college approves your chances to get published or whatever. No the point of this post is to show you a little bit of what a high school writing class is like (in case you're considering taking one or you don't have one at your school but you're still interested in them. Or maybe you just want to compare notes.) But don't take my word for it. This is just my experience and every class is different. Basically, this is my opinion, so far. 

How it begins (dun dun dun).
My writing class in the morning and we begin by getting our computers out. After I get my computers out and plugged in, I go over to where my teacher sits, sit down as far away as possible and take out my laptop. I sit at the front because my own computer doesn't connect to the server-thing that allows to the teachers to spy on you and my teacher believes that (even though she knows I'm a writer) that I *gasp* won't be writing. Which... I always am.

After reading through the daily announcements (and while she's doing that, I pull out any computer documents I might need while I'm writing), she rambles on about something that I already know. Like the other day, another high school got out because they had a bunch of kids sick at once, and so that's the prompt she gave to my classmates to write about. My response was: I hope they get better, cause that's not fun.

We get 20 minutes of free writing time (to write whatever we want. Although if we write about something she finds disturbing (or if you swear too much in the piece), she'll suggest you go talk to the counselor.) Anyways, I always work on my novels. Although because on Fridays we have to submit our "best" pieces to for peer editing and stuff, I've gone to working on Night Lies during class. (I'm okay with people I don't know reading The Cursing, but I'm not all too sure I want people I know reading my horror-ish, dark fantasy quite yet. For my close friends and family, its okay, cause they know me. But most of the student body doesn't.

Anyways, so while my classmates are working on whatever prompt she gives them, I'm typing away and trying to look professional, pounding out as much as my novel in 20 minutes as I can get while trying to glance at my notes when I need them (you're not suppose to stop writing, so it puts a crunch when I need to look at something important.).

After that is done, she usually comments on someone's piece (she has yet to say anything about mine. I know she's seen it because she gets really close to me while I'm tying and breathes down my neck for a few minutes. I'm considering telling her sometimes to get out of my bubble because I can't type!), or rambles on about something related to something that someone else was working on.

And then, class is over.

My thoughts and rants.
Now is where you run away. No not really, I hope not. But hear me out. If you don't really want to read my rant, skip to the next bold point. 

When I signed up for this class, I was hoping to learn something new. I was also hoping to get some feedback on what I've written.

Instead, I find a class where the teacher is more obsessed with your word count goal then actually improving our writing skills and creative thinking. Yes, I know, word counts are important. And while I think its good to aim for a certain amount of words (especially during Nanowrimo), I also find it annoying.

Especially when you're writing a novel where your word count is all over the place because sometimes you don't write as much because you may be writing a lot of dialogue that doesn't involve a lot of words. Or if you're writing something really descriptive.

My daily word count goal is 823 words. My weekly word count is around 4k. When I averaged it out last week (as in, how many words I had written per day) I was only 23 words behind the daily goal. She gave me a B. I wasn't pleased.

The other part that makes me mad is the editing. Yes, while I understand that I'm the only person who cares and I'm not just in the class because its an easy A, I expect a little more than "it was interesting" from one of my classmates. I even had spelling errors and they didn't say anything! While on the other hand, I actually critiqued the 2-page paper I was given. I wrote comments and gave ideas on how to improve the piece. Thankfully, this week we have to give at least 10 comments and actually edit the papers. Of course, I'm not expecting much even so. I'm starting to think that our teacher should teach the class out to properly critique someone else's work.

And the other day, one of my classmates came up with a name. My teacher apparently liked the name and said she was going to use it...but she didn't even ask my classmate's permission! Granted, my classmate didn't really care one way or another, but I thought it was was a bad example, I thought. Because you just don't take other people's things without their permission! I don't even think my teacher was totally serious, just really bugged me.

And I'm sure my teacher doesn't like me...or the fact that I'm working on novels. She told me the other day in front of the whole class that I should "work on something else". I get it. I really do. Working on other things can help your creative juices. But I'll do that if I get writer's block, not when I know what to write and I'm on a roll. Plus when you told us we can work on whatever. My other example is when she asked the class what we thought would make a story more interesting. So I said, "dialogue" because it was the first thing I could think of. And then, she totally shoots down my answer!

"There's more to writing then dialogue, Sareh."


And if she wanted more examples or something like that, she should have said so. But she didn't.

Okay so it isn't all bad. 
I do get 20 minutes to write whatever I want. And I enjoy the silence while I'm typing. And my teacher's prompts does actually help my classmates. And we're going to "explore" or "focus" more on other types of writing.

And by the way guys, while I don't agree with my teacher or how she's teaching the class, I respect her. I think she's smart and has good ideas.

I just strongly disagree.

What I think we could do it improve the class. 
In seven easy steps.

  1. Teach the class things that they can use more often. Besides giving examples of where to find inspiration, she could teach them how to critique stuff. 
  2. Have group discussions: While peer editing on itself is nice, I think it would be even better to talk with our classmates during class about our work. Plus we could have group discussions on certain topics, like...what they think makes or breaks a story. (for example, if you hate the characters, will you still finish the story.) 
  3. Have us read articles related to writing: I can recommend some! And although we have creative writing books, they're really outdated. Plus, reading articles and stuff on writing can teach the class things about writing that the teacher may not know. 
  4. Have us read a piece out loud: Say there's something we'd like to get feedback on in particular, well we could print out copies or read it out loud. And then all chip in on ways to improve it. 
  5. Look at examples of writing: And not like our classmates' stuff, but published authors. We could look at classics, novels, plays, poetry, etc. And discuss what made that story good or what didn't. Look at how each writer's style is different. (And on that note, talk about style). It'd be amazing if we could even get a published author to come talk to us! I know several and there's kids at my school who know several. 
  6. Tell them its okay to write: Obviously there are some things that we should be concerned about if they're writing some disturbing things, but I think that my classmates shouldn't be put down if their writing has a lot of swearing in it (okay, I disapprove of swearing and it is a Christian school, but they don't have to read that stuff out loud. Besides, my point is that there is alot of people out there who have no problem with it.)
  7. Stop acting like its a Word War or a Typing Lesson: Creative writing's classes should not focus on how much writing we actually write in a week or whatever. Sure, the students should be writing, but I think we should focus more on how to improve our writing and stuff like that. If I wanted to impove my wpm, I'd have taken a computer course. Not an English one. 
One last thing:
So there's what my class is like. From my point of view. I think its a nice class, I really do. And don't let this discourage you if you're thinking of taking one. This is just my experience (which will hopefully get better) and I'm minoring in Creative Writing in college. Planning to, at least.  Have you guys ever taken a writing course before? What was it like? Was it more helpful or not? Do you guys think that I'm being oversensitive about this? 



  1. I've never taken a creative writing class; although, I am taking a technical writing class next year where I work in for the school's newspaper. I already know the teacher (I'm taking honor's English with her)and I'm expecting the class to be really great for me. There's a couple reasons for this:
    1. I've learned more grammar from her than I've learned from all writing sites combined. I'm not very grammatically adept but I am slowly, but surely, becoming a grammar nazi. Little errors that I never used to notice now make my eyes itch. It sucks when I'm writing my novel because I stop in the middle of creative flow to see if it looks alright, but I'm sure that as soon as I start editing it will be more than worth it.

    2. She encourages detailed critiques and if you don't get a crit that you like you can always ask her or get it from a student that you know will give a good crit (I have a writer friend that stylistically writes like an old pro so I usually ask him to help me). I have learned to critique better myself too.
    3. We read a lot of articles. These usually come from colleges but they can actually be quite informational.

    Of course there are things that I don't like within the class like the lack of discussion time and habit to say that the symbolism you got from a piece is "wrong", but my teacher focuses more on the author's intent, while I focus more on the reader's feedback and like to see the book more than it's own entity instead of attached to an author.

    My point is that a teacher can usually make or break a class. Nevertheless, you can learn something from everyone and as my mom would say, "Suck out all the good information from their brain and then leave them in the dust." But maybe you can secretly edit or revise while the teacher isn't looking? :D

    1. That teacher sounds cool. I've never really learned lot from English teachers before. Mostly, when I have a question about grammar I go look it up or look for it in a grammar book.

      I really like the critique part. That sounds really nice and the friend sounds cool.

      I agree with you on the reader's feedback. I love getting feedback on my work because then I know if I'm doing something right or if I need to change something.

      I love your mom's quote, it seems like good advice. Hm...I could probably, she's usually distracted with something. ;) Thanks!

  2. Wow. Your teacher sounds like someone I definitely wouldn't get along with. I plan on taking creative writing classes in the future, and I really hope they are a little better!

    And I hate it when the entire class is working on computers and the teacher is just lurking, watching people type. I. SIMPLY. CANNOT. WORK. WITH. SOMEONE. WATCHING. I know exactly how you feel!

    1. I try to be as nice as possible to her, but sometimes I glare at her when she deserves it. I hope so too!

      I know, right? This one time, she was reading over my shoulder and I swear I spent 10 minutes trying to write one little sentence because I couldn't think with her so close!

      Maybe we should get plastic bubbles and sit in them while we type during classes, that way they can't get so close and we can keep most of our sanity intact.


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