A Personal View on Online Classes #1

ONLINE CLASSES

I am starting off my review of the online courses I’ve taken with one that I just finished up. At the time I signed up, this class was a full year class. The updated offering is six months. I approve of the change. One year is a long time to commit to a class. As we all know, life has a way of disrupting the best laid plans. I think the new time frame allows for a much needed break.

Here’s the announcement on http://www.savvyauthors.com

#1 Your Fantasy Novel Start to Finish – A Six Month Mentored with P. June Diehl

Is this you? You love reading urban and/or paranormal fantasy. You have an idea for a fantasy and you’re not sure where to begin. Maybe you have tried to start a fantasy novel, but got lost in the middle. Or, if you WANT to write a fantasy, but haven’t fleshed out a concrete idea, this year-long novel writing course is for you.

The main focus of the class will be on the urban/paranormal fantasy, but anyone interested in writing a fantasy novel is welcome!

Over the course of the year, we will cover, in detail, all the craft elements of writing, while working on a draft, moving into the revision process, and ending up with a manuscript that is ready for submission.

WHEN: Apr 2, 2012 – Sep 29, 2012

COST: $100/mo for 6 months ($100 deposit due at registration) or
Save 10% with $540 lump sum payment
$100/mo ($100 deposit due at registration) or
Save 10% with $1080 lump sum payment for Basic Members

FORMAT:

This class is different from the type of class in which the teacher posts lectures, and assignments and then provides immediate feedback. Lectures are posted. Assignments to practice what is covered in the lectures are available and you have the option to post homework, but it is not mandatory. The emphasis is on your wip, not the assignments. That said, questions about the material in the lectures were answered and the teacher did give feedback on the homework throughout the year.

Here’s what you have to work with:

1. Class Journal: You have your own journal which you use to post updates on your progress, ask questions, post links, post excerpts, etc. It is visible to other students and to the teacher.

2. Student Forums: broken into three sections: Assignment/homework, novel, critiques. This is where you post your work. Each student has a forum visible on the board so fellow students can see your work as well as the teacher.

3. Sub forums: This is where the teacher assignments, class discussions, classmate introductions, administrator& moderator posts, character interaction, and journals are available.

4. Chatroom: June’s Peeps was a great place to get together for writing discussions.

* What you get out of these tools depends on how active you are in class or ( as in my case) what you need to get out of class.

My personal needs: I needed accountability, occasional feedback, interaction with my classmates, and access to links and/or material pertaining to various elements of writing. Within a month of starting, I hooked up with three other writers who were looking for a support group and we set up a schedule to meet weekdays at 8pm-10pm and weekends at 10am -12pm. We created that schedule based on a vote between our group members.

My expectations: I had a first draft in need of revision. My goal was to fix it. I ended up in DEEP revision. In the process of learning how to revise, I took a number of classes outside of this class. It is important to note that this class is about working with other writers and having access to an experienced author. We were given assignments and access to links that provided more detailed information of the topic for discussion that week, however, it was up to us to use the links and then apply the information to our wips.

How I used the class: Although it was clearly stated that I should have a finished manuscript for the class, I did go through a annoying period of indecision during which I hopped back and forth between two novels. That was my problem . Once I decided on the novel for the class, I got on board. It turned out that my draft had a number of serious problems and I needed to go outside for classes on these elements because I wanted an intensive class on each issue. I chose to do it that way because I work well in a rigid class structure with a narrow focus on a single topic.

For instance, I was big into draft avoidance. I took a two week class to get past that and settle into a work mode. I also struggled with my opening chapter. I took a class to address that in my wip and then posted my results in this fantasy class for feedback. At one point, I was interested in layering scenes and chose to take a two week class on that single topic. Of course I used a scene from my wip.

Basically, I worked on my novel weakness with mentors* who specialized in each element of writing and then I applied what I learned to the wip and posted the results in the fantasy class. This may or may not be how others used this class.

* I wish to reiterate that I found my mentors in many different places online.  I wanted people who specialized in the area I needed to address. I also needed a time frame.  Some classes were two weeks, others were four weeks.  I’ll be mentioning them in upcoming posts on this topic.

The Outcome: It took me a year to work through the kinks in my draft. During that period, I learned a lot about the format of the novel. The last six months were the most productive because I had acquired the skills I needed to apply to the novel. I learned about how to approach revision and how to build character arcs. I learned how to get rid of stereotypical characters and mismatched plotlines. Most importantly, I learned accountability. Once I knew I would be getting a phone call from June, I fell into a steady work schedule.

I now have a deep revision outline that is far better than what I had at the beginning of the class. With June guiding me, providing encouragement and feedback, I tightened the novel, got rid of the inconsistencies in plot & character, and now have a very powerful, directed outline that breaks down my story into the main plot, subplots and secondary plotlines. It’s a far better beast then the one I dragged into class. I am pleased with what I accomplished in one year. I recommend this class to writers who have a complete manuscript.

Raven

For anyone interested in June Diehl’s biography:

BiographyP. June Diehl is the Editorial and Senior Editor for Virtual Tales, the Senior SF Editor for ePress-Online, and also coaches authors.

She has a Bachelor of Science (Education) degree from Madison College, a Masters of Education from James Madison University, and taught in several public schools systems.

Author of THE MAGIC & THE MUNDANE: A Guide for the Writer’s Journey, she teaches and mentors writing classes online at Writer’s Village University and for Pearls of Writing as well as having conducted workshops on various elements of creative writing both online and locally. She is enrolled in UCLA’s Writing Program, focusing on long and short fiction.

Ms. Diehl has published poetry, short stories, and articles online and in print. She’s finalizing a novel and working on four others. The author lives in Virginia with three cats and a dog.

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