Online fiction writing classes can wholly transform your writing journey—if you come into the course with the right mindset. Online fiction writing workshops can build community and fine-tune your craft abilities but, like other creative writing courses, you might not know how to approach your first online fiction workshop.
Here are eight key tips to keep in mind for your next online fiction writing course, to ensure that the experience brings inspiration, challenge, and growth for your fiction writing.
8 Tips for Success in an Online Fiction Writing Course
If you’re thinking of taking an online fiction writing course in the near future—including any of the fiction courses at Writers.com—then make sure to consider these eight tips before the class starts.
1. You Get What You Give
In online fiction writing classes, as in life, you get what you give. Your learning and growth is directly related to the amount of time you spend working with prompts, sharing feedback for fellow students, incorporating their feedback and the instructor’s feedback for you, and challenging yourself with new ideas.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be a get-up-and-go type of person, or a workaholic. Online fiction workshops are a great space for passionate writers and self-motivated people—as well as for writers who need a community to give them structure and focus. It just means that you need to be willing to dive in and give the course your best.
Giving 100% to your coursework can help you achieve the following:
- Clarity about what “works” in your stories.
- A deeper understanding of the craft elements of fiction.
- Opportunities to experiment with language, plot, and other devices of fiction writing.
- Stronger relationships with your peers and instructor.
2. Online Fiction Workshops Have a Time Commitment, and Involve Lots of (Fun!) Work
Obviously, you have to commit time to your online fiction writing workshop, but expect to commit a decent amount of hours. We generally recommend students put 5-10 hours a week into our fiction classes, between writing your own new work each week and weekly group workshopping.
Generally, our students do better in their coursework if they designate a certain time each day for their online fiction writing course. If you commit an 30-60 minutes every morning or every evening, you will create a productive writing habit that you can approach with a clear, focused mind.
With this time commitment comes a decent amount of work, so be prepared to really engage your brain in your online fiction writing classes.
While a fiction class is work, it should feel more like an enjoyable investment in your own passion.
What do you do in an online fiction workshop? The work in your class can involve any or all of the following:
- Writing your own fictional stories.
- Reading and critiquing stories from other students.
- Working on story edits and incorporating feedback.
- Assigned readings and discussion from the instructor.
- Reaching out for additional help and instruction, as needed.
While a fiction class is work, it should feel more like an enjoyable investment in your own passion, rather than work as in “mandatory schooling.” If your online fiction writing course is feeling like busywork to complete, rather than a commitment of energy you look forward to making, contact your instructor or the organization who runs your course. Whether writing is a hobby or a career for you, this experience should be a creative space to explore and expand upon your fiction writing, so don’t feel afraid to speak up if it isn’t feeling that way.
3. There is Often At Least As Much Reading as Writing
Pull out your reading glasses, because online fiction writing classes will make you love reading! Your instructor has been reading and writing for years, so they will likely assign readings that challenge, inspire, and provoke you. On top of this, you should also read and learn from the stories that your classmates submit.
If you’re signing up for a writing class, why is there so much reading? In fact, reading is often the best way you can grow your skills as a writer. We use the term “reading as a writer” when we talk about reading stories to examine their craft elements. How does the writer make their plot so effective? What makes these characters feel lifelike? How does the writing style develop the mood?
These are questions you should be asking as you read the works of other writers and comment on the fiction from other students. By asking these questions, you train your own brain to make these considerations as you write your own fiction.
At the end of a course, you should have a greater perspective on how to approach your work. If you don’t love reading now, you will at the end of your online fiction writing course!
4. There’s No Single “Standard” of Good Writing
What makes a story “good”? While literary theorists have a general set of conventions, great stories break the rules all the time. As such, there can be many good writers in an online fiction writing workshop, each of whom are good for their own distinct reasons.
Additionally, if there was only one “standard” of good writing, then we wouldn’t have different genres, styles, or eras of fiction. Horror writing is certainly different from literary fiction, but great writing can exist in both genres; you might not compare Stephen King to Margaret Atwood, but both writers have proven themselves as masters of the craft.
The point: don’t compare yourself too much to other writers. If you admire what another writer does in their work, try to learn from that writer’s style and voice! However, all writers are good for their own unique reasons, yourself included.
5. Prepare for Constructive Criticism
Most online fiction workshops involve discussion and interaction with other writers, unless you choose to take private tutoring sessions. As a result, you will give and receive constructive criticism.
What does good constructive criticism look like? Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, constructive criticism includes the following elements:
- Noting what’s working well in the piece. How does it accomplish telling an effective story?
- Noting what needs improvement. How can the piece be edited to achieve its goal(s)?
- Offering suggestions for edits. What can be rewritten, added, or removed?
- Offering further readings. What does this piece remind you of, and what can the writer pull from for inspiration?
If the criticism you receive doesn’t include these elements, or if it only points out areas of improvement without noting what works, then the writer of that feedback isn’t invested in your growth as a writer. Be cautious of critiques that are overly negative, as well as feedback that doesn’t consider your overall goals with the story. If you receive feedback like this, always notify the instructor—after all, the class should be invested in everyone’s growth.
Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. You decide what works best for your creative writing.
Finally, don’t be afraid of constructive criticism. At the end of the day, you decide what works best for your creative writing. If you think that certain feedback misses the mark, or if you choose to take your story in a different direction, you have the power to do so! Just be sure you listen to the feedback you receive and give it serious consideration.
6. Don’t Let Ego Inhibit Your Learning
This point is related to the previous one. To get the most out of your online fiction writing course, make sure your ego won’t be in the way. If you take the course because you want other people to celebrate or admire your writing without critique, then you are taking the course for the wrong reason. Online fiction workshops should challenge your growth and point out opportunities, as well as celebrate the things you do right in your writing.
Of course, most people love praise. The best feedback will include praises for what went well in your work—after all, you need to know what’s working as well as what isn’t. But, only focusing on the praise prevents you from making a story even stronger. (That’s not to say the best feedback is hypercritical; in fact, this feedback isn’t constructive at all, and should be reported to the instructor if you think it’s hurtful or unhelpful.)
Try to approach the workshop with an open and receptive—but still critical—mindset.
An online fiction workshop’s purpose is to gain insight into what other readers might observe as they read your fiction. Taking notes from these observations and improving the story from there is essential, so try to approach the workshop with an open and receptive—but still critical—mindset.
7. Research the Online Fiction Workshop Instructor
It’s often the instructor who makes the course memorable, not the curriculum.
It’s often the instructor who makes the course memorable, not the curriculum. You will get the most out of your online fiction writing classes if you make sure the instructor is knowledgeable in your needs as a writer. Do some research to make sure the instructor is:
- Well-versed in your genre and style of fiction writing.
- Capable of teaching writers in your stage of expertise.
- Willing to work with the subject matter of your fiction.
If you aren’t sure about these things, try to reach out to the instructor! Most creative writing teachers are more than happy to discuss these and other questions you may have, as they want to share their love of the craft with as many people as possible.
8. Online Fiction Writing Classes Are a Community
Despite the physical distance of taking a digital course, online fiction workshops often develop an intimate, community-based feeling. As writers share their works, feelings, and frustrations, they tend to grow together and learn how to help each other better. If you participate often enough, you will certainly make new friends at the end of the course.
A writing community will transform your writing journey.
A writing community will transform your writing journey. It gives you an opportunity to ask for feedback long after the course ends. And, when you finally put your work to print, you know you can get a few book sales from your community members! Finally, a writing community makes the journey a lot more exciting. While all writers walk their own individual writing path, sharing our journeys with others makes the process even more rewarding.
Join An Online Fiction Workshop at Writers.com
Of course, not all classes develop the same intimacy, but the best online fiction writing classes feel like a community. We’d like to think our courses feel the same way! The fiction writing courses at Writers.com are engaged, community-oriented, and seek to inspire new, fantastic stories. Take a look at some of our course offerings in fiction!
With these tips in mind, you’ll make any online fiction writing course work for your writer’s journey. We hope you take one with us.
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