Who is this Course For
This course is for anyone who wants to improve the quality of their creative writing. Your level of previous experience doesn't matter, as long as you have a grasp of basic sentence and paragraph structure, as well as an interest in completing several writing assignments to the best of your ability.
What Does This Course Cover
This is a multi-genre course which will cover fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry in depth. The "voice" unit will discuss advice for improving your writing voice in any genre. The concluding unit, "What Now?" will offer advice for dealing with writer's block, publishing your work, and creating a digital portfolio of your writing.
Students who complete this course will have a greater understanding of writing conventions. Your writing will undoubtedly be more effective by the end of this course than it is now. This course will help you build effective communication skills and improve your ability to edit your own writing effectively. This course is meant to boost your confidence as a writer, as I believe that low confidence can stifle creativity.
Numer of Lessons
There are forty total lessons in this course. Lesson one is a course overview, followed by seven lessons on voice, 13 on fiction, nine on creative nonfiction, eight on poetry, and three in the "What Now?" unit which covers publishing, writer's block, and creating a digital portfolio.
This course asks students to complete one major writing assignment, in their preferred genre, which I generally refer to as the final project. Students are to choose to write either a five page or longer essay, a five page or longer short story, OR a collection of ten or more poems.
Readings, Writing Exercises, and Editing Exercises
There are thirteen short reading assignments. Readings mainly consist of essays about the craft of writing, as well as some flash fiction and more than a dozen poems. All readings are required.
Students are asked to complete the writing exercises in their preferred genre's unit, and are welcome to consider exercises in the other two genres optional. However, completing the writing and editing exercises in all three genres is the best way to improve your writing through participation in this course.
For students who complete all exercises in all three genres, there will be twenty total exercises for writing and/or outlining your work, and an additional seven editing exercises.
There are four quizzes in this course. These occur at the end of the voice, fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry units, and cover major concepts and vocabulary from that unit. A review sheet and review lesson will be offered prior to each quiz.
Please see the syllabus as well as the video Lesson One: Course Objectives for additional information on what this course will cover and who is best suited to take it.
Full Course Breakdown
Lesson 1: Course Overview (15 minute video)
This video provides an overview of the content we will cover in this course, my goals for this course, and prerequisites for students. By the end of this video, students will know whether or not this course will meet their learning needs
Assignments: Complete the Student Goals sheet. Identify your main genre and major goals for taking this course.
UNIT 1: VOICE
Lesson 2: Concrete vs. abstract descriptions (9 minute video)
Young and aspiring writers are often told they need to cultivate a unique writing style, or writing voice. This unit will discuss what a writing voice is and how you can improve yours. This lesson focuses on the concepts of concrete and abstract descriptions.
Assignments: Complete the following activities: a short reading exercise, a writing prompt in either fiction, creative nonfiction or poetry, and an editing exercise.
Lesson 3: Review of Voice Assignment (7 minute video)
This lesson will review the Concrete Versus Abstract Descriptions assignment, providing additional ideas to consider.
Lesson 4: Showing Vs. Telling (9 minute video)
This lesson explains the concept of showing versus telling your readers what is going on in the heads of your characters, with methods for utilizing this concept to improve your writing.
Assignments: Read Nuts and Bolts: Thought Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk. Respond to the writing prompt in either fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry.
Lesson 5: Diction (14 minute video)
This lesson defines diction, and explains how understanding the importance of diction can impact how you view your choice of words as a writer. This lesson also explores the importance of reading your work aloud as a highly effective editing tool.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary words and complete the editing assignment.
Lesson 6: Active Versus Passive Voice (9 minute video)
This lesson defines active and passive voice and explains why conventional writing advice recommends writing in the active voice as much as possible.
Assignments: Review the definitions of active and passive voice. Complete the writing prompt in either fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, as well as the editing exercise.
Lesson 7: Voice Unit Review (3 minute video)
This lesson is a review of our unit on voice, where I repeat the major takeaways of this unit and list the vocabulary words you will be quizzed on.
Assignments: Read the definitions and takeaways for this unit, then take the voice unit quiz.
UNIT 2: FICTION
Lesson 8: Intro to Character (11 minute video)
Moving into our unit on fiction, we will begin with an introduction to writing in-depth, interesting characters.
Assignments: Fill out the character sheet about your main character, and optionally, for
supporting characters as well.
Lesson 9: Realistic Characters (11 minute video)
In this lesson I discuss the importance of creating believable characters, and provide advice for how to do so.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary words and complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 10: Character is Plot, Plot is Character (5 minute video)
In this lesson I explain how the concepts of characterization and plot are inextricably linked to one another.
Assignments: Read Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules for Writing Fiction. Complete the
character building exercise.
Lesson 11: Point of View (8 minute video)
Now that you have written and thought in-detail about your main character and some of your supporting characters, it’s time to consider point of view. In this lesson I explain the different points of view in fiction.
Assignments: Review the point of view vocabulary. Read The Difference Between Omniscient Point of View and Head Hopping by Ellen Brock. Complete the short (5 sentence) fiction prompt.
Lesson 12: Choosing a Point of View (14 minute video)
In this video I will list some of the pros and cons of different points of view to help you choose the most effective point of view for your story or novel.
Assignments: Review the pros and cons of different points of view. If you have not yet
chosen a point of view for your story, please do so.
Lesson 13: Tense (6 minute video)
Learn the pros and cons of writing in the past and present tense.
Assignments: If you are still having trouble deciding on a tense, complete the “choosing a tense” prompt. If you are confident in your choice of past or present tense, please edit what you have written so far to make sure that you have written consistently in either past or present.
Complete at least one generative writing prompt in fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. Feel free to complete as many of these prompts as you find useful.
Read Philip Pullman Calls Time on the Present Tense.
Lesson 14: Scene and summary (10 minute video)
In this lesson I define "scene," and "summary," and outline the importance of striking a balance between the two in your writing.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary from the lesson and complete the editing
Lesson 15: Plot Outlining (10 minute video)
Outlining your novel's plot ahead of time can help keep you prevent writer's block and can lead to a more cohesive story in need of less editing later. Lots of novel plot outlining techniques can also help you to think about an effective plot arc for a short story.
Assignments: Watch the very short lecture: Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories.
Outline the plot of your short story (or future novel) using one of three options provided.
Lesson 16: Setting / World Building
Every fiction writer must consider setting, and writers of science fiction or fantasy should also take time to world build.
Assignments: Answer the setting questions. Complete the writing exercise. If you are
writing a science fiction or fantasy story, complete the world building questions as well.
Lesson 17: Conveying Emotion (6 minute video)
Effectively conveying your character's emotions requires a thoughtful balance of showing and telling, as well as a deep understanding of your characters.
Assignments: Complete the “conveying emotion” sheet for your main character.
Lesson 18: Dialogue (10 minute video)
This lesson includes basic grammatical advice as well as best practices for writing effective dialogue in fiction.
Assignments: Read The Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue by Susan Defreitas. Complete
the editing activity. Continue working on your final project. If you are writing in fiction
for your final project, aim to have it finished before embarking on the next unit. This is
not required but would be ideal.
Lesson 19: Powerful Beginnings and Endings (17 minute video)
This is our final lesson in the fiction unit. It will still focus on fiction, but as we are soon transitioning into talking about creative nonfiction and poetry, I will talk about powerful beginnings and endings to those genres as well.
Assignments: Read Everything You Need to Know about Writing Endings on the
NYBookEditors website. Complete the editing exercise.
Lesson 20: Review of Fiction Unit (8 minute video)
We’ve covered a great deal in our fiction unit. To refresh your memory, we covered the concepts of Character, Point of View, Tense, Scene and Summary, Plot Outlining, Setting / World Building, Conveying Emotion, Dialogue, and Powerful Beginnings and Endings.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary, concepts, and major takeaways from this unit.
Complete the Fiction Unit Quiz.
UNIT 3: CREATIVE NONFICTION
Lesson 21: Introduction to Creative Nonfiction (14 minute video)
Creative nonfiction, sometimes called narrative nonfiction or literary nonfiction, is an umbrella term for a genre of writing in which the narrator is telling a true story which utilizes much of the same narrative techniques as fiction.
Assignments: Read On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion. Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 22: Notebooks and Diaries (10 minute video)
In this lesson I will discuss the connection between keeping a notebook or diary, and writing creative nonfiction
Assignments: Choose one of two writing prompts for a writing exercise.
Lesson 23: Comparing with Fiction (11 minute video)
Creative Nonfiction still utilizes much of what we’ve discussed as far as literary techniques for effective voice, concrete sensory description, characterization, a balance of scene and summary, an effective plot arc, and even dialogue.
Assignments: Read The Danger of Disclosure: Online Cultural Criticism by Roxane Gay. Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 24: Voice and Perspective (8 minute video)
There is only one point of view in creative nonfiction- it’s your point of view. Even if you are writing a profile essay about someone else, it will be written from your point of view and the essay will be driven forward by the power of your voice.
Assignments: Read AfterWORDS: The Art of The Start published by Creative Nonfiction magazine. Complete the editing exercise.
Lesson 25: The Personal Essay (10 minute video)
The personal essay is a sub-genre of creative nonfiction that is very popular. Personal essays are of course, like all creative nonfiction, true stories in which the author is the narrator.
Assignments: Read On Homecomings by Ta Nehisi Coates. Complete the writing
Lesson 26: The Profile Essay 10 (minute video)
One of the most popular forms of creative nonfiction essay is the profile. This form of essay appears in journalistic newspapers and magazines as well as literary magazines.
Assignments: Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 27: Travel, Food, and Nature writing (13 minute video)
In this lesson I define travel writing, food writing, and nature writing. These are each sub genres of creative nonfiction which you may wish to explore.
Assignments: Read In The Waiting Room by David Sedaris.
Continue working on your final project. If you are writing in Creative Nonfiction for your
final project, aim to have it finished before embarking on the next unit. This is not required but would be ideal.
Lesson 28: Memoir (14 minute video)
A memoir is a true account of an important period in the author's life. It is a very well-known and popular sub genre of creative nonfiction.
Assignments: Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 29: Unit Review+Quiz (16 minute video)
This is a review of our entire creative nonfiction unit. This video and the supporting document will prepare you for the quiz.
Assignments: Review the material and take the unit quiz.
UNIT 4: POETRY
Lesson 30: Introduction to Poetry (29 minute video)
In this lesson I begin our poetry unit by attempting to define poetry, a task that is trickier than you may think.
Assignments: Read Give It Up! By Franz Kafka and Bath by Amy Lowell. Record your thoughts as to the difference between flash fiction and a prose poem.
Lesson 31: Writing Poetry, getting started (9 minute video)
Now that we have adequately defined what poetry is, I will give you the tools to get started writing it, even if this is your first time.
Assignments: Complete the reading assignment- choose at least four poems from the list
to read before the next lesson. Keep the list on hand and continue returning to it
throughout this unit at your leisure. Future lessons will refer to this document. Please read
all poems on the list by the end of the poetry unit.
Complete writing exercises 1 and 2.
Lesson 32: Poetic Structure (13 minute video)
In this lesson I outline basic poetic structure by defining the terms stanza, line, and line break.
Assignments: Complete the editing and writing exercises.
Lesson 33: Rhyme, Meter, Rhyme, Free Verse (12 minute video)
In this lesson I define rhythm, meter, and rhyme and explain how they function in poetry.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary. Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 34: Sound in Poetry (12 minute video)
This lesson covers the concepts of alliteration, assonance, and consonance, among other figures of speech which give poetry its unique musical sound.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary. Complete the listening exercise and the writing exercise.
Lesson 35: Poetic forms (13 minute video)
In this lesson I define the poetic forms of prose poetry, free verse, blank verse, sonnet, haiku, and ghazal.
Assignments: Read all poems linked in the support file.Complete the writing exercise.
Lesson 36: Editing Poetry (9 minute video)
Editing is an important part of the writing process in any genre, but it is perhaps most important in poetry. In this lesson I explain why that is, and give students the tools to effectively edit their poems.
Assignments: Read Why I Am Not A Painter by Frank O’Hara. Complete the editing assignment.
Continue working on your final project. If you are writing in Creative Nonfiction for your
final project, aim to have it finished before embarking on the next unit. This is not required but would be ideal. There are five optional prompts provided in the support file to help you continue working towards completion of the project.
Lesson 37: Poetry Unit Review (10 minute video)
In this lesson I review some of what we have learned in the poetry unit, to prepare students for the quiz.
Assignments: Review the vocabulary and take the poetry unit quiz.
UNIT 5: WHAT NOW?
Lesson 38: How To Beat Writer’s Block (12 minute video)
In this lesson I provide my favorite tips and tools for avoiding and preventing writer's block.
Assignments: Review my list of advice. Return to this list whenever you are feeling stuck.
Lesson 39: Submitting and Publishing Your Writing (12 minute video)
In this lesson I inform students of the resources they will need to find literary magazines and publishers, and explain how to navigate the submission process. Whether you are interested in publishing now or not quite ready, this is information which may be very helpful to you at some point in your writing life.
Assignments: Review the resources provided, especially if you have interest in submitting and publishing your work.
Lesson 40: Creating a Portfolio (11 minute video)
In this lesson I provide a few examples of acceptable writing portfolio formats and what to include in a writing portfolio.
Assignments: Review the resources provided.