Sunday, January 3, 2010


Rembrandt van Rijn-- Rembrandt’s Mother Reading-- 1629 As I mentioned on Thursday, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to become a better writer. You can use your library card and get more information than you can ever find time to absorb.

Sometimes, though, we need a little extra help. When I was writing my first book, I was definitely aware of areas where I had shortcomings. I wanted more information on “show, don’t tell.” I wanted to know how to write a well-crafted synopsis. I wanted to learn more about creating well-rounded characters.

So, I took online classes. And they worked out really well.

Like anything, it depends on the instructor. But the classes I took were taught by working writers. And I only sought out classes that were in the $20-$50 range. Some of them, like the Blog Book Tour class, were free.

In my experience with online classes, they work like this:

*You go to the website find the class you’re interested in. Usually you pay via PayPal or credit card.

*You then will be joined to a Yahoo group, which goes active on the first day of the class.

*The classes that I took usually lasted four weeks, with two lessons posted each week.

*Everyone in the class introduces themselves on the email loop. The instructor introduces himself/herself, gives his/her qualifications, and then provides the syllabus.

*The instructor gives a first lesson, usually in some detail, and with examples of vivid characterization, or plotting, or whatever the class is covering.

*The lesson ends with an exercise for the class members to do individually, then post back to the email loop. The instructor gives feedback on each individual person’s assignment and answers any questions. Usually you have a certain number of days to post on an assignment before you’re expected to move to the next posted lesson and assignment.

There are classes online that run into the hundreds of dollars. I really just can’t recommend those. I think you can get much the same experience, on a wide variety of topics, at a much lower rate.

Here are some links to online organizations and sites that sponsor online classes and their calendar of upcoming workshops. The classes range from $15 to $50.

Have you taken any online classes? What did you like or dislike about them?