Dramaquill's All Things Writing

August 24, 2010

Short on cash? FREE online writing courses.

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Do you want to try your hand at writing and don’t know how to start?

Are you finding it hard to justify paying for a writing program until you see whether or not writing is really something you want to do?

Have you written a rough draft of a book or screenplay and want to know if you’re on the right track?

Here are some FREE online writing courses that may help those who are struggling to decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in writing.   This is just a list and none of the courses are endorsed by me nor do I have any relationships to any of the websites/teachers/programs etc.

Check them out – you never know what you might learn.

Each lesson is in streaming video & audio.

Free screenwriting course taught by a former UCLA professor

Free online writing courses from 10 different universities

50+ free online writing courses (mostly MIT)

These sites seem to be a good place to start and also actually have free lessons.  Many search results lead to sites that don’t so hopefully you’ll find something of interest here.

Another amazing online resource is free articles.  They can be found absolutely everywhere.  Google your genre and you’ll find blogs and websites filled with free information and advice, much of it from professionals already successful in the writing biz.

So if you don’t have the money to take writing classes, don’t let that stop you from following your muse into the world of writing.

August 13, 2010

How to Write that excellent first chapter for your Novel

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Nothing is more important than the opening chapter of any novel.  As a writer, you have to hook your potential reader, often within the first couple of paragraphs.  If you do not have a strong opening and an enticing first chapter, chances are you won’t even get your book in print, let alone sell any copies.

 So how do you make your writing stand out from its competition?

 There are several scenarios to entice a potential reader:

 ¨      Conflict:   Have two people engaged in a heated argument

¨      Excitement:  Use a situation, like a first-time experience or arriving at an interesting destination or holding a winning lottery ticket

¨      Suspense:  Someone is being watched or followed

¨      Attraction:  Your main character has just entered a room and immediately feels an undeniable attraction to someone else

¨      Character:  Introduce us to someone unlike anyone we’ve ever met before.  Create strong characters with three-dimensional personalities so that we’ll care what happens to them

¨      Pace:  Keep the writing moving – don’t weigh it down with too much description

¨      Excellent Writing:  Strong prose/vivid language/active not passive/engaging

¨      New Ideas:  Don’t be cliché.  Make sure you’re writing something new, not just another version of what’s already been overdone.

Never settle for your first draft.  Writing is a craft that must be honed and tweaked until you create your very best.  You can achieve this in a number of ways:

 ¨      Read first chapters of published books in your genre and analyze what makes you want to keep reading

¨      Join a critique group (either online or in person) and get feedback

¨      Pay a professional to critique your work

¨      Put your chapter away for a few days and re-read it with fresh eyes, noting where you can make it stronger

¨      Revise…revise…revise until your writing sparkles

¨      Aim for your absolute best – don’t settle for anything less

¨      Watch out for careless errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar

¨      Read books on writing to hone your craft

¨      write…write…write – practice makes perfect after all

¨      Take courses online, by correspondence or at accredited institutions

 Ask yourself what makes you pick up a book and read it through to the end?  Start there.  If you write something you know you’d want to read, chances are others will want to read it too.

 From all that I’ve read from editors, publishers and agents, many writers submit work that just isn’t their best effort.  Don’t let that be you!

August 9, 2010

How to get the most from a critique group

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I’ve belonged to several critique groups over the past ten years.  Each one operated in a slightly different way but basically offered the same thing:  a forum for posting my writing and receiving feedback.

How can one get the most from a critique group?  Here are some things I’ve learned from my participation over the years:

  1. Decide what you need from a group and what you have to offer in return.
  2. Make sure that the group has writers of a compatible level, ie, if you are an intermediate writer, and seriously working on publishing a book, don’t join a group for beginning novelists.
  3. Develop a rapport with the members – get to know them as people.
  4. Be open to criticism.  After all, that’s why you joined. 
  5. Don’t get defensive.  Critiquing is subjective.  If you don’t agree with something someone else has said, then pass it by.
  6. Respect the opinion of all members as just that – their opinion.
  7. Realize that you don’t have to implement every suggestion.  Only use what you feel makes your writing/manuscript better.
  8. Be honest but not mean.
  9. Learn to disagree and move on.
  10. Accept that some groups may end up not meeting your needs.  It’s okay to leave and find another group.

In all my groups I have seen success come to a variety of members in everything from being published in magazines to book deals. 

But most of all, I’ve enjoyed the journey of meeting writers from all walks of life and in various stages of their careers. 

Whether you meet in person, or online, I believe belonging to a good critique group is invaluable for any writer.

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