Michille: Continuing Education

keepeducating600This blog was created when our crew completed the McDaniel College Romance Writing Certificate Program and were unwilling to stop talking about writing craft and didn’t want the relationships that we’d formed to disappear. Since then, we’ve all continued learning craft in various ways. The annual Romance Writers of America has been a consistent avenue (although it will be poorly attended by our posse this year). Several of us have continue to learn throughout the year from this by purchasing the session recordings. Graduate coursework (credit and noncredit), mini-courses, web blogs, local conferences and chapters, etc, are all learning modalities that we’ve used.

Recently, I completed an online course called “Getting Serious About Writing a Series.” Actually, I participated in it. I didn’t really complete it. All of the McD courses were online and I got so much out of them, but I found that I just didn’t get much out of the Series course. The main reason could be that there was no grade. There was no incentive for me to complete the assignments other than the personal satisfaction. But another reason was the lack of social presence I felt in that class versus the McD program (which might go back to the grade thing). In McD, the grading criteria very clearly stated that we were required to make a minimum of three substantive posts in each module/thread every week in order to get an A. It was a graduate-level program, and I was determined to get a 4.0 in the certificate program and in my masters (not that Latin honors apply to an MLA, but still). I used the certificate program as my specialization area for my MLA. Being required to post every week, and respond to those of others created a social group very like a regular classroom and that is a crucial component of on line learning (my husband wrote his dissertation on this topic, so I am probably more tuned to The Role of Social Presence in Online Communities than most). Social presence requires more give-and-take on the part of all participants, so with more given there is more to take away.

The annual RWA conference has always been a huge (and often overwhelming) learning experience for me. There is a lot of give and take there – with 2,500 romance writers gathered to learn and collaborate and network about romance writing specifically and good writing craft in general. I attended a local conference a number of years ago and it was pretty good, too. I am considering another local one in March with the hope of getting a boost of craft knowledge/understanding and motivation with a side goal of meeting more writers in Maryland so I have a close network of writers, in addition to this global network.

I’m not a member of the Maryland RWA chapter. I live an hour away from where they meet and the meetings are held at a time that isn’t convenient for the family schedule (except on rare occasions). I might be able to start making some of the meetings now that the kids are older, but it would be hit or miss until the Boy Child goes off to college in a year and a half. I’m sure it would be beneficial, though, once I can fit it into my priorities. For example, today’s meeting topic is “Seven Steps to Sensual Tension” with Christi Barth. And there are several published authors that I would love to meet and chat with: Mindy Klasky, Rebecca York, Robin Kaye, Mary Jo Putney, and others. I’m sure I would learn a lot from the presentations, the collaborative atmosphere, and the networking.

What do you use for continuing your education about the craft of writing fiction?

10 thoughts on “Michille: Continuing Education

  1. I follow a few writer blogs, including Chuck Wendig, and Jenny Crusie’s writing/romance, and I have signed up for RWA National in San Diego. I’ll be very interested to see whether the west coast vibe is different compared to last year’s conference in NY. I’m currently trying to write in a different sub-genre and if I enjoy it, I think it might lead me to choose a different selection of workshops this year.

    Other than that, I’m trying to stay away from craft classes and books, because I’ve just started working on a new story and I’m in discovery mode. I’m trying to turn off my inner editor, write now and fix later, and I wish I could stop second-guessing myself.

    • I’m so sorry I’m going to miss RWA and seeing you and the rest of the 8Ladies. I’ll be interested to hear your take on the west coast. I’ve never been there.

      Good luck with the new sub-genre. I think it is an excellent idea to stay away from craft classes while writing. I know during the McD program, it was paralyzing at times to try to write knowing that the craft wasn’t up to snuff.

  2. I’ve stopped taking classes and workshops for now, because I would very much like to finish my current WIP by summer, and it’s giving me fits. When I run into a snag, which has just happened AGAIN, I try to analyze what’s wrong and then look for an article or a blog post that addresses that problem. I recently read a post by Jennifer Crusie on reversals that I thought would fix my current problem, so I tried it. Alas, it did not work. So perhaps that’s due to my lack of skill, or perhaps that solution doesn’t address my problem. But in general, I’m looking for smaller bits of advice than what a class or workshop provides.

    And—for me, anyway, the McD program was so great, everything else has paled by comparison. Which is not to say I couldn’t get good advice and ideas from other programs, but I haven’t felt the urge so far to take the plunge.

    • DO NOT blame your lack of skill. I’ve read a couple of your books. They’re great! A stumbling block is not indicative of lack of skill. You’ll fix it.

      And I agree on the McD program being fabulous. That and RWA have been the best things I’ve done, ever. I wouldn’t mind trying the Margie Lawson immersion thing when I have my current WIP done and the first edits done. That sounds like it could be very useful.

      Good luck with you current road block.

    • I just finished reading Zero Gravity Outcasts and I LOVED it! I want another one! (Now do you feel like Jenny, with your fans bugging you to write the book they want?)

      Which reminds me, I need to write an Amazon review for it. It rocked!

      • I second that. I loved Zero Gravity Outcasts and would love a series from that cast of characters. I’ve never written an Amazon review yet, though I read them all the time and I sometimes feel guilty about not contributing. Maybe Kay’s book would be a good place to start.

  3. I would love to do a Margie Lawson immersion and I find Mary Buckham’s classes really useful, but mostly I feel like right now I just need to write a lot to solidify what I learned at McD.

    I’ve spent a couple of weeks chasing my tail, plotwise, but I think I’m back on track to finish an actual, readable draft in another month or so.

    One reason I can tell I’m getting near the end is I’m starting to think a bit about the next book. That seems to be the most reliable sign, that my brain is freeing up from my WIP to look toward the next story.

    • So true – about looking forward to the next one. I’ve been stuck and then a new character popped into my head that leads into the next but really feeds my current story, especially the stuck parts.

      I’ll have to check out Mary Buckham. I’m not familiar with her classes.

  4. McD was great! I have been thinking about trying to find some online class specific to short story speculative fiction, but, well, 1) time, and 2) could it live up? I don’t know. My youngest will be moving closer to her high school in April, so I’ll either have more free time, or fall into a depression. Could go either way, I suppose.

    Continuing education: I read a couple of articles a week, and sometimes I binge-read my favorite writing blogs. I belong to a mailing list that often discusses the writer’s viewpoint as well as the reader’s — lots of fan ficcers and some published writers on that one. Right now, though, my biggest thing is “learn by doing.”

    When we teach foreign languages, ideally we have three steps. The first is input. In the case of fiction, that’d be read lots of good fiction to see how it’s done and get a feel for the thing. The second is drilling: I guess that would setting aside time for exercises. I don’t do that enough, and that’s one reason why I love the Friday sprints (even though I’m late to the party). Then the third is to do it with our own ideas. Mix it up, change it out, and produce, produce, produce.

    Taking classes really helps with one and two; I think the inner editor is too vigilant to make it easy to do number three. In class, I got so caught up in little tangles, and spent weeks circling the same problems. I wish I had disciplined myself to spend half the time doing that, and half the time writing where nobody would see me. But I’m not sure my brain works that way. The little problems eat up the creative problem-solving that should go to the story. Both need work, of course, so maybe the better thing for me would be to spend three months writing, three months practicing.

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