Creative writing class.. worth it?

Questions, skill improvement, and respectful critique involving game writing.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
Aiyumi
Newbie
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:06 pm
Tumblr: daisyryan
Deviantart: daisyryan
Contact:

Creative writing class.. worth it?

#1 Post by Aiyumi » Wed Aug 03, 2016 10:50 am

I am trying to start my first VN game, and I have some vague ideas of how I want the MC's personality. I want to MC to have a troubled past and for her to be a bit damaged due to it, so it'll be a deep story. I am basing her character partially on myself and other people I know because I want her to seem believable and realistic.
I haven't even begun to come up with personalities for the other characters or "options" I guess you could call them.

Because I don't really have any writing experience, and I want my story to be as believable as possible, I'm considering taking a creative writing class.
I know there are much cheaper online options, but I feel I need to go somewhere I can write freely and not be constantly interrupted by life and family/dogs.
I suffer from ADD and I am very easily distracted, so even typing at home on my comp I am easily distracted by social media, notifications, internet etc and especially when I'm trying to research online.

Does anyone else have any of these problems when trying to write? How to you work around it and did you take any classes?

Thank you <3

User avatar
SundownKid
Lemma-Class Veteran
Posts: 2299
Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:50 pm
Completed: Icebound, Selenon Rising Ep. 1-2
Projects: Selenon Rising Ep. 3-4
Organization: Fastermind Games
Deviantart: sundownkid
Location: NYC
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#2 Post by SundownKid » Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:20 am

Personally, I think if there's a screenwriting class you can take, take that instead. I don't know whether it was the teacher and not the class, but I took both screenwriting and creative writing, and found screenwriting to be more heavy on the "practical" aspects of making a good story, and creative writing not so much. Also, VN's are a bit like screenplays in that they have scenes with dialogue and characters who appear on-screen...

User avatar
andrewngn13
Regular
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 2:41 pm
Projects: Recast
Skype: andrewngn13
Location: Glued to my desktop
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#3 Post by andrewngn13 » Wed Aug 03, 2016 11:29 am

I like to just sit myself down to a light novel and read through it. Maybe put on some light music while I'm flipping through the pages. It depends on the novel, but they usually tend to always be in a first person view and be dialogue heavy, which is how most VN I've encountered are structured on.

That's just my way to get a feel for how I want to write though, I think the best way is to get someone else's opinion on your story.
"Feel feel to idea-bounce off me."
No, like seriously, just send a pm and I'll respond what I think. I'm open to reading anything.

User avatar
Aiyumi
Newbie
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:06 pm
Tumblr: daisyryan
Deviantart: daisyryan
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#4 Post by Aiyumi » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:44 pm

SundownKid wrote:Personally, I think if there's a screenwriting class you can take, take that instead. I don't know whether it was the teacher and not the class, but I took both screenwriting and creative writing, and found screenwriting to be more heavy on the "practical" aspects of making a good story, and creative writing not so much. Also, VN's are a bit like screenplays in that they have scenes with dialogue and characters who appear on-screen...
Did your screenwriting class teach character development?

User avatar
Godline
Veteran
Posts: 494
Joined: Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:26 am
Completed: numerous
Tumblr: godlinegames
Deviantart: godline-games
itch: godline
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#5 Post by Godline » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:05 pm

I vote no, but that's because I've never taken one. I think you develop writing by writing. And by being humble enough to take criticism. And by being self-assured enough to say 'screw 'em. I'm gonna write what I want to write'.

But for one thing. Why do you want to write a VN if it's not your strong point? Or why would you want to write it alone?

Plus, believable shmievable. It doesn't really matter about believability as long as it's interesting... and makes sense.

User avatar
RotGtIE
Veteran
Posts: 321
Joined: Thu Nov 13, 2014 11:33 am
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#6 Post by RotGtIE » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:43 pm

No class is going to fix your attention span.

User avatar
Kuiper
Regular
Posts: 153
Joined: Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:16 am
Completed: Cursed Lands, Trial by Fire
Projects: Necrobarista, Idol Manager
Organization: Route 59 Games
Tumblr: kuiperblog
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#7 Post by Kuiper » Sat Aug 06, 2016 4:47 am

I took several creative writing classes as electives when I was in college. Here are the main benefits I got:

Being in the class forced me to write on a weekly basis

The biggest problem that a lot of "aspiring writers" seem to have is that they don't actually write. There are lots of people who say they'd like to write a novel, or a screeplay, or a VN, but they just can't find the time to actually sit down and write the damn thing, even though in the past week they somehow managed to find time to make dozens of internet forum posts and spend 10+ hours playing video games. That was me, for a long time.

Being in a creative writing class gave me weekly deadlines. We had one writing assignment each week, and also had to submit several larger projects (short stories, ~5k words each) several times throughout the semester. I knew that my performance in that class would affect my GPA, and besides that, the class provided me with social pressure (there was peer critiquing, so everyone in the class would know if I failed to keep up with the class writing assignments). That forced me to actually complete the assignments and spend time each week writing.

The class forced me to actually finish things

The other perennial problem of the "aspiring writer" is that they start ambitious projects and usually drop them before making significant progress. The first time I sat down to "write a novel," I was in elementary school. I wrote one chapter (about 3 pages), and after that, I got bored with the project and gave up on it. This pattern repeated through my years in middle school and high school: I'd get a new idea for a story, spend a few days brainstorming enthusiastically, and then I'd actually sit down to write the thing and get bored within a few days. I abandoned the majority of my projects.

Class projects didn't let me do the same thing. I couldn't just write the first half of a story and then submit it for a grade. (Well, I could, but the grade wouldn't be very good.) So I started actually writing endings for my stories. My endings weren't always good. In fact, a lot of them were quite bad, because I had lots of practice with beginnings, but no practice with endings. Writing endings isn't easy, but it does get easier with practice, and enrolling in that creative writing class forced me to get that practice.

I got writing advice from an actual author

This is the place where your mileage will likely vary the most, depending on the instructor you get, but one of the things that constantly frustrated me throughout my many years of mandatory English literature classes in middle school and high school was that I was being taught to analyze and critique stories by teachers who had no experience with actually writing them. It seemed to me that in any other field, the people who did the "critiquing" (such as peer review in scientific fields) were experts themselves, yet English literature seemed to entirely be the domain of people whose writing expertise was limited to penning essays about boring subjects like symbolism in Moby Dick. I was an avid reader of novels. Oh, how I wish that I could have sat down with one of those authors and hear what they had to say about the topic of writing, instead of sitting in a class listening to a teacher prattle on about their interpretation of an author's work!

It was amazingly refreshing to have a class with someone who was actually an author. It really helped to "demystify" the writing process, which seemed to be the opposite of what my English lit classes in high school had focused on. Also, this is purely a psychological thing, but a big part of the "demystification" came from the fact that it made professional writing seem very attainable to me. When I was a kid, I thought that "novelist" was a career similar to "professional baseball player," a profession that an incredibly talented and lucky tiny minority would get to experience, the kind of profession that was completely out of reach for 99.999% of the population. Getting to spend several hours out of every week in the same room with a pro author who had the chance to speak about her own experience entering trade publishing made that "dream-like" goal of becoming a novelist somehow very real and attainable.

Peer review is critical

This is another place where your mileage will vary. I ended up placing directly into a 200-level writing course (I skipped the "introduction to creative writing" and placed into "intermediate creative writing," so I had the benefit of getting to sit around a table every week with a lot of other people who were serious about improving their writing, many with ambitions of pursuing a career in trade publishing. (My understanding is that my "creative writing 101" classes are filled with people who want to write "for fun" and are literally fanfic-tier writers, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you're just the kind of person who wants to have fun writing fanfiction, but I was really happy to be surrounded by people who were serious about getting published (or at the very least, improving their craft), and their feedback was also helpful, the kind that let me know the specific areas I needed to improve on while also letting me know what my strengths were.

The caveat that comes with every piece of advice is that you have to consider the source, which is another reason that I'd have some reservations about some "creative writing 101" people with the "I write just for fun" and "this fanfic will be my magnum opus" attitude: I'd worry that their ability to assess good or bad writing might not be adequate to provide me with useful feedback. So again, the higher the barrier to entry, the better experience you'll get.

For a lot of people, the peer-review process in a creative writing class may be their first experience with a writing group, and in fact I've seen many cases where people who were classmates together went on to form a writing group and continue their relationship even after the class ended.

I'd like to note that there really is no substitute for a good writing group. The class provided me with a writing group as part of its structure, but if you're not part of a writing class, I really recommend that you seek out a group of writers who are roughly your same skill level so that you can submit your work and get honest feedback about what your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer. You can theoretically get non-writers to critique your work, but in my experience, this doesn't work out so well: people who are your friends are more inclined to be "nice" to your work and hesitant to point out flaws. And peope who aren't your friends aren't so likely to take the time to actually read your stuff and critique it. Non-writers also sometimes lack the vocabulary to offer a helpful critique of your work. Online critique forums exist, but the dwellers of many of these forums treat every thread as a contest to see who can point out the most flaws. (The Cinema Sins Youtube channel is a good example of this mentality, and it's something that I recommend you avoid because it's not really constructive to your development as a writer.) And on the opposite side of things, you have forums that embrace a "group hug" mentality, where everyone is praised purely for the effort they put in, and the courage they've demonstrated just by posting. That also doesn't help you improve (though it may be helpful to give you motivation to keep writing).

Writing groups have a bit of "quid-pro-quo" built into them. People critique your work so that you'll critique their work in exchange, and if you join the right group, you can find people who are really more interested in getting feedback that will actually help them improve their craft. Also, getting your work consistently read by the same group of people has its benefits, since you can compare your critiques to the other members of your group. For example: you read a story submitted by Alice and submit your critique for the group. Bob offers a critique of the story Alice wrote, and articulates many of the things you were thinking about Alice's story. So you think to yourself, "Huh, it seems like Bob and I see eye-to-eye on a lot of subjects. I bet he'd want to improve my story in the same ways I would. I should probably consider his advice highly." Then you listen to Carol's critique of Alice's story, and you find yourself completely disagreeing with it. There are points at which Carol's advice to Alice flat-out contradicts the advice that you would have given to Alice. So you think to yourself, "Huh, I guess Carol and I have different criteria for what makes a good story. Maybe she and I just aren't into the same kinds of stories." And all of this gives you a lens through which to view their future critiques of your work. Again, this all goes back to the principle of "consider the source of your advice." You couldn't get that same fidelity of feedback if you just posted your work on a critique forum and waited for random internet strangers to respond.

Oh, the other nice thing about writing groups is that they also provide social pressure for you to keep writing. You don't want to announce to the group, "I'm going to submit a piece next week," and then fail to deliver it. So much like signing up for a writing class, writing groups can be beneficial purely for the reason that they give you deadlines.


All of that being said...

You can achieve all of these things without taking a writing course.

If your problem is "I just can't summon the motivation to write without some kind of external pressure," then you can create your own external pressure. Meet with a trusted friend and hand them a $20 and say, "In one week, I will give you a copy of the first chapter of my novel; please give me back my $20 when I do this. If I fail to deliver on my promise, the $50 is yours to keep." (You can adjust the actual dollar amount, of course; you want it to be low enough to be realistic, but high enough that it will hurt to lose that money.

If you want to get advice from an actual author, go to Youtube. I've compiled a list of my favorite Brandon Sanderson writing lectures here, and I've gotten more mileage out of those than I have from the lectures of the class I actually enrolled in. (If you only have 60 minutes to spend, I highly recommend Brandon's lecture on Description and Viewpoint, which gets into a lot of the core fundamentals about what separates the art of fiction from nonfiction.) Pick up a book that matches the kind of writing you want to do: David Farland's "Draw on the Power of Resonance in Writing" is great, and if you're looking to get into screenwriting, I hear Blake Snyder has a canonical tome for you to read by the name of "Save the Cat." The world is at your fingertips. Isn't the internet a marvelous thing?

Finding a writing group can be difficult, but if you hang out on writing forums, you may be able to find a group that meets online via Skype or similar methods. Or check out Meetup.com and see if there are any groups near you that you can attend.


For me, taking a creative writing class was a nice "kick in the pants" that served to accelerate my development as a writer. But it is not the place that I started, nor is it something I've felt the need to go back to. I think the most important thing I learned in that writing class was how to develop good habits and get in the practice of writing every week, regardless of whether I was in the mood or not.
Last edited by Kuiper on Wed Aug 31, 2016 7:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Necrobarista - serve coffee to the living and the dead
Idol Manager - experience the glamour and dangers of the pop idol industry
Cursed Lands - a mix of high fantasy and gothic horror

WilliamofBangor
Newbie
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:28 pm
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#8 Post by WilliamofBangor » Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:30 pm

SundownKid wrote:Personally, I think if there's a screenwriting class you can take, take that instead. I don't know whether it was the teacher and not the class, but I took both screenwriting and creative writing, and found screenwriting to be more heavy on the "practical" aspects of making a good story, and creative writing not so much. Also, VN's are a bit like screenplays in that they have scenes with dialogue and characters who appear on-screen...
Whether a class will help or not I think it depends a lot on the class, but in terms of what type of class to take I think that SundownKid's advice is excellent. A class on writing comics might be another possibility. While Visual/Kinetic Novels are their own medium, they're much closer to film and comics than to prose writing.

User avatar
quilleth
Newbie
Posts: 9
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2016 6:48 pm
Contact:

Re: Creative writing class.. worth it?

#9 Post by quilleth » Sat Sep 03, 2016 11:25 pm

It all depends on the class structure and the person teaching it, in my experience. I took several creative writing classes while I was in college and for me, the best part was getting critique (which you could get here or an online writing group or a site like deviantart (I don't use it much anymore myself, but I found it extremely helpful when I was getting comfortable with writing).

If you're looking for help with character development, the best way to learn about characters is to observe actual people. Go to the mall or a coffee shop and just watch how people interact (or don't), the quirks people might have, etc. Think of the people in your own life. And read a LOT. A good writer is a good reader and observer (and that's advice that was given out pretty much the first day on in all my writing classes and from various authors). You can take bits of things from people you observe or know and piece them together to flesh out characters if you have a character who seems a little flat. There are also loads of memes and character questionnaires online that you can use to help develop your characters. Sometimes they're basic things and sometimes they're random questions about things you might not have thought of. Those kinds of questions are some of my favorite tools for developing my characters and understanding their motivations, both external and internal.

What are you looking to get out of a writing class? If it's a set time/ place to write, you might have better luck just scheduling that for yourself. Go to the library of a coffee shop or something for an hour with a notebook and sit down to write. Most of the time actually in class in my writing classes was spent in critique or discussion about different kinds of writing. Very little of the time was spent writing.

I do understand getting easily distracted, and sometimes have that problem myself (especially doing research...I get sucked into internet rabbit holes veeerrry easily). A lot fo the problems you've listed seem to be connected to using the computer. For me personally, I do a lot of my writing by hand, in part because I know I'm less likely to write if I'm on the computer, and partly because when I do get to typing, it lets me do some editing as I go. I prefer writing by hand at this point and have notebooks set aside just for writing and planning ideas. You can get spiral notebooks for pretty cheap right now since it's back to school season!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users