Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are Online Writing Courses Advantageous?

Carrie Oakley - an online graduate with  experience as a Math Professor in an Online School - started the website OnlineColleges.org to help students find the right online school for them.  OnlineColleges.org is a nonprofit resource for students considering an online college for their associates, bachelors, masters or doctorate level degree. This completely non-sponsored site provides students with honest answers to navigating the often confusing world of online colleges and universities.  Today Carrie shares her views on the value of learning to write on the web.

Some people are born with an aptitude for writing; all they have to do is put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard if we’re keeping up with the times) and the words flow without end. They’re able to bring out concisely, clearly and creatively any topic they write about, and they hone their craft by reading extensively and listening to the right kind of feedback. Others become good writers through experience and practice – their skills are raw, and even though they have the potential, they need to work off the rough edges and learn how to write effectively.
It’s this second group that needs writing classes and workshops – these sessions allow aspiring writers to give form to their words; they teach them how to control their creativity and steer it in the right direction; and they teach them how to make their writing more attractive and compelling.

Online writing courses are generally not for those who prefer to interact with a group of peers and exchange ideas with their teacher and the rest of the class. However, it works well for those who:
·       Are looking for flexibility in their classes because they cannot take time off to attend them on a full-time basis.
·       Prefer to take the course on a one-to-one basis because they’re reticent about opening up before a group.
·       Don’t want to shell out too much for a writing class; however, some online courses are as expensive as the regular ones, especially if they’re offered by reputable institutions.
·       Want to sign up for classes held in locations far from where they live.
·       Don’t want to commute to and from class.
Writing courses are not for everyone; whether they’re online or conducted as offline workshops, they’re meant only for those who have at least the minimum aptitude for this creative task. While you may want to be a writer, you need to know if you have it in you to become one. So before you sign up for a writing course, it’s best to assess your ability to write. You can do this by writing a short article on any topic that’s close to your heart, and asking an established writer to gauge your potential.
In general, writing courses benefit anyone who has raw talent that can be honed to good writing. For such courses to be beneficial, they must focus not just on tapping creativity, but also on language, grammar, form and content. Good writing is characterized by near-perfect language, impeccable grammar, correct spellings, and a good narrative. Established writers know not just the right words to use, but also when, where and how to use them. They know when to tone it down and when to go all out when it comes to flowery and descriptive language, and most important of all, they know how to deal with praise and criticism in their stride.
While an online writing class can get you started in honing your raw talent, only continuous practice and constant efforts serve to bring you success in this field.

This guest post is contributed by Carrie Oakley, who writes on the topic of online college . Carrie welcomes your comments at her email id: carrie.oakley1983@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Will Not Accept Electronic Submissions

Thomas White has had an interesting literary career.  A veteran theatrical director and producer, he has written several screenplays and gets extra coolness points for having directed the world tour of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-Coming Out Of Their Shells.  His first novel, "Justice Rules," takes a fresh approach to the crime procedural and was a 2010 finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest .  But in the search for an agent he has met a surprising stumbling block that I found interesting, and I think you will too.

As I was searching for a literary agent last year I found that an inordinate amount of agents will still not accept an electronic submission. A decade into the 21st Century, I found that to be odd. Frustrated with printing and shipping costs I quickly decided that if an agent will not accept modern technology then I was not interested in them representing me. ( I did find an agent and we do have an electronic relationship so I know that it can be done.) The unwillingness on the part of so many agents to accept technology is what astounds me.

I certainly understand the volumes of material that is submitted each year and that the ease of electronic submission only encourages those who are not ready for submission, but to totally ignore the medium is silly. To me, it is the same mentality that originally rejected cell phones, then rejected e-mail and now will not text or read a book on a Kindle. Eventually, they all come around. Why not recognize the reality of our world and join us? Why fight it? It's just a book submission and it is a lot easier to hit delete than to recycle. If an author is convinced that they have written the next great American novel making them print it out and mail it will not be a deterrent, it will only use paper resources that should, by all right, be conserved.

I have run into a similar mentality with e-books. Many people I have spoken with will not use a Kindle or electronic reader. They enjoy the comfort of holding a book in their hands and turning the page. Okay, I get that. But to turn your nose up at the alternative with stubborn indignation is also silly. I had a potential reviewer of my novel tell me that he will never own a Kindle or anything like it. He went on to say that his greatest pleasure is to travel with" a few good books in his suitcase". The image of him lugging a 49.5 lb suitcase through an airport made me smile. I responded and hoped that one day he would be able to travel with hundreds of good books in his 1 lb Kindle.

Technology has changed us and the way we lived from 10 years ago to today, heck, from 6 months ago to today. Eventually, we all adjust and respond to the changes. The adage , "If it was good enough for my father, it's good enough for me." is as antiquated as the mentality behind it. Our fathers never conceived of the technology that we take for granted.

The truly odd part of this thinking is that, more than likely, the book they are holding in their hands was originally written in electronic form. By printing it onto a piece of paper it does not magically transform it into a work of art. They are the same words that are now filling a page of parchment rather than a screen. The ideas and emotions behind those words are unaltered. If a book is in electronic form it does not become less intriguing, less exciting or less moving.

So open up your minds and accept the inevitable. It's not evil, it's just a novel in a format that allows you to adjust the size of the font. How wonderful is that?

Get a closer look at Thomas White's writing at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003K16TCY