Short Story Intensive Class: A Review

As I mentioned in a previous post, I took an online intensive class with Mary Robinette Kowal over the weekend. It was conducted on Google+, using the Hangout function for lectures/questions/crits, and Google Drive for sharing of homework files.

So, how was it? It was awesome!

There were 8 of us in the class, scattered over the US. One person had been in the Writing Excuses Retreat, for the rest of us, it was our first class with MRK. All of us came away very happy we’d taken the class, aware that we’d learned new things, that we’d progressed as writers.

The class, billed as “an intensive,” was intense. But the fast turnaround time on the homework assignments made us work fast, and helped shut down (for me, at least) that darned inner editor/critic, who makes you want to linger, to fuss and fidget. In this way, the final exercise of “write your story in 90 minutes” (and then post it for critique) was easier to do, since we’d all been pushing hard all weekend long. Yes, we were tired. No, none of us had slept too well the previous night, but the words flowed. 4 of us finished those stories, in first-draft form. The other four have great starts.

I don’t mean to say we didn’t have time to pee, or to breathe. We had mini-breaks, meal breaks, etc. But we were quick about them, and went back to our chairs again for more exercises, more writing, more learning.

The exercises eased us in to writing, and  grew more complex as the class progressed. Because they were challenging, it was fun to see what my classmates came up with. During the crit times, I think most of us perused not just the stories we were assigned to crit, but all we could read of our classmates’ work. Yes, we were tired, but this was fun and invigorating! (One session, our class seemed preoccupied with vomit, of all things!)

The final bit of the class was motivational stuff to help us view the process of writing as that… an ongoing process. She reminded us that setbacks happen, that blocks sometimes mean a breakthrough is nigh, and to just keep writing through all that. An open Q & A finished up the sessions, and that was (sniff, sniff) the end.

My computer had “technical difficulties” maintaining the multiple Google+ windows (it’s a 5-year old dinosaur), and kept falling out of the Hangout, so let me warn you to make sure your computer is up to snuff before trying this. However, if you can manage that bit, take the class. I know it’s going to help me “level up” in my writing.

Hard numbers on what I got from the class:

  • new ways to evaluate my stories, both before I write them (to make sure they’ll work), and also after (to see why they’re NOT working)
  • new tools for writing POV, plot, and voice, etc
  • one finished first draft story
  • four other solid story ideas
  • seven new writing acquaintances
  • confirmation (again) that I’m not totally insane for wanting to do this “writing thing”
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About M.E. Garber

I'm an itinerant Ohio-born speculative fiction writer now living in north central Florida.
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7 Responses to Short Story Intensive Class: A Review

  1. Sounds like an awesome experience, Mary. Incidentally, my blog post today was about the idea behind marathon writing sessions such as these. Thanks for sharing the adventure!

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  2. John Wiswell says:

    That last bullet point seems like the most important. Kowal is a very thoughtful writer – I’d love to do a class with her.

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    • M.E. Garber says:

      While the last point is pretty darn awesome, I can’t stress enough how great the in-class exercises were. Because she’s thoughtful, like you said. And if you can, I really, highly suggest it. Maybe after VP, though…

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  3. shannonrampe says:

    Sounds like a great workshop! I will have to check it out in the future.

    Looking forward to meeting you in October at VP!

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  4. Pingback: Today’s Desk, 12/10 | Everyday Magic | M. E. Garber

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