There are five main objectives within this class:
1. Learn good habits of writing
2. Write a complete novel or novella from start to finish and get past any overly critical internal editor you may have.
3. Learn your own style while learning techniques that have worked for other writers.
4. Learn about the business of being a writer.
5. Learn how to successfully give and receive feedback on writing. IE Writing group skills.
The first two objectives will be met by your starting and (hopefully) finishing a 30,000 word novel over the 4 month course of the class. Ideally, this will be a new story never worked on before, and hopefully it will be of novella length so that you can finish the story in the 30k words given. In order to help you develop good writing habits, it is recommended that you split up your writing more or less equally over the 4 months of the course, or roughly 2000 words per week.
The third and fourth learning objectives will be addressed via the weekly lectures from Brandon Sanderson, with the lectures usually alternating each week between writing skills and business skills. Additionally, there will be little “extra credit” assignments each week posted in the blog that will encourage you to practice the principles discussed. Remember though that these extra assignments are EXTRA, and you should not feel obligated to complete them. Much more important are the assignments discussed in the next two paragraph – participating in a writing group and completing a 30k word story by the end of the 4 month period.
The fifth and final objective will be addressed via weekly “meetings” with a writing group. I put “meetings” in quotation marks because it really is up to you what these meetings consist of. This website, Write About Dragons, will be providing a giant critique forum for everyone to give and receive feedback, but you are also free to meet in person with friends, interact anonymously online with other writers and so on. The important thing is that at least 1000 words of your own writing are being looked at each week by 4 to 6 reviewers and that you yourself are reviewing the writing of 4 to 6 other people. For more details on how one massive “writing group” will be facilitated at this site, read the FAQ section below on the “Critique Forum”
Note: This class will NOT focus on actively revising prior pieces, although this incredibly important aspect of writing will be briefly touched upon in one or two lectures.
So to summarize, to participate in this class you only need to do 3 things:
1. View the lectures that come out weekly. If you feel so inclined, participate in the extra credit assignments which will be given on the site blog.
2. Begin a new story and write about 2000 words weekly, so that by the end of this class you will have written a 30,000 word novella.
3. Each week, participate in a writing group of one sort or another. For your convenience, you can join the large writing group at this site, of which you can find more details here.
That’s it! Not too bad, and if you stick it out I can pretty much guarantee you’ll learn a lot. Brandon knows his stuff.
So what’s this whole thing about?
This is an online class led by myself, Scott Ashton, a graduate student at Brigham Young University utilizing the 2013 recorded lectures of the upper level undergraduate writing class taught here by Brandon Sanderson on writing for science fiction and fantasy. I took the class myself three years ago and since I’m a master’s student in Instructional Technology I decided to create an online version of it for my master’s degree project. I’m going to try to adhere as closely to Brandon’s class format as possible. It’s not going to be an exact replica – an impossibility since it’s all online – but hopefully it will be comparable.
Is Brandon going to be participating? Can I tell all my writing friends that me and Brandon are pretty much on a first name basis now?
Sadly no. Brandon is a rock star in that he allowed me to film these lectures but that’s about the extent of his involvement in all this. And plus, do we really want to slow him down from finishing that next book in the Stormlight Archives? I think not.
How do I get started? What’s the format?
It’s pretty simple, okay: (1) Beginning each Monday, view that week’s lectures, (2) By the end of the class in September, have written a 30,000 word novella (or novel if you feel extra dedicated). (3) Submit at least 1000 words of your novella for feedback each week in the manner and place most convenient for you. If you desire, you can do it on this site at this link (or accessed via the “Write” page on the top menu. (4) Critique at least 4 other people’s writing submissions each week. Once again, if you desire you can do it on this site at this link (or accessed via the “Critique” page on the top menu.
Also note, if you’re going to access this site’s critique forums, you’re going to need to sign up for the site. You can do so here.
Do I get college credit for this?
Sadly no. This class exists primarily for personal enrichment on a do-what-you-can basis. I am however toying with the idea of giving people who gain a certain amount of reputation by the end of the class some sort of highly prestigious digital certificate issued from my gmail account.
I think I’ve missed the signup deadline. What should I do?
There is no signup deadline for this class, and the only downside to doing it out of sync with everyone else is that you might not have as many writing buddies to work with. I will not take down the lectures, and for the foreseeable future all content on this site will be accessible to whoever wants to use it. Really.
I don’t get this critique forum deal. What the heck is going on there?
The expectation for this class is that you will submit at least 1000 words of your writing for workshopping every week and that you will also workshop yourself four other people’s works each week. This said though, you are free to do this however or wherever you want, whether in person with some of your friends, or via email, or whatever. For those who wish though, I’ve created a fairly rudimentary specialized critique forum which you can access via the “Write”, “Critique”, and “Review” links on the top menu. The forum is pretty basic but hopefully by the end of the class I’ll have been able to program some more advanced features including search and friend tracking. Sorry if the lack of features on the forum is annoying! I really won’t be offended if you go other places that might better suit your needs. For instance, www.critiquecircle.com is a pretty great site with similar features, or even a basic discussions forum you share with any of your SF/F friends.
For those using this service, here’s how the forum is going to work:
1. Post your writing submissions using the form provided under the “Write” page. Be sure to adhere to the guidelines described underneath “Rules for Writing Submissions”. They’re pretty commonsense standards such as not using the forum for inane discussions, or use of plagiarized content. Additionally, since this is a general audience forum including for children interested in SFF writing, the content must be kept PG-13 or cleaner. Once you’ve submitted your piece, it will be open for feedback from your peers.
2. Select several of your peers writing submissions under the “Critique” page and provide them with useful feedback on their writing. At the bottom there are some suggestions for how to provide the most useful feedback. Eventually I hope to provide a more detailed and guided process for giving good feedback.
3. Review the feedback you have received from your peers under the “Review” page. In order to keep people from free loading, in order to see the feedback people have given your posts, you need to unlock each submission with 10 “Kismet Credits”. In order to obtain kismet credits, you get 5 each time you critique one of your peers submissions.
4. As you participate in the forum, you’ll gain “reputation”, which essentially tracks the number of times people have marked your feedback as being useful. So try and leave good responses of the type that you yourself would like to receive.
So what are the content standards exactly? What’s this whole PG-13 requirement?
I want to eventually create a home for all categories of submissions, but for now while we only have one forum we’re going to stick with the PG-13 rating. Also, this bears mentioning, books aren’t visual like film is, so the PG-13 rating has much less to do with the content of the scene than it does with the focus of the scene. For instance, all of the following would still be fair game: a war scene that although brutal refrains from going into minute and explicit detail for each splash of blood, or a scene that contains a lot of nudity but which at the same time rarely mentions it or pays attention to it. I know this may not be excessively clear, but just use your best judgment, okay? Eventually there will be a forum for submissions above the PG-13 rating.
I want to discuss stuff with friends I’ve discovered online. Why don’t you have a discussion forum or messaging system?
Great question. I do eventually want to have a discussion forum where we all can talk together and discuss things, but I want to do it right when I do it, not just hack something together. So all I can say is, soon….
What’s a kismet?
A kismet my friend is a credit you get each time you submit a response to someone’s writing, 5 of them actually. It costs 10 credits to unlock critiques you’ve received on one of your own submissions.
What’s reputation again?
You get reputation each time someone marks a response you’ve written as useful. So therefore, be sure to let people know if you find their responses helpful, whether on your own submissions or other people’s. It’s not an upvote system, but simply a way to help people receive credit where credit is due.
ARRGHHHH, this is driving me insane. I want to be able to follow someone’s submissions on the critique forum from start to finish but instead I’m forced to simply select some random person’s submission. When will I be able to search submissions and track submissions by author?
This is a great question, and understandably extremely annoying. All I can say is, I’m working on it. Sorry! At the very least, I hope to soon get up an easy way to search for specific posts.
ARRGHHHH, there’s some bug __________ that is driving me crazy. What should I do?
Send me an email via the “Report a Bug” page found here: http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/extra/report-a-bug/
I need to contact Scott for some reason or other
Email me at email@example.com
ARRGHHH, I emailed Scott a week ago about a pretty important matter but he still hasn’t gotten back to me.
I get a lot of emails and I do my best to respond as quickly as possible. However, what with work, my masters project, and the tattered remnants of my social life, this can take some time. I do however get to almost all emails eventually.
I’d like to form a writing group. Are you going to be facilitating that?
Sadly, I’m only going to be able to facilitate one massive site wide writing group via the critique forum. If you want to break into subgroups, feel free, but you’ll need to make it happen on your own.