Friday Speak Out!: How to Know If a Writing Class Is Worth Your Time

Friday, June 16, 2017
by Joanne M. Lozar Glenn

You can move closer to your goal of getting published by taking a writing class to develop your writing skills. But how do you know if the class is worth your time?

Writing classes are a great way to give yourself deadlines for your writing project, become a more skillful storyteller, and move closer to your goal of publishing your work.

But if you’ve never taken a writing class before, how do you know if it’s a good one?

First, check out the instructor’s personality, background, and focus. If you’re taking the class through a community organization, contact the program director and ask what kind of feedback the instructor gets. Then consider talking by phone with the instructor, to see if the class (and the teacher) feels like a good fit.

Here are some questions you might ask before enrolling:

• How is the class structured?

• What is a typical class session like?

• Will we write during class?

• Will there be homework?

• Will we share writing with other participants?

• Is class content customized to individual participants?

• Will you read and comment on my work?

Once you’re enrolled, pay attention to how the environment (physical and psychological) feels to you. But more than that, use this guide to decide if the class is as good an educational experience as it could be:

• Does the class inspire you to write?

• Is the instructor encouraging? Does s/he show respect for all participants’ work?

• Has s/he emphasized respecting confidentiality about the writing everyone shares?

• Are you encouraged to discover and stay true to your own voice, even while learning techniques for honing and clarifying that voice?

• Does the instructor provide examples of how to apply a particular writing technique?

• Can the instructor explain a concept in more than one way? Do the explanations and examples make sense?

• Does s/he find and comment on your strengths as a writer?

• Does s/he help you improve one or two things at a time, rather than redlining everything in your story?

• Can you feel your writing changing?

• Do you feel safe enough to explore challenging subjects?

• Has the instructor set ground rules for responding to others’ work, and modeled helpful and non-helpful responses?

• Has s/he clarified the differences between responses that are appropriate for first drafts versus those for revised drafts?

• Does the instructor admit that her response is only one opinion … and encourage you to trust what resonates?

• Are you learning from the other class participants as well as from the instructor?

If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions, then you’ve got a winner.

* * *
Joanne M. Lozar Glenn is an award-winning independent writer, editor, and educator who also leads destination writing retreats. Her book Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More, co-authored with five other writers, was released by Skyhorse Press in September 2016. She is a frequent contributor to association and trade journals in the business education and healthcare fields, and her memoir essays and poetry have appeared in Peregrine, Under the Gum Tree, Hippocampus, Brevity, River Teeth, and other print and online journals. 
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Margo Dill said...

This is a great list and what I like about this post is that each writer can ask themselves these questions and figure out what works for him or her. What I want from a class might not be the same thing that someone else needs. Great list here! Thanks for sharing.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Joanne--I agree with Margo. We all need different things as writers.

Thanks for writing this post.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Joanne ~ These are excellent questions! I'm taking a class right now and I can say a resounding YES to all those questions. I thought about it long and hard--probably too much, though--before I decided to purchase. Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut. Thanks for the post!

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