Are writing workshops worth the money?
July 23, 2007 5:40 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with taking an online writing workshop? I am trying to make the decision of whether or not this class is right for me before I drop cash money on it.

The details of the workshop are here. As you can seen, it is organized by the Liberal Arts Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Now typically I would try to pair up with another writer or take a creative writing workshop in person, but I am currently living in a very small town 6,000 miles away from home in a foreign country and have little access to anyone who speaks English, much less someone who can read it critically. I also think having my work professionally critiqued (as opposed to being read by a friend) will do me some good.

I will probably take the $175 option, which includes an additional 2,000 words worth of critique. The class is one-on-one and all communication with the instructor is via email. I am not interested in credit for this class (it's a non-credit class anyway). I am only interested in my own personal benefit.

So here are my questions: First, does this seem like a legitimate course or a waste of money? Has anyone found benefit in taking an online writer's workshop? Any additional advice/experience is welcome.
posted by Brittanie to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I did something like this recently though my on-line college, it was absolutely worthless and nothing but a waste of time and money. Sorry
posted by nintendo at 7:01 AM on July 23, 2007

It's affiliated with an accredited university, and the professor has a verifiable publishing record, so I'd say it's definitely legitimate. As to whether it's a waste of money for you- do you do better with coursework and instruction, or are you comfortable following along on your own?

Jim McDonald runs a thread at Absolute Write called "Learn Writing With Uncle Jim". It's a fairly linear program, and it's free to use- though specifically focused on novels.

Likewise, on the same board, there are critique areas where you can privately share your work and get concrit (also free.) There are plenty of wannabe and hobbyist writers on the board, but also a fairly large contingent of published authors, as well.

If you're a self-starter and comfortable with setting goals independently, you could save yourself 175 this way.
posted by headspace at 7:03 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

One other point it will probably be helpful to consider, since the instructor is a known quantity, is how much his own writing overlaps with what you want to do. If he's written noir mysteries and you want to write experimental fiction or epic fantasy, then chances are there there will be a distinct limit to the extent his advice is going to be useful.

I would recommend sending him a brief e-mail summarizing what kind of writing you do and feeling him out a little, because how much he "gets" you and what you're trying to accomplish, the more he can help you realize the sort of fiction you're hoping to create.
posted by camcgee at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2007

I did it and regret it bigtime.
posted by sneakin at 3:12 PM on July 23, 2007

I've never done a writing workshop online, but I have done writing workshops in a university setting, as well as more casual workshops. Critiques are always useful; writing is something which needs an audience, and you never know if it works or not until you have that kind of feedback. Professional and non-professional critiques both have their own values - professionals bring their own skills to teach you, while non-professionals bring a fresh eye, and are, of course, your ultimate audience.

Unfortunately, it's a bit of a pot-shot how good feedback might be. I've had one university instructor, a graduate student, who gave me the best critiques of my life. She would cover the back of my story with thoughtful and concrete comments, critiques and suggestions. But I've also had another instructor, a professional novelist, who would simply write one or two cryptic, useless sentances. It would be "good story" or "this one thing could have been better". The first class I would have gladly pay twice as much for, while I regretted even the time put into the second (and it was part of the reason I dropped out of the program). I don't know if the difference was that the first instructor was trained as an academic and teacher as well as being a writer, but it was night and day.

It's funny - many creative writing programs demand that you submit writing as an audition, but they never offer an audition of their own critique skills, even though you are the one paying.

I would suggest that it might be worth it trying it once, on the cheapest option, and then seeing how satisfied you are with the specific instructor and his/her critiquing skills/style.
posted by jb at 2:25 AM on August 3, 2007

« Older Oxford: Parking for myself and a car?   |   Please help me determine whether I can, in a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.