Free Weekend? Take a Free Writing Class!
Need some inspiration? Enjoy this guest post about where to take a free writing class?
Writers are students of the world who never stop learning. Sometimes, though, it is easy to become overwhelmed or intimidated in the midst of the creative process. A short (free) online class may provide unexpected inspiration for your next short story or novel.
Forget about being original. – William S. Burroughs
At some point, all writers are seduced by the thought of retreating to a cabin in the woods to write the next great American novel. William S. Burroughs, a writer of the Beat generation, argues that there is no need to shut yourself away from the world in order to concentrate on your craft. If you are stuck on a plotline or searching for inspiration, you may only need a tape recorder and an open mind to speed things along.
In a lecture recorded in 1976, the humorous and vibrant Burroughs cautions the writer who seeks isolation: “Don’t cut your input. You might need it.” The lecture that follows explains how the creative mind relies on the external world for material. Burroughs describes the novel as a patchwork of bits and pieces taken from dreams, newspapers and personal experiences.
Burroughs, who led a tumultuous and varied life, spent only a brief time as a professor, finding students largely boring and uncreative. However, in this lecture, recorded at Naropa University in Boulder, Col.; Burroughs cuts through the loftier concepts of art and writing, presenting the craft as a reorganization of pre-existing conversation, sensory stimuli, facts and objects.
According to Burroughs, writers get stuck on self-propagating illusion of originality. “All writers are plagiarists,” says Burroughs. “Steal everything in sight.” In the lecture, Burroughs exemplifies his process by sharing muddled and varied bits of conversation he has recorded. What seems to be chaotic babble is soon translated through the artist’s rearrangement. This, according to Burroughs, is what writing is all about.
Time needed: 2 Hours
Character is plot; plot is character – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hemingway once described the blank page as the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, and for any writer who has experienced writer’s block, the blank page can be as intimidating as the stark white peak of Mt. Everest.
Brief readings and quick exercises make this class a refreshing take on the basics of writing. Concepts such as character development and portrayal could be great starting points for your next short story or novel; and quick writing assignments prompt further creativity.
One of the exercises in this course supplies a list of characteristics to aid writers in character development. For the stumped writer, a character worksheet can serve as inspiration for supporting scenes, and it is a welcome alternative to the blank page.
Time needed: 2 Days
“A story is a Swiss watch timed to a beating heart”. – Steven Barnes
This class is definitely for the experienced writer who is looking to hone his or her storytelling skills. Steven Barnes is a science fiction writer who has crafted episodes for a variety of television shows and was nominated for a Hugo Award. His free online class is a pared down version of the full-length course taught at UCLA, and though the material is a bit dated, Barnes offers various lessons in advancing plots, hooking audiences and building characters.
Barnes uses cinematic references as the backbone of many of his lessons, so writers should be forewarned that this is not strictly about literature. Instead, this course is about storytelling; and each lesson is crammed full of tips, tricks and tools that are vital to a compelling storyline. Anyone who has struggled with maintaining drama or creating a commercially viable story would benefit from this course.
Time needed: 2-3 Days
Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter and globe trotter, is now a freelance writer for various publications and websites. She specializes in answering questions from students who are hoping to earn a business degree online; but she also welcomes comments or questions regarding all educational topics.