Have you heard of MOOCs? The term stands for massive open online course, and the writing program at the University of Iowa is currently hosting one.
Iowa’s Writing University Open Courses website is offering a six-week FREE course, for beginners to experienced-level writers, called How Writers Write Fiction. Once you register for the class, you simply watch a weekly video or two and complete a writing assignment. Then you’re asked to read other people’s work and post your comments while they read and critique your pieces. Some big-name writers are running the show, including one of my personal faves, Mona Simpson, and I believe they will comment on a few assignments as well.
If you’re too busy to sign up, or aren’t sure about it yet, I’ll give you a recap of the first video I watched. This one featured author Michelle Huneven, who offered some great tips for fitting writing into your life:
- Turn your soul around. Make writing the priority in your life and everything else will fall into place.
- Get a good timer. Or use your phone. Decide how many minutes you can stand to write: 7 minutes, 12 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours…and begin.
- Join a writing group. It just helps.
- Find a writer you deeply admire who’s maybe a little better than you are, and make a deal to swap writing on a regular basis. Saves you lots of time and makes writing a lot less lonely.
- Get plenty of exercise. Very important. No flabby mind, no flabby body, and they’re connected. Walk.
- Do something else creative. Cook, garden, play music, make pots, paint. Do something that’s not word-based. It gives the psyche time to range about, and it will sort things out for you that you can’t do with a direct assault.
- Bang out a really crappy rough draft of a story, chapter, scene, or article. Give the part of the mind that structures something the chance to organize.
- If you’re a novelist, write something short once in a while: an essay, a short story, an article. This is essential so you don’t forget how to finish something. A novel is a really long act of faith. Shorter pieces remind you of the pleasure of endings and keep you in practice to finish.
- Remember writing is a form of play. Get into flow. Remember you will get stuck, but you can’t force things. Solving difficult problems is the form of writing. It’s infinite. But remember to give yourself a little room. You have to work your way into flow. If you’re too stuck or going at it too hard, back off. Take a walk, cook a meal, play some music. If it’s still not working, try something else.
Great advice, right? I’m giving this course a try to see where it takes me. If you plan to sign up too, please drop us a line and let us know how it’s going. The second discussion is up now, and focuses on crafting beginning lines. I SO need help with this. I posted my assignment and within an hour had three comments on it. Fun, and hopefully very useful.
And hey, did I mention it’s Iowa for pete’s sake? And free???
To register, visit:
Good luck, and write well, everyone!