Another brick in the wall

Earlier this week I turned in the course review for what was actually the first “real” writing course I’ve ever taken. What’s a “real” writing course? To a first approximation, it’s one that you pay for, so I’m not counting the creative writing courses from middle school and high school. And I never took a writing course in college (thank goodness) so this was the first time I ever plopped down cash money in order to have someone assign me homework and tell me what’s wrong with my words.

It was totally worth it.

The course I attended was One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes, part of Odyssey Online. It was a bit of an experiment: I had Christmas money, and I was looking for something to challenge myself as I was starting a new project. Of the winter courses on offer, the scene-construction one looked like it hit the areas where I’m weakest, so I siged up and got in.

Embarrasingly, my application was a few days late, because I didn’t check the deadlines before sending in my application. However, Jeanne Cavellos, the director of Odyssey, accepted my application anyway. Oh, and that’s the other thing: you have to apply, and not everybody gets in. My impression is that applicants aren’t necessarily being judged on being “good enough” but on being in the right place of their career and development to benefit from the course, so I interpret my acceptance as an example of my sucking just enough to be considered.

It was a huge success for me. Going in to the class, scene construction was largely one of those things where I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I tended to write scenes by feel, just sort of starting and stopping whenever it seemed right. This worked out okay, most of the time, but having taken the class I feel like I actually know how to write a good scene, and I have a whole bunch of tools and analytics that I can break out to fix scenes that aren’t working. This is a tremendous relief.

Most importantly, it’s right on time. I finished up Heir of Iron in December, and I’ve already outlined Queen of Serperts, the next book in the pipeline. And now that I have a great set of tools to make sure that it comes out right. I wrote two chapters for assignments in the class, and they’re significantly improved already over what I would have produced otherwise.

TL;DR: Odyssey is worth your money.

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