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December 1, 2012
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How do you teach creative writing?

:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Can creative writing be taught at all? What aspects do you emphasise more when teaching creative writing- the technical skills (punctuation, grammar, story structure, character, plot etc), the idea process (idea generation, brainstorming, freewriting etc), a combination or even the philosophy which you approach writing (writing should be about generating emotions/telling a damn good story/others)? Does your methods of teaching creative writing differ depending on who you teach it to (high school students/adults/people who want to get published/people who just want to write for pleasure etc)?

'Teach' is a very broad term, and this thread doesn't have to be limited to those who actually teach for a living, or teach on the side (I do creative writing tutoring on the side to a high school student), but it could be your own experiences from school being taught, or from your own learning and giving critique to others on writing. I'm just curious as to what you would do if you were given the chance to teach creative writing to whatever kind of audience.
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:iconspaniardwithknives:
SpaniardWithKnives Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I us to write a lot (in spanish). Our creative teacher in school used to use this:

1. One hour.
2. Three elements given by him
3. Two sheets of paper

Write a story... Good luck. It worked for me
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:iconspaniardwithknives:
SpaniardWithKnives Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
*used
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:iconyourdoom243:
yourdoom243 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Professional Writer
I tend to think that anything regarding creativity would be best taught in a way that would get most teachers fired.
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:iconfionacreates:
FionaCreates Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
I think to teach creativity in general you're teaching confidence.

Like perhaps those of us online know that if you want to write a story you just open up word, or a notebook and just write. But there are people out there who think they need to be told they're good enough, or take some lessons, and might have the same talent potential as you and I but need a teacher to say to them "It's ok for you to have a go."

Of course there's the technical aspects, and the practical aspects, but the creativity is more like teaching confidence.
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:icontwistedalyx:
TwistedAlyx Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
My best creative writing professor did a couple things I really liked:

1) Strong emphasis on workshopping each other's work with a professional attitude. It forces you to finish work. It forces you to take yourself seriously (which can be a motivator to finish as well as a confidence boost--I'm a REAL WRITER, YEAH!). It also allows you to get out of your own head a little with the writing and see how others perceive it.

2) He encouraged us to sit in a different place every class day. That may sound silly and unimportant, but it mattered to me. When I have it in mind that I need to consciously choose a different location for myself every day, it was easier to extend that to my writing and my willingness to experiment. Something new every day...!

3) We had to write "responses" to well-known poems/short stories. This was a great opportunity to practice what worked in a successful piece of writing AND to interact with previous works like a conversation.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
1) Workshopping is definitely a great way to learn how to write and also getting into that critique mindset.

2) That's quite interesting! I like that, actually. Might have to try that out one day.

3) Are these "responses" like actual poems, or short stories, in response to them? In that case, that really is a good way to practice different styles. I like that as well. :)
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:icontwistedalyx:
TwistedAlyx Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
3) For poems, absolutely. Finished poems. For the short stories, we were allowed to do a scene rather than a full 12, 20, 30 page story, because these were fast, weekly exercises. But, yeah, theoretically you'd be churning out finished works.
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:iconavenvia:
Avenvia Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2012  Student Writer
I've had lecturers that were good at teaching creative writing and ones that basically thought it was an inate way of expressing your soul and shouldn't be taught or given direction at all. I'd disagree with the latter, though, because it can be taught and I've improved a lot by being taught.

If I was to teach it myself, I'd have a balance of technical skills, critique and learning to get ideas. Things like grammar, structure, aesthetics, style, use of adverbs, description, concrete imagery, adjectives and so on are important - you could have the best ideas in the world but with a horrible way of writing they won't get you far. On the other hand, people need to learn to get and write ideas and not worry about how good they are or if they'll lead to anything - a writer with the most beatiful style in the world won't get very far with uninspired ideas, either.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Mmm, definitely the balance between technical skills and inspiration is quite important there. :)

I'm thinking that's the thing- do creative writing instructors teach 'creative writing' best by teaching you the technical skills, and rely on your imagination and creativity to come up with the material yourself? Or should they be in every step of the process, through ways of brainstorming, gathering ideas etc?
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:iconavenvia:
Avenvia Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2012  Student Writer
They should teach both quite equally, in my opinion.

For the creative side, the teacher is there to inspire ideas and the better ones will set exercises to help with this without stifling any originality. For example, last week we had to write a poem describing the language of an animal and another where we were given an incredibly mundane story (something about a man getting into an argument over tomatoes) and then had to write it in a variety of styles (pessimistic, haiku, etc).

Of course, most of the exercises people do like that are based on the first thing they can think of and so the quality suffers. It's here that the technical skills need to be taught so that their overall style is streamlined =)
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012
I had a mix of teachers who made writing feel like drudgery and those who tried to encourage me every step of the way -- even if their methods and tastes clashes with mine. Luckily, the latter group vastly outnumbered the former. But can you really teach creative writing? I don't think so. I took a course in it back in college, and can't recall a single piece of advice I got from it. Some high school literature teachers taught me technical skills I still use, but not the creative aspects.
That's only my experience, though. Can it be done in theory? I don't think so. Sure, you can teach a poet various meters and structures, but I don't think inspiration can come in a class.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Maybe teachers can't teach you 'inspiration' in itself, but they can teach you common processes which lead to inspiration to write your works. At least, that's one way of looking at it.
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012
Perhaps. I have my doubts that they can even teach that -- at least, not successfully. Certainly, they can show us all of the tools; I was thrilled when I learned about personification, synecdoche, alliteration, and so on. What fascinating techniques for getting one's point across!
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012   Digital Artist
I have sometimes fantasised about going back to my old high school and teaching them how to write a short story. :B (All they did was tell us "Beginning, Middle, End" and "Show, don't tell" and either "use lots of adverbs and adjectives" or "never use adverbs and adjectives".

I would give them *raspil's beat sheet, *OokamiKasumi's guide to showing emotions visually, ~WonHitWonder's Running the Gamut, the Mary Sue Litmus Test, this book I read called "Goal, Motivation, Conflict" and make them submit their stories to Deviantart so that they have only this tiny pale green square of text to fit a fit a first sentence hooky enough to catch my attention.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:lol: I like your approach! Am sorely tempted to do that myself, with my student. xD I got disillusioned with the way they taught creative writing at my school. I guess tutoring is my way of taking revenge. :B
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Professional Writer
The best tool for learning creative writing -- which I neglected for way too long -- is reading. Honestly, just reading. And not even reading with that constant analytic writer brain on. Just reading, and thinking about the story, and then reflecting on it later.
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:iconsimplebend:
SimpleBend Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist
Just reading? I'm doomed. I haven't been able to just read a book or watch a movie without the analysis program running by default in my brain! How do I turn it off? D:
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Writer
Read more, probably. I mean sometimes, when you see a technique that bothers you or something, it might be hard to turn off....but I find the more you read, the more you can get through books without thinking too analytically until afterward.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Too true. :nod: I've been reading a lot more recently, even as I'm tutoring, and I can't agree more.
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Professional General Artist
Going from my memory of the creative writing course I took in high school...

The class was divided into a unit on fiction and another unit on poetry. The unit on fiction focused primarily on different forms, techniques, and genres. Offhand, I recall that one assignment required us to use suspense. Another one was in diary/journal format. The poetry unit was similar--an assignment where we had to write a sonnet, a haiku, a lyrical poem. The teacher did emphasize the principle of "show, don't tell" and encouraged the use of specific, concrete imagery in both fiction and poetry. The class didn't involve too much workshopping. Most of the crit was done by the teacher through assignments.

Personally, I think this is a decent enough approach to creative writing, since it teaches you something about form and technique. Talking to others, this seems typical for most high school level creative writing courses. The main weakness I see is that some teachers might not be as strongly critical and work to get students to improve. At the end of each unit, we were assigned to write a piece, get feedback, and edit the piece. We were also assigned to send work out to be published. All of this helped me a great deal to understand how to critique my work and how (in a basic sense) to get work published. The only thing I would've liked more of is the workshop element. But then the workshopping I did in college was pretty hit or miss and dependent on how motivated everyone is to participate and how well they can articular problems/concerns.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
That sounds quite similar to my experience with creative writing in high school as well. Not much workshopping, but some generic advice by teachers about form and technique. Though going to the publication stage is a definite plus there- I guess that drives the creative writing course to come up with a product that you are satisfied with.

Workshopping is one element which I haven't had the opportunity to experience (dA excluded) but from everyone's responses so far, it does seem to be one of the most effective ways to impart knowledge about creative writing. :nod:
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:iconsaintartaud:
saintartaud Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Professional General Artist
I dunno, "generic" makes it sound bad, but I think doing that structured overview of forms and techniques can be helpful for giving what are mostly beginners a set of tools to work with. I think what makes some of the amateur/beginner fiction you see online so terrible is that the writers don't really have a grasp of those tools and are kinda just shooting in the dark. Apart from the workshop format, that seems the easiest way to run a creative writing course, and I would liken it to the same kind of technical training and assignments you get in lower level studio art courses.

Like I said, I think a lot depends on the teacher, their level of enthusiasm and also how willing they are to push students. My high school creative writing teacher saw that I had the ability and really made an effort to give hard, substantive feedback, which helped a lot.
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I need to learn creative writing, is what I need to do.

But I couldn't learn it in a workshop setting where they tell you to produce something for them, because... I can't write on demand to save my life.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Well, writing on demand was never my favourite thing in the world (*cough*highschoollastyear*cough*) but after a while I came to appreciate it, mostly it stopped me from procrastinating so much. :XD:
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012   Writer
read what you want to write and practice.
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I read lots, but I can't say I've found something which fits with what I want to write. I want to write my own thing. And as for practice, I've got novels and novels worth of practice, but it'd be nice to attend some classes and actually learn how to write. I didn't even really ever get taught English.
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012   Writer
what do you want to write, though? if you know the kind of material you want to write, there's someone who has already mastered it. read them.

you want to write your own thing, okay. what is that?

I didn't even really ever get taught English.

:iconnothingtodohereplz:
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Stuff like Robin Hobb, Roger Zelazny and Patrick Rothfuss, without the magic, and with some Elizabeth Moon, Diana Wynne Jones and Robert Jordan to it. Why do you presume I haven't read them? I read them and I'd still enjoy classes.
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012   Writer
Why do you presume I haven't read them?

because i don't know you from anyone and i don't know your writing skills or habits or goals or preferences...

i'm terribly sorry.
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I did say I read a lot... that said, my cousin says that and he reads about a book every few years.
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:iconraspil:
raspil Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012   Writer
this isn't going anywhere productive or interesting or useful so i'm gonna scram.
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(1 Reply)
:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Timed class essays?
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Didn't work for me. At age sixteen I became unable to cook up brilliance at the command of a teacher. Initially we had home assignments. I would sit for hours trying to come up with an outline, trying to brainstorm, trying to write a sentence - nothing. Eventually it was so frustrating and frightening that I would end up in tears. Then there were class assignments. Those were the worst, because when they collected my empty sheet of paper, there would always be questions. Like I haven't been sitting there trying harder than anybody else. It's like asking somebody who's constipated and has been trying to pass a poo for hours, why on earth haven't you passed anything?! Well, I'm sure they wish they had far more than you do...
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Holy crap. D: I can't think of anything there! It sounds almost like performance anxiety and forcing it more wouldn't help, but considering how you rock NaNo...confusion. All the confusion.
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It is performance anxiety. :nod:

If somebody gives me a topic and tells me to produce something out of it, they'll be judging me by the standards they already have in their head about this topic, and the only way to win is to jump into their head and write that out. I am, essentially, really not good at reading people's minds and mirroring it back to them. Therefore writing on demand doesn't work for me. The topic is theirs and I can't work out what they want of me, where they expect me to begin, and so on.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh noooo! Appropriate the topic and ROCK IT LIKE A BOSS.

Okay, I'm not a huge fan of trying to be all motivational and shit. If you can't and you don't think it's something you need to work on, eh. If you do, I'd say start small: set your own timed prompts and hold yourself to a baby version of your standards. And, you know, ask people what they want in prompts :eyes:
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm sure it would work and I used to do that for fifty word fiction... but nowadays I have a lot of stuff I would already rather work on, rather than asking people for stuff they want me to write. XD
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Have you tried doing any of those as miniprompts?
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(1 Reply)
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student Writer
If you want to learn to write on demand, just do it. It's not like you're just going to wake up one day and suddenly be able to write on demand. You just have to keep doing it, reviewing it, and of course, getting critique from those who have some knowledge of the craft can also help.
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I don't want to learn to write on demand. Why should I?
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:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student Writer
I thought you said you did want to learn?
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
To write on demand? No. :confused:

I said I wanted to learn creative writing. Not writing on demand.

Besides, your advice assumes two things: 1. That I write out a paragraph or two, go "ah this isn't turning out like I want it to" and then stop and just leave it. When I say I can't write on demand, it means I really can't. Nothing comes out. Not one sentence, not one shred of an idea. And that's after hours of hard trying until I've reached the point of tears, and another couple of hours after that - for two years. And 2. that I must write more regularly, that this in itself will help me write on demand. I have to respectfully disagree. I have written (and won) NaNoWriMo four years consecutively now and have several more novels in the works. I think that in itself indicates that I can and do write regularly.
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012   Writer
If you've done NaNoWriMo, have you considered ~Flash-Fic-Month (Flash Fiction Month)? It's a similar challenge, but instead of writing a novel over the course of the month, you write one piece of flash fiction on each day. You can write whatever you like, but they also offer challenges and prompts: those can be really helpful if nothing springs to mind that day.

It seems as though that might be a good step towards writing on demand. Even if that's not what you want to do directly, it might be helpful for a course in creative writing. Based on what some people have said here, it sounds as though some teachers might ask you to write things in the classroom. :shrug: Then again, I did a module in creative writing while at university and it was entirely based around giving feedback on other people's work: I had weeks to write my own story, and I used something I'd already been working on.

There's absolutely no reason why you should have to write on demand, but if you think it would help you study creative writing, Flash Fiction Month might be one way of getting into it. Also, FFM is good fun. :-)
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:iconexillior:
Exillior Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've done FFM, and I've also done 50-word fiction (which is with prompts). For the former I didn't need any prompts, just as I didn't need them for NaNoWriMo. I've got plenty of ideas of my own. :P

Picking a prompt and using it to hash out my own stuff is no problem, because I'm still doing my own thing. It's when there are expectations as to the turns that the written piece needs to take. That, to me, is like trying to put somebody else's vision down onto paper, and I'm just not good with that.
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2012   Writer
Ah--what's 50-word fiction? I gather it involves fiction of fifty words, obviously, but I'm wondering if it's an event and, if so, what sort.

I didn't really get a lot of use out of the FFM prompts myself, though there were one or two that were just too good to pass up. Still, I can't imagine a creative writing course requiring you to write anything all that specific. Perhaps including particular themes, but nothing like following an actual plot outline. :p I had to do that in a creative writing workshop once, and I agree: it doesn't really work.
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(1 Reply)
:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student Writer
I think my current English teacher is doing a damn fine job of it.

Essentially, we're analyzing pieces of text, and we need to identify techniques the writer uses and then explain what effect they have on the reader.

We're not necessarily looking for the messages in the text, simply analyzing the techniques the writer uses. Then we are assigned to replicate the text style and continue the story. Then we need to write an analysis on our own writing, comparing how similar/different it is from the original.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
So learning creative writing is then all about deconstructing texts in terms of form and technique, and then reapplying it in your own work?

Having gone through a similar process, I agree it's a valid way of learning. Do you think you've improved drastically from applying this way of learning to your own writing so far?
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:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Student Writer
Yes, yes I do.
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:iconytcyberpunk:
YTcyberpunk Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've never taught it before myself. If I was going to, I'd do what we did in high school: a workshop, where the kids *start out* with realistic stories, and then are allowed to go crazy with their ideas. I might even include a section about genres, and give the kids an assignment where they have to combine two of them.
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:iconjulietcaesar:
julietcaesar Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
So you'll mix inspiration and technical skills in writing? Definitely a kind of balanced approach that I like. :nod:
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