There. I said it.
It’s an addiction of mine. With eleven books and 3 more coming, you’d think I’d have this writing thing down, wouldn’t you? But the truth is, I’m always looking for that secret formula, some special weapon that would take away the uncertainty, sweep away the fears, and make my stories easier to write. So easy to write, I could do it blindfolded.
Ain’t gonna happen. At least, it hasn’t so far. Every book is agony. Every one scares the heck out of me. What if I fail, fail, fail?
So I turn to online classes to keep learning. Fourteen books doesn’t make anyone an expert, certainly not *me*, and I have learned great things from some of these classes. I marvel at the instructors who can nail down aspects of the craft that are only a haze in my mind.
Or maybe, it’s just pure instinct. I’m not sure. I manage to muddle my way through to the end of every manuscript, and maybe it’s the tidbits of information I glean from all these classes I take that get me there.
Firstly, online classes are the greatest invention since sliced bread. One doesn’t need to get into a car and drive to a classroom. No need to dress up. No need to watch a clock. No books to buy, no pencil to sharpen.
Every lecture drops into my Inbox to be read at my leisure. I can print them out, or I can delete them. I can participate in the discussions, or I can lurk. Cost is minimal—and in my case, a tax deduction, too!
For you RWA members out there, I belong to the Kiss of Death chapter, and their online classes are fab. It was through them I took my very first one, the reason I’m hooked. www.rwamysterysuspense.org. I take several classes a year, sometimes more.
In the past couple of years, I discovered Writer’s University. www.writeruniv.com. I’ve met Margie Lawson, one of their very respected teachers. She’s great fun, and her courses are incredible—the lectures are more than 200 pages long. I’ve signed up to take Mary Buckham’s class next spring on Pacing, and she’s awesome, too.
It was through Writer’s U in early 2007 that I discovered Gwen Schuster-Hayne’s class on Introverts and Extroverts, a course on marketing strategies based on one’s strengths. She so inspired me that I pulled together a group of western romance authors and formed a ten-author blog devoted solely to what we write. I think you’ve heard of it–Petticoats & Pistols.
The blog’s success has been incredibly gratifying. Our hits are steadily climbing and breaking records. Our guest list is booked months in advance; authors return again and again. More importantly, our visitors do, too. We have a great time together, don’t we?
I never would’ve had the courage—or even the idea—if it hadn’t been for Gwen’s class. Perhaps I would never have had a book strong enough to go to auction, either, and eventually be bought by Harlequin (THE MERCENARY’S KISS) in 2004, if I hadn’t taken Suzanne Brockmann’s highly-acclaimed class on heroes, “Tall, Dark and Believable.” (If she ever teaches it again, run, don’t walk, to sign up. It’s the best class ever, taught by one of the best.)
More favorites? Tami Cowden’s Villain Archetypes. I swear by her book, Sixteen Hero/Heroine Archetypes, and the villain version didn’t disappoint.
Mary Buckham’s “Twelve Stages of Intimacy” is a great resource for any romance writer.
Though I write historical westerns, I’m fascinated by contemporary suspense. I’ve taken classes on how to disappear, sleuthing, plotting suspense, writing intrigue. I’ve taken classes on modern-day cowboys and hunky Delta Forces operatives. I’ve studied FBI agents, serial killers, kick-ass heroines and how to go undercover. And to top it all off—how to edit the manuscript once it was written.
And believe me, I always do.
What about you? Have you taken some great online classes to teach yourself how to be a better writer? If so, what are they? Did they help? Or were they a waste of time and money for you?
If you’re not a writer, have you taken any non-credit classes through a local college just for fun? Cake-decorating? Flower-arranging? Let us know!