Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing courses: Curtis Brown Creative

I applied to a Curtis Brown Creative online writing course and was accepted. I've been researching and there is not much info as to how effective the course is or if it's more of a scam (it costs almost $3,000 for three months). Does CBC have a good reputation in the agent world?

I've never heard of it but that doesn't mean anything. There's a lot of stuff I've never heard of. [For a list of those things, one must consult my eye-rolling minions.]

BUT, if you are intending this to be something akin to a star in your bio (like "I have an MFA from the Sharkly School of Metaphors and Pruning Shears") you're barking up the wrong tree.

When I read queries, I don't give a rat's asterisk where you learned to wrangle sentences.

I don't care who your teacher was.
I really don't care how much money you paid (other than wishing you hadn't squandered that kind of dough on anything till you at least figured out if you needed to)

I care about what you've written.

No program of study is a way to bypass the toll-booth on the roadway to publiciation. There is no EZPass here.

If you want to find out if the program is effective in helping writers, look at who they laud as their graduates. If you like and admire the work published by the people who took this course, that says something worth thinking about.

If the course won't tell you who graduated or attended, or if there are no lauds on the site other than quasi anonymous things like "the best thing since bacon beer" Bill C. (Ohio) that says something else entirely.


french sojourn said...

eye rolling minions....

still chuckling

DLM said...

Look, I knew Bill C. when I lived in Ohio, and his word is GOLD.

I hesitate to mention - it was CB who started spamming me (with "opportunities" to take their classes) after I queried them. Which I found ... not cool.

I used pruning shears (and pinking shears on the finer points) when deleting tortured metaphors from my last MS.

Sam Hawke said...

Obviously Curtis Brown is a mammoth agency, but I've never heard of anything about the reputation of their creative writing courses. I vaguely recall having seen something about them when I was querying, and I think (though I could be mistaken) that it was a relatively new thing, so perhaps there isn't much data available yet.

But that's a lot of money. Of course it's entirely up to the OP whether there is the money to spare. But if you are hesitating and you could use the money elsewhere, there are a lot of ways you can improve in writing without it costing you a dime, regardless of what level you're at.

Karen McCoy said...

Online-only for that price seems a bit steep. In-person retreats are often cheaper, and can have more long-term pay-off in other ways besides writing.

But retreats aren't required either. There are definitely ways to build your craft that are more cost efficient (reading this blog is free, for instance--and I've gotten tons of crafting tips here).

Find what works for you. Forget what doesn't.

Finally among the first commenters. Gotta love insomnia (at least I got some writing done).

Rakie said...

DLM - that happened to me too, when I queried Curtis Brown via their website they insisted i sign up to their mailing list. Irksome at best.

DLM said...

I'm struck by the "application" term here - you have to wonder what the acceptance rate is. If this is a program that actually screens participants and takes only a few, perhaps there's something to it (though, like Sam H., I would calculate the cost/benefit ratio pretty carefully; and, again as he says, there are other ways). This verbiage, which may have originated with them, gives "acceptance" the feel of a university type program, but I'm curious how well the feel and the outcomes align.

For me, their spamming rejected queriers with this type of offering speaks to a motivation less than entirely noble, but I allow for the possibility that is sour grapes on my part. The injection of money (and a GREAT deal of it) into the transaction also always makes me suspicious. I tend to find it distasteful when I see marketing materials of any kind when I'm researching an agent - "buy our how to sell a million book" and so on. I don't mind agencies/agents having WRITTEN such books, and I don't eliminate them from my lists when I'm researcing, BUT if it's a bit too prominent or they make querying them contingent on the particulars of their own books' instruction (I've seen this) it does turn me off. I don't query anyone who expects me to buy their book and research THAT much before I can write them an introductory business letter.

Oh dearie me, hello rabbit hole: I am in you! Erm.

Karen - hooray for getting some writing done!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I want to be an eye-rolling minion. That said, I would think there are lots less expensive ways to improve your writing. I would highly recommend a workshop such as the Clarion online workshop which cost practically nothing - about a cup of coffee a week or so. Lots of the writers there are published. You get useful, albeit sometimes harsh, feedback that can only help you grow as a writer. You also get to do a lot of reading of other author's work in its early stages. I put all my early drafts through the workshop process. That said, a Curtis Brown agent would be huge, but I doubt paying $3000 for a writing course will accomplish that. Just my two cents.

Sarah G said...

I don't see any info on star graduates on their website. It does say that it's lead by literary agents. While I hold LAs in the highest regard, it seems like an odd group to be actually teaching writing.

And, their terms say this, which sounds like a red flag:

"Neither we nor any third parties provide any warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, performance, completeness or suitability of the information and materials found or offered on this website for any particular purpose."

Unknown said...

I'm with everyone else. It sounds scammy, or scummy or some other pond related word. I'd proceed with caution at best, and cut and run at worst.

We all look for an easy way at some point, (like for me yesterday when I googled "how to write a cover letter") but easy ways are just that... Easy... They're easy for you and everyone else on the planet. Which makes them not so helpful.

Stephen king offers a "master class" which costs $300 and he teaches you his method. If I were willing to spend the kind of money you're thinking, I'd take Kings class instead and see if it helped, or if it just gave me a bunch of quick tools that if heard of or already been using without having a name for it.

At the end of the day, writing a book really just requires a gallon of ink and a truckload of patience. Writing a good book just requires more gallons and trucks.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie, It sounds like you've been doing your homework as you've been researching and you're checking out before plonking down your $3,000. Looking at what Janet and the previous vommenters have said, I'd say there are much better, less costly ways to improve your writing skills. Especially if $3,000 is a bit dear.

At less cost, you can purchase (or borrow from your library) excellent books on the craft of writing (Renni Browne & Dave King, Donald Maass, James Scott Bell are the names I can think of off the top of my head) not to mention free writing advice online, including Janet's QueryShark site. And it is writing, revising, writing, revising, ad nauseum that helps us improve our craft. As well as reading outloud and finding crit partners and beta readers.

Colin Smith said...

Like others, I have no problem with literary agencies running writing workshops and classes, at least in principle. But paying $3,000 for such a class? I'd like to see some pretty awesome testimonials. And for that much, it would be good to get something you don't get elsewhere. On Monday (I think) someone mentioned the "Writer's Police Acadamy" conference in Appleton, WI coming up soon. Not only will Janet be one of the guest speakers, but they offer things like police ride-alongs, jail tours, a chance to shoot on a firing range, etc. I'm not sure how much registration was (it starts tomorrow, so registration is closed), but I'm sure it was less than $3,000. I would much sooner spend my money on something like that than a Curtis Brown writing course. As others have said, you can get some excellent writing help for next-to-nothing through websites like this, or from beta reader feedback, or even taking some classes at your local community college!

It's very possible the CB course is reputable and above-board. But unless they're offering something really special, I think you could spend your money better elsewhere.

Susan Bonifant said...

If you're thinking of spending that much money, OP, I would be VERY sure of your objectives.

Some feel that the core of great writing is organic - there or not there - and look to creative writing courses and workshops for refinement, maybe locate a persistent flaw, etc.

Know what you want. If you haven't already run your writing past readers to see how you come across, I would do that first. Have a plan.

And when you do, of course, find out how you can accomplish the same things for less.

Because, $3000. Jeezum crow.

E.Maree said...

DLM and Rakie -- ditto here, when I queried CB they automatically added me to their mailing list for classes and courses, which was extremely frustrating, since I never opted-in to be added to any such thing. Going by the AbsoluteWrite thread they do it to all queries, and it's a nightmare to get removed from the list.

They've gone down a loooot in my estimation since.

Are you all querying CB US, though? I queried CB UK, which is (confusingly) almost entirely separate from the US side.

S.P. Bowers said...

Take Barbara Rogans Next level writing course. It's a lot less expensive and she is an absolutely amazing teacher.

Donnaeve said...

I poked around on the site, and found a lot of interesting information. Aside from the courses being taught by agents - which at first might seem odd - however my agent was an editor before he was an agent and I believe anyone making a living in the publishing industry must know something -I noticed authors as well. One upcoming course is taught by Erin Kelly, author of TIES THAT BIND, THE POISON TREE, and Jo Jo Moyes, ME BEFORE YOU, and THE ONE PLUS ONE, is listed, just to name a couple. And the only reason I mention them is because, along with the agents and I can't imagine any of them associating with something that's a scam.

Either way, if the OP thinks this is worth the $3K, they'd likely do no harm in participating. I don't see anything wrong with online courses - as this is the way many universities teach nowadays.

Or, they could pay an editor to work their manuscript. For $3K they should get a pretty good analysis of their work as well as line editing.

Colin Smith said...

OFF-TOPIC ALERT!DeadSpiderEye: Check yesterdays' comments--I just replied to your question to me. Sorry I didn't get to it yesterday! :)

Unknown said...

A decade ago I enrolled in "Break Into Print", a correspondence course from Long Ridge something or other. A University in Ohio, I believe. Cost me $1000. and I was hooked up with a published writer. Not a big name, but a good name. I liked his writing.

Good experience, but it wasn't so much the lessons in writing that motivated me, as it was the people I met through the forums. Friends to this day, though I've never set eyes on any of them. And the first to buy my book when it was available. I learned a lot from my fellow students, and appreciated their honest critiques.

I'm hoping there's a moral in there somewhere, or at least an answer to your question. Otherwise, Opie, I've just wasted your time. Sorry.

DLM said...

E.Maree, I queried CB UK (my kind of historical would fit well across the Pond, especially in Europe) and had no issues with the Unsubscribe function thank goodness.

Colin, that academy sounds fantastic. Amusing myself thinking of things an academy for Late Antiquity histfic would include - recipes for Garum and a food court with ancient Gaulish and Roman delicacies. Swabian hairstyling, Frankish agrarian studies, late Carthaginian and North European horse breeding (special study: "Tarpan mounts, shod or unshod?"), workshops in brickmaking, textiles, and an in-depth analysis of grave goods, 100-500 AD from Africa to Norway ...

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Three grand for an online writing course. Is Bacon beer included?

If I had three grand I'd spend it on airfare to attend US writing conferences and writer retreats.

LynnRodz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If you do an online search, several people who have taken the course have blogged about it. I would start there.

Regarding writing courses in general, I think a lot of them are helpful, but they're like tools, some are just more useful than others. When I was remodeling the house, I nearly wore out my dual bevel sliding compound miter saw. My back saw, not so much.

One of the problems with these courses is you'll be getting critiques from other writers. Usually that's great. In the last course I took where the instructor insisted I was writing YA, we started out by analyzing openings.

Far Rider started out:

They say bad news rides a fast horse.
No one said anything about it riding a dead one, and the black destrier my uncle now rode toward me had died two years ago.

The scene goes onto reveal the uncle is also dead, throat sliced.

Holy guacamole. The fight was on.

How can anyone ride a dead horse? What's a destrier? Don't use difficult words. Just say horse if he's riding a horse. Just say a ghost appeared. You're just trying to be clever.

I thought, well, this is going to be a fun course.

I did get some good ideas from the instructor, but I had to ignore a lot of comments from classmates. This often happens in classes where classmates are critiquing your work. You need to learn what to accept and reject honestly.

I've taken Margie Lawson's courses and they are remarkable. Empowering Character's Emotions should be mandatory for any writer, I think. I really want to take her Immersion Master Class.

Barbara Rogan's class, as Spesh mentioned, is great. I've taken it. I had just left Don, was broke, because like a dummy, I thought he'd do the right thing and didn't take any money from our bank account. I decided I wanted to take the course, so I slashed my grocery budget to nothing and lived on beans and rice for nearly three months, but the course was worth every bit of it.

I want to take a Story Masters workshop with Don Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler.

Theresa said...

I've been mulling over an on-line course as well. As with OP or anyone else considering it, I've had to identify exactly what it is that I want to get out of a writing course.

After looking into a variety of options, including courses offered by Barbara Rogan, Amanda Eyre Ward, and Caroline Leavitt, I've decided that when the time is right, I'll opt for something run through a university. The instructor's credentials will be easy to check, and in addition to the value of the course itself, I'll earn actual credits, which is important to me. Several public universities offer extension programs as well as writers' workshops and retreats. I would feel more comfortable in that environment.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: What??! Did the instructor write manuals for a living? Even if your novel IS YA, writers for that genre (group, category, whatever you want to call it--see yesterday) are allowed to be creative, aren't they? You know, paint word pictures, treat writing as an art form... that thing called "voice"? There's a balance between being so picturesque you lose sight of the forest for all the colors and being so literal it could have been written by a computer.

I bet you had a fight! And I hope you won! :D

DLM said...

I first ran across the word destrier when I was probably twelve or so, while I was reading a piece of historical fiction. From context, I could tell it meant "HORSE OF SOME SORT" - and from your context, it is also abundantly clear. I didn't run and look it up, I learned it, tucked it away, and kept reading. In later years I've become much more of a researcher.

But good lord do I detest the idea of dumbing-down for a younger audience. Offensive on multiple levels, and outright destructive.

And this is my umptieth comment, and I am OT, so it is time for me now to log off and give the thread its air; will check back later, but must restrain the verbal flow!

Elissa M said...

This is free:

The amount of great writing information in the above blog alone is astounding. There are other excellent resources that are free or pretty nearly so, you just have to do some searching.

For $3,000 you should be getting a course from an accredited university, not a literary agency.

Dena Pawling said...

Before she moved to Texas, Laura Drake was a member of my local RWA group. Last year she won a RITA. She raved about Margie Lawson, and so did other members of my RWA group, so I'll second Julie's recommendation. She's definitely someone to consider.

My philosophy is to start with free stuff, then move up the payment chain to “inexpensive”, then if I still thought I needed more, I would consider the more expensive offerings. Right now I've almost exhausted free, and I've moved into the inexpensive range. I'm definitely not ready for anything in the $3000 range yet. I figure for that kind of money, they'd better be teaching higher level skills, and I want to be grounded in the basics first.

nightsmusic said...

Hmmm...did Shirley Jackson take writing courses? The Bronte sisters? Hemmingway? Leonard? I don't know. But it seems to me, most did not. That said, with the wealth of 'free' courses available on the interwebz, many offered by best selling authors, I can't see plunking down $3K for something that is readily available elsewhere.

Someone earlier up there /'\ mentioned King's class. If nothing else, read On Writing. It's worth the $3K tuition and only costs $7...

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Julie.M.Weathers - I haven't taken the Story Masters class, but I did attend a week-long Writing the Breakout Novel workshop with Donald Maass a couple of years back, and it was excellent. I learned so much about the craft of writing. I plan on going to a follow-up retreat next year.

And I really liked the opening of Far Rider! I didn't know what a destrier was either, but I figured it out as I read on.

Dane Zeller said...

You might check out my course at $2,999.99.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Opie, the best and most useful writing courses I took were Adult Ed courses at my local high school. Hey out there stop laughing.
The first one got me published, that's money making published over a hundred articles and the second one turned me on to a wonderful and supportive writing group. Both courses were taught by teachers who taught writing at college level. Though twenty years apart both changed my writing life. You don't have to spend a lot of money to learn.
Come on guys stop laughing, you know it's true.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Just a thought, but there're always those willing to take money from those aspiring towards success through creative endeavour. In certain fields, it could be money well spent, techniques are the key, because they're so hard to acquire through experimentation but simple to relay through tuition. You can learn something in an afternoon that would take years on your own but there's a downside to the fast track, in that the depth of insight can be a little trivial.

I'm not so sure about writers workshops and tuition, maybe that shows, but it seems to me there are techniques to writing beyond those you acquire quite early on, ie, think of something -- try to form a sentence, that's it isn't it? It's the thinking part that counts, so maybe writers should consider exercises in critical thinking?

What I do see writers taking from tuition, almost exclusively, is advice on style. Some of that advice is pretty trivial: "Don't use adverbs with attributions," he said emphatically. Style can be important though, within the context of a market but again, you have to balance that consideration, because styles have a habit of changing quicker than is convenient.

Karen McCoy said...

Wise words, DLM. And thanks for the hurrahs!

And Julie, oh my! That's a way to beat a dead horse.

Forgot to mention that C.J. Redwine has online courses too, and they're phenomenal. Totally changed my writing.

Jenz said...

I teach at a community college, and I run the tutoring lab. Without fail, the students taking online courses struggle far more than the classroom students. The curriculum is the same for both, but not having an instructor right there means asking questions and getting help is tougher, and they just don't do as well overall.

For comparison, Clarion West's summer workshop costs $3800, and for that you also get room and partial board. And that does carry a little cred in the SFF world. In my opinion, the cost of this online program is grossly inflated for what you'll get out of it.

I'd highly recommend looking into local programs, groups, or classes, which will be less expensive and probably more helpful. Or at least a more reasonably priced online class.

Anonymous said...


I met Margie at Denver. She was teaching a class on body language there. She knew the Gnomies, my writing group, was going to be there and bought us all the most adorable little sewing kits. Not only is she a fabulous teacher, she is just a truly lovely person.

If I would truly apply all she teaches, my writing would be ten times better. It just takes a while for my mind to digest it all. I'm still working on backloaded sentences.

When bareback riders and bullriders are first learning, a good instructor will put them on gentle saddle horses bareback and trot around to learn balance. They might spend untold hours walking on top of fence rails to develop balance.

Therein lies the rub. After you take a course, a workshop, or read a book, you have to actually apply it and practice doing it correctly until it becomes second nature.

Don Maass in WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK had an exercise where you take your characters and write down what they would never do. Then you figure out what it would take to make them do exactly that.

That one exercise dumped the FAR RIDER story on its head.

LynnRodz said...

OP, I deleted my previous comment because I only had time to read a few negative posts and didn't do an in-depth study. I guess if someone is going to spend thousands of dollars for writing classes they should look into it before they sign up. Which, of course, is what you're doing.

However, my opinion on bacon beer remains the same.

Janice Grinyer said...

I have taken college courses for literature, for grant writing, for creative writing...and they have been very useful in my short lifetime so far.

The saying "Time is money" is #1 in my book of priorities.

All the courses in the world will not help if we are not writing.

If I had $3000, I would take time in a cabin, apartment, or other housing where someone could write full-time without interruption. To be able not to have to work somewhere to feed and clothe yourself, but to write and research only. A writer's dream.

Personally, I value my writing time because I own a Forestry Business with my partner/spouse and I walk the woods for a living; it pays the bills. So on my limited time off from USFS contracts, I write. Or ride my horses. That is why I went to Bismarck this past month. Then the horses are not a temptation.

Actually, nothing was a temptation there (sorry Bismarck!)but I did wrangle a certain chapter that was stunting my thought writing process. The writing floodgates were opened again, and we are moving forward.

So when considering any type of course I would ask myself - "what do you think is missing in your writing, and which type of writing courses then would be a benefit to you?"

There are so many fun things to do in life, but we need to make sure they help us to obtain our goals.

Anonymous said...

The Curtis Brown Literary Agency is fairly well-known, and is listed as Recommended on Preditors and Editors.

That doesn't say anything about their courses, though. I just make it a habit to look at P&E before I say anything about an agency in public.

As Sam says, that's a lot of money... but it's a 3 month course... but how much training is in that 3 month course? How specific and pertinent is it to you in your writing? Perhaps a conference might be more useful. They're often cheaper than that, even if you factor in travel and hotel and food. And they can fit a year's worth of training into one weekend (which may or may not be a selling point).

Also, the 'acceptance'. Yes, there are some well-known and prestigious courses that require acceptance - Clarion and Clarion West, just to name two. But I haven't heard of Curtis Brown in that area. Of course, as someone said, it seems to be fairly new.

Diane: That verbiage did not originate with them. There are many courses out there that ask you to apply, and you can be 'accepted'. Heck, the local university pretty much accepts anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent maturity. But you still have to pay to apply.

Raggedy Sarah: I'm not sure that's a red flag. It's simply legalese saying, "We might not be teaching your genre or the specific skill you personally need." It's that 'for any particular purpose' - someone could be hoping to learn how to write mysteries. Good writing is good writing, but mysteries have their specific needs. They can teach you to 'right gud', but they might not be teaching you exactly what you need or want.

I'm not going to get in the way of any writer who wants to improve their craft. There's always room for improvement (unless you're Stephen King, but then, NO ONE is Stephen King. Sometimes I wonder if Stephen King is Stephen King...)

I'm not going to say it sounds scammy, because it honestly doesn't. Good courses cost a lot. The Clarion courses are hella expensive for 6 weeks (almost $5000), but their graduates are among the most successful science fiction and fantasy authors out there. Their course is also a solid 6 weeks - not just a few hours a day. Heck, it costs $50-$65 (non-refundable if you don't get in) just to apply. It looks like Clarion West might be less expensive.

It basically comes down to, are they going to teach what you need? Is it worth it to you? Have you tried other courses - less expensive ones - and feel you need more? What are you looking for? And is it worth it to you?

Julie: I've heard of those Story Masters workshops. Don Maass and James Scott Bell are incredible teachers. I haven't taken anything from Christopher Vogler, but if he's in the same class as the others, I'd be up for it. But since they're in the US, it's harder for me to get there. But those workshops always waiting there, at the back of my mind, as 'someday'.

Recaptcha wanted me to choose pies. I guess quiche and pizza aren't considered pies this time? So it made me choose commercial trucks. Again with the non-specific commercial trucks.

Lizzie said...

The promo material lauds agent involvement, but it looks like they only read your opening pages and synopsis at the end. Not to mention the agent could just not like your style or genre.

Lance said...

I second what has gone before. If I had $3K for writing improvement, I would split it between a workshop and editing.

Sarah said...

I'm going step out of lurking mode for just a moment...

I found it super helpful to attend a pricey workshop in 2013, but...!

I'd had some contact with instructor already. I'd listened to her at a conference, and I knew that she talked about the craft of writing in a way that resonated with me.

Beyond making sure that a program is legitimate, you should make sure that you click somehow with who is teaching. I know of many good editors or agents or writers who teach classes, but while they are good, they're not good for ME. I don't come away with strategies or approaches that improve my writing. It's worth your while to see what books or posts the instructors have written before you pay for anything more than a conference.

Anonymous said...

Will, my youngest son, enrolled in a writing course that was required for his degree last year. The "teacher" let everyone know he had studied in Wales and was a lord even though he was born, raised, and went to school most of his life right here in Eau Claire. Apparently you can buy titles now and he did.

The first assignment was to critique a work. Normally that would be a published novel. He decided it would be easier if the students just critiqued his thesis on inequality and African American females. He suggested students study some of his fiction that he had posted online for examples of how to write well. I read it and only refrained from commenting because Will was taking his class. It was the most gawd awful Mary Sue crap ever.

Classes mainly consisted of him talking about his experiences as a model, (his online pictures looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy in purple velvet capes) acting, and daring feats of swashbuckling, while also decrying the war and military. It failed to impress my Iraq Vet son and he and half the other students dropped the course.

Thankfully, I think most college and university courses are well worth the money, but it's not guaranteed.

Colin Smith said...

Hey, Sarah! Welcome out from the shadows. :)

For those who haven't already clicked Sarah's profile, she's a published author (oooOOooOoo--the woodland creatures gaze in awe)! And one who has been in a very surprising and difficult situation. Check out her blog for more:

Glad to have you around, Sarah!

gypsyharper said...

I am so bookmarking this post for the suggestions of writing courses for later when I actually have some time and money to take one.

As some other posters have said, 3K seems awfully steep for an online course, but I guess maybe that depends on the amount of individual attention you get from the instructors. And 3K for anything sounds steep to me, because I don't have it. If you do decide to go ahead with the course, hopefully you'll come back and let us know how it went.

CynthiaMc said...

I've only been to one writer's conference. It was here in Orlando and I could only go during the day because I was in a show at night. Well worth it.

My favorite tools: Strunk & White Elements of Style, Chicago Manual of Style, Self-editing for Fiction Writers. Those are like taking a class.

For screenwriters - The Save the Cat books by Blake Snyder. I made the finals of a screenwriting contest with my first screenplay thanks to these books.

Unknown said...

I have taken several of Barbara Rogan's classes and I can't praise her highly enough! I can still hear her "voice" in my head sometimes when I write!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

What Sarah said, It's important to click with the teachers.

One writing class I took was so bad I quit writing for six months. It was formally forbidden to write sex scenes, use four letter words and the teacher didn't know who Janet Reid is. <(°0°)>. She'd never heard of Noah Lukeman. One thing I did learn is I knew more than I thought I did.

I don't write explicit sex but the F-bomb, don't deprive me, please.

One weekly writing workshop I attend has two teachers. One is excellent the other dreadful. The first will cut your peice apart and have you in stitches, the other prohibits any comments, he wants you to express how you feel. No craft critiques allowed.

For 3 grand you could go to the WD conference 5 times. Or once with a big bar bill.

Theresa said...

Oh, Julie, that story about your son's class really made me cringe. Certainly (and unfortunately) just because someone is teaching at a university, that doesn't mean that they will be the best. (Really, you can't imagine how much I'm cringing here as I'm getting ready to head back into the classroom, always aware of the good and bad in academia.) I feel more comfortable about my abilities to assess someone's academic credentials and how that would work for me as a student.

And I also think highly of some of the classes and workshops offered by the authors mentioned in these comments today. I would research the quality of those offerings just as rigorously as I would the ones offered through a university. And I can see the big benefit of working with someone who has successfully published books that I admire.

Neither scenario can offer guarantees of getting published, but both can likely help make you a better writer. In a successful learning environment, both student and teacher have to be committed to doing the work.

Speaking of which.....

REJourneys said...

I took an online class through Writer's Digest. It was for a weekend, and as my first actual investing money in the craft, it was a big step for me. I learned some things, but a lot of it I had already found online. It was nice to have a critical eye and have actual feedback from an industry professional.

I'm currently reading Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict by Cheryl St. John. It has some neat exercises in it and some other recommended books. I like the voice used (I struggle with nonfiction reads of all sorts) and that it's doing what my beta reader did for me - point out things that the back of my mind says, but I choose to ignore.

Oh! And I don't know if anyone else mentioned it, but reading lots of books is good.

(Sorry if you know all of this already, OP. Just throwing ideas out there).

Anonymous said...

I've heard of Curtis Brown. This is the first I've heard of them offering a writing course, so have no feedback to offer on that. But it seems a bit like a realtor offering to teach you how to build a house. Not saying they wouldn't know how, but they wouldn't be my first choice of teacher.

There are some wonderful resources already suggested. A few writers that haven't been mentioned: Bob Mayer is an excellent teacher; Alex Sokoloff is amazing, especially with regard to story structure; Kristen Lamb is a great resource, especially with regard to character development. All these writers have huge amounts of information on their blogs (for free) as well as published books on writing.

Romance Writers of America (RWA) is another terrific resource and one known for educational efforts, even if you don't write romance. Writing is writing. They have several inexpensive online courses taught by experienced writers. Some resources are available to members only, but the annual membership is only $95 (people who don't write romance can join, but I think only as an affiliate/non-voting member).

And there are so many excellent books on writing, I could spend an hour listing them all here. Google is your friend.

I suggest looking into any and all of the resources mentioned here in the comments before spending 3K on ANY one source of writing instruction.

Christina Seine said...

Forgive me, I haven't read all the comments but I wanted to add something. I have a code in my doze and it's making my eyeballs hurt.

I have a real hard time with agents who offer editing services, or writing classes, or the like because I just think the possibility of sketchiness is too real. As in, "I loved your piece but you need to work on dialogue. Fortunately, it just so happens that I offer an editing service/writing class/yada yada yada that can REALLY help you, all for the low, low price of 2999.99." I'm not saying that's the case in this instance, as CB is a hugely prestigious agency, but still.

Honestly, my very best advice would be to find a writers conference near you that focuses on craft. I attended Willamette in Portland last year and Writers Digest in NYC this year and both offered dozens of hours of instruction. Obviously one can't attend every workshop, but in the case of the WD one, I'm told we'll get transcripts and/or links to audio of almost all workshops so we can go back and catch what we missed.

Plus, the beauty of conferences is meeting other writers - most of whom are also looking for feedback, and almost all of whom are more than willing to tell you what book you must read or whose session you must attend. Many are also looking for beta readers too. And the cost of a typical conference is about a tenth of what CB is asking.

Anyway, I'm back to bed with my cup of hot tea. Fall is kicking in up here, and it's just the right weather for hibernating.

The Sleepy One said...

Darcy Pattison offers novel revision retreats through writing organizations--I took one with her through SCBWI--and it was around $300 and included six meals and a lot of time spent approaching a novel revision step-by-step. It was one of the most practical workshops I've ever been to. Taking the time to get into the subject versus an hour craft session was helpful. Plus we were in groups of four within the retreat and everyone in the group had read each other's WIP, at times making it feel like a critique session on crack.

I've been to a couple other conferences and workshops/retreats and all cost less than this online course. The price tag scares me.

Sarah said...

Thanks for the welcome, Colin! Sorry to be getting back so late. I'm a high school teacher, which is why I miss so much of the fun here in the comments section.

Egmont USA's closing WAS hard- but all of us Last List authors were amazed by how the writing community responded. :)

Donnaeve said...

OFF TOPIC SORT OF - Just to make @Sarah cringe further while she descends back into Lurkville, ya'll should check our her AWESOME NaNoWriMo video - scroll down her blog - you'll see it. Hilarious!!!

Good job on that Sarah, if I'd been participating last year, I'd have appreciated your effort and work. You seemed so natural in front of the camera...maybe you've done some acting in the past too?

Adele said...

Whether or not you get anything out of any course depends entirely on what it is you need to know and whether they tell it to you. You don't know what it is you don't know, so picking any course is pretty much a crapshoot. Sometimes a chance comment by a fellow classmate may enlighten you more than the entire class.

I have taken classes locally: Creative Writing 101 at a university was good, but then I was just starting out and I didn't know anything. Looking back, the best part was that they made you write and write and write. "Writing The Novel (Advanced)" at a community college turned out to be a social evening for beginning novelists who just kept taking the course over and over. After three weeks they were turning to me for advice rather than the instructor - and I wasn't published, I just was friendly and had more courses under my belt than they did. The instructor preferred not to give opinions about anyone's work, lest it stifle their self-expression.

I took 2 levels of romance writing classes given by a very successful romance writer. They were a good basic introduction to novel writing, even though romance is not my genre.

I've been to the Surrey conference a few times.

I have a big library of books on writing and even so, I doubt the total I've paid for writing instruction, whether courses, conferences, or books, reaches $3,000.

My thought is that for $3,000 I'd rather have taken a variety of courses, been to conferences, and talked to a lot of other writers, than just to have taken one class.

Marc P said...

I think 'Horses for courses' from Julie M .... sums it up for me.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I'm telling you, Adult Ed, $55. for residents, $75. for non residents. Spend a couple a hundred on writing books at your local bookstore, including some Kindle titles, read in your genre, join a writing group, and most important, SHOW UP HERE every day and you too can be a writer, published writer, writer earning a few bucks, mega-star writer. Well maybe not mega-star but ya never know.
Oh, and don't forget, you have to write your tail off.

Actually, if you have three grand to spend, then publish on your own and call yourself a writer.

Tony Clavelli said...

I'd like to second some Janice said up above but with a caveat. My time in writing courses has been incredibly valuable, but only because it meant a very long, dedicated time of reading and writing. That kind of money could buy some isolated time to do work, and that might be wonderful.

But I also really valued the structure of my coursework. The meetings were regular; they were unavoidable. They came with added responsibilities--focusing not just on my writing, but on language as a whole, critiquing, criticism, teaching and pedagogy (we had a mandatory 3 years teaching undergrads)--all kinds of useful tools. Like any craft, it helps to be thrust in with distinct, attainable goals, and complete immersion. Even things like grades, almost invariable As in graduate school, contributed to the culture of getting better. Writing more, writing smarter.

Like the rest of the crowd, $3000 sounds like a lot to me. And Janet proves agents won't care even a little. But if after all the research and all the other comments above, if the course matches what you want, and you can pay, maybe a new perspective on your writing awaits! Best to think about what you need for now.

Panda in Chief said...

Boy, $3000 sounds like an AWFUL lot of money. I have to agree with most of the other commenters here. Spend that money going to a couple (well researched) writing conderneces and investigate what you can for free and cheap on the interwebs. (Like this blog and all the comments)
You can get so engrossed in listening to "free webinars" that are really just pitches for products (act now and get $10'000 value for only $399) that you forget to do any actual writing.
Hope you haven't sent the check yet. (Uh oh, I am showing my age....that should be paid with CrabapplePay from your decoder watch) and check out your local community college and writing conferences. If you live in/ near any kind of big city, there is probably one in your city or nearby, where you won't have to spend a lot of travel expenses.
Good luck with your project.

Panda in Chief said...

One more observation/ comparison: I recently was accepted into a Mentorship program through SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators). I have attended several conferances and illustrators retreats and for anyone writing in any of the kid lit genres up through YA, the information and training you can get from SCBWI, for a very modest expenditure, is useful and inspiring.

For less than half the cost of the OP's online course (with who knows how many other people) I go to a conference and retreat with six months of one on one back and forth critiques from my mentor, who is an agent. He is only working with one other person for this mentorship. The only thing that is not included in this is my two air trips from Seattle to Nevada, and I will still be paying far less than the online course that is being asked about here.

I think these opportunities exist in every genre there is, but you have to look for them and research them, and talk to people who have participated. The internet makes this kind of follow possible, just like it makes possible the scams out there. I don't know that this program is neccessarily a scam. I just think there are better ways to spend that $3000.

Anonymous said...


"Actually, if you have three grand to spend, then publish on your own and call yourself a writer."

Sorry, but that's lousy advice. The person is actually trying to improve their craft. Vanity publishing doesn't do anything but take your money and get a book out there that probably needs work.