Monday, July 15, 2013

Online Romance Writing Program from McDaniel College

Posted on behalf of Professor Pamela Regis

McDaniel College is pleased to offer our Romance Writing Certificate program again this year. Professor Jennifer Crusie, MFA (Bet Me, Welcome to Temptation, etc.) teaches the program. Below is her description of it. Head over to ArghInk if you’d like to ask questions. Or email me, pregis AT mcdaniel DOT edu. I’m the go-to person for administrative help. Here’s Jenny: 

The 2013 McDaniel College Nora Roberts Romance Writing Program begins on August 12, and registration is open now. We’ve made a lot of changes since our first year, and a big thank you to the 2012 McD students who helped me figure out a better way to teach this, to Pam Regis who is the perfect administrator (patience of a saint), and to Nora Roberts, whose generosity makes this program possible. 
Here are some details about the program:

  • The course is “wholly online, completely asynchronous,” which means you’ll never have to leave the house, and there is no set time you have to be online, although you do have to check in regularly.
  • There are five eight-week classes in the program with two-week breaks in between each course. We’ve also added three optional eight-week workshops for a second year because of student interest.
  • The first four courses are designed to give students the tools they need to make their novels better. Please note, that’s “tools” not “rules” and “better” not “conforming to a standard of perfection.” Each course gives the student the theory behind the subject of the course, the writing tools that have developed from the theories, and practice in using those tools.
  • The fifth course is on publishing. We drink a lot during that one.
  • The three second-year workshops are designed to provide the student with a framework and support group for finishing her novel.

Each course is divided into four two-week modules.

The assignments for each first year module are:
  • an exercise or analysis to make the module concept clearer (Mod 1)
  • a scene or synopsis or query letter (aka creative writing) (Mod 2)
  • three critiques of fellow students’ work plus an exercise or analysis to make a concept clearer (Mod 3)
  • the rewrite of the creative writing assignment from [Mod 2]; the publishing course adds a completed book proposal

The assignments for second year workshop modules are:
  • an overview of the novel (plot plan, character arc plan, novel plan (Mod 1)
  • a student-designed project based on a problem in the student’s novel (Mod 2 & 3)
  • one third of the student’s novel finished in draft form (Mod 4)

In addition to the formal assignments, students are required to:

  • Participate in the discussion forums (this has not been a problem for the 2012 students; the problem has been getting them out of the forums; turns out writers like to talk about writing)
  • Write their goals for each module in online Learning Logs and then evaluate those goals at the end of the modules (along with any notes, insights, questions, etc., during the module; your online journal).
  • Write ten pages/ 2500 words of new first draft on their novels each module (this is evaluated solely on quantity, not quality; the idea is to keep students writing new pages for their novels while they’re analyzing and rewriting their work in assignments).
  • Read a lot throughout the first four classes: romance novels, writing textbooks (Robert McKee’s Story, Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction, Renni Browne and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers), internet posts and essays, and the Lecture PDFs I put up each module. There are also some videos to watch and some screenplays to read which usually leads to watching the films (Moonstruck and “A Scandal in Belgravia” in particular).

Other things you should know:

  • Everything students do in this program is part of a process; none of these assignments is supposed to be finished work. You can’t fix a page until you HAVE a page, and since writing is re-writing (and re-writing and re-writing), it’s important not to waste time and energy worrying about how perfect the assignment is and focus instead on how to make it better each time. Because writers tend to despair when they look at their drafts, and despair is only amplified if somebody’s actually grading the suckers, I repeated, “It’s a process, just make it better each time” as a reminder so many times that the students voted to put “It’s a process” on the McD 2012 t-shirt.
  • I am always, always, always late with the grading, but if a student asks a question on the Discussion boards or on the class blog, she’ll get a (probably long and detailed) answer within twenty-four hours. After five courses, I’m convinced that the real learning in this program takes place in the Discussion Forums and the group blog, but I’m going to make the students do the assignments anyway.
  • I will answer questions about the program in the comments, but I’ve also invited the current students to come over and answer questions, too, since they’ll have a better perspective on the experience. I’ve told them to be brutally honest in their answers, but if you’d prefer, Jill at, Michille at, Kathy at, and Jeannine at will also answer questions privately in e-mail.

Admin stuff:

Tuition is $450 per credit hour; courses are three credit hours. Registration is open now until July 31. The class is limited to fifteen students, and when it’s filled, that’s it because I am not effective with class sizes larger than that. The next opportunity to begin the program will be August 2014, although I don’t know if I’ll still be teaching the classes next year. Click here to apply:

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