What I Learned in Writing Class

Actually, I should be writing classes but that would not make for an easy-to-read headline. Some of you know that I have been attending a few classes; both fiction and non-fiction, and I’ve been going through the motions … I will have more time again to read up on all the blogs I missed. Pinky swear!

While texting isn’t the worst thing you can do with your life, I do wish for writing something more meaningful.

The German Volkshochschule could be compared to a community college. They offer anything from basket weaving to language classes. All of my lecturers were published authors and, let’s face it, kinda need a bread job as well. While the classes are a bargain, you learn a lot. It is also nice to have a weekly date just for writing. I was lucky to attend two courses in a classroom. With real people! The online classes were actually really good fun, too.  

So, without further ado, let’s get going!

Here’s my collected writing pain in all its glory.

20 Lessons from Writing Class

Texting is not writing

While I knew this beforehand, I was not aware how much that really messed with my use of language. When you write for Mr. Google the focus is on keyword density and synonyms. You need to use a whole bunch of filling words to please readability in an SEO friendly text (and I may occasionally just throw them in afterwards to a sickening degree). I love the balancing act between writing for the internet and writing for real people. However, with proper writing you want to strip your text of all those fillers.

What is left of your story without all the fluff?

You have a blind eye for your writing

It is super easy to identify that guy who couldn’t set a comma properly if his life depended on it or the lady that loves fancy adverbs … Turns out, I am the uncrowned queen of ands (and I had no idea I did that)

Long sentences are out; so is the comma

Don’t use a comma. Make it a full stop. Period.

Writers Block

I though writers block was looking at a blank page without any ideas.

My head may be too full. The result is the same.

Procrastinating is part of the process

Welcome to I will do anything but the thing I meant to be doing. Seriously, I made my first fresh pasta in January. Looking for a new couch is a timely process and can keep you entertained for a week or two. Plus, once it gets there you gotta figure out where to put all that stuff that lived in the old couch. (Buying fabric is a side effect of sewing. Any similarities to writing here?)

You’d think the place would sparkle by now as if Mr. Clean attended to it himself.

Crickets 20 Things I learned in writing class bekitschig blog
Crickets …
Picture by gdakaska on Pixabay

Limbo is a painful place. I’ve been avoiding writing like the plague, but I may not be the first person who finds it hard to start. Try to identify the cause.

Change of scenery

A change of routine or scenery can make a huge difference. While I can’t sit in the library at the moment, I can switch my desk for the kitchen table. It also helps to write in the morning, before the rest of daily tasks get in the way and swallow up the entire day.

Brilliant, hey? I’m reinventing the wheel here.

Make your scope realistic

Instead of writing a novel maybe start with a few short stories. If the pure scale of your project is daunting, try something smaller or break it up into pieces.

Style & Taste

Hemingway is like pizza. Even if it’s not the bomb, it’s still pizza. Turns out MANY people in writing class completely disagree with that. Hemingway that is.

Imagine you were one of the greatest writers on this planet … The sad reality is, that some people would still not like your stuff. James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Homer, J. R. R. Tolkien, Umberto Eco, William Faulkner, William Shakespeare … You get the idea. Some of that stuff is hard to digest. Just cause it’s brilliant, doesn’t mean you (have to) like it. There will always be people that do not dig your writing.

If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it. Quote Wally Lamb be kitschig blog
20 Lessons from Writing class
Wally Lamb

Excuses

Excuses, there are many. I just have a hard time concentrating on writing because the neighbour on top of us has been screaming all night and now I am tired and there were sled rides before home schooling and maybe, just maybe, I may get a wee bit crazy from Corona lockdown here and there. Set all these aside.

What if all these things had not been there, had I accomplished any more?

Take your time, for a while

Sometimes your story needs to simmer a bit more.

Just don’t wait too long. It might go stale and end up in the bin.

bekitschig blog Quotes All writers have this vague hope that the elves will come in the night and finish any stories bekitschig blog
Neil Gaiman

How to spice up your writing the easy way

Verbs.

Apparently, there are a lot of them.

Read

For two decades I have been mostly reading in English. At least this is easy to fix.

quote reading is the finest teacher of how to write be kitschig blog
20 Lessons from Writing class
Annie Proulx

Too many cooks

A writing class gives you great feedback and lots of input. Unfortunately, the more people you ask, the more opinions you will get. (Oh, how one of those cooks crushed me …)

Don’t show unfinished ideas to too many people.

Use feedback to grow

Many of us are not incredibly good at handling criticism. Yet, when you take a class it is part of the process. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t sit there in the first place. An honest opinion is worth more than a polite smile without criticism.

To plot or not to plot

If there is one thing lecturers like to stress in writing class, is the importance of a plot. Without a conflict or some tension, you do not have a viable story. Some people just wing it. I learned that I do need a rough outline, but the characters are allowed to have space. They often know better where to go anyways. While it may sound simple, this is really an important decision for productivity.

Writing & editing

Writing and editing are not the same thing. There is absolutely no use in going back and back to that one chapter, if you are still missing 10 or so. This can be really hard. Even if you wrote the best beginning of all time, you may have to alter things later because something in the story changed. Maybe a part is not logical, maybe just a name changed, or you even kicked out a main character.

Ambition and perfectionism are not your friends

Set your goals high. Always! However, reaching for the stars when you hardly made it past your backyard might not help you in the long run.

You need to hone your craft. Don’t reach too high, it might leave you disappointed. Perfectionism is just a synonym for not getting anything finished. Set your goals high but stay realistic.

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

At some point you must write

The perfect time will never come. You can take writing classes all you like; at some point it is entirely up to you to put those freaking words on paper.

Don’t get lost in research

For all of you who blog or write I probably don’t need to explain this further. It is great to brush up on sentence structure or character development. Consider The Elements of Style by William Strunk, rather than the whole freaking internet.

I was gonna write library, but it is pretty shocking what kind of advice you find online. Maybe it’s just me, but if you wanna teach me how to write good well, perhaps you should lead by example.

Write for yourself

Last but certainly not least, at the end of the day you are writing for yourself. My little gnome picture book developed a life of it’s own, so I really want to see if I can take this idea further. Maybe no one will ever read it but I really need to finish it just for myself.

While I’m moving at the pace of a snail at least finally there is movement and I’m excited to see where we are going!

Write like it matters, and it will Libba Bray be kitschig blog
Libba Bray

Do you have any more tips about writing? What does your writing process look like?

I would love to read your thoughts!

Thanks for flying with be kitschig and have a nice weekend!

Photo Lessons for Dummies

To write or not to write

If you’d like to make fresh pasta as well, head over to the lovely Parmigiana Whisperer. Making pasta is a wonderful form of procrastinating.

Feature image by Diego PH on Unsplash

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38 thoughts on “What I Learned in Writing Class

    1. Thank you so much! It did take some time to get there … All will be good. Just keep track and don’t loose faith. We’re not the first people to wonder about these things. With one of my lecturers I’m still in contact and number 21 should probably be ‘find a writing buddy’ 🙂

    1. Thank you! You may have to wait the time it takes to watch grass grow … But with your art I’m sure you’ll understand. It takes as long as it takes ☺️

  1. Some really good advice there, and being part of a writing class or group does wonders for the writing soul.
    “Long sentences are out; so is the comma.” – I do this. All the time. When I’m working on my novel. 🙂
    That said, style and layout is a personal choice; the long-winded meaty paragraph vs the trimmed and pointed short paragraph – both can work perfectly depending on what is you’re writing.
    Editing – I write as much as I can as fast as I can and as best as I can and raw, then go back and edit tenderly, then back again, and again. Leave to simmer for a few days, then go back and edit again. Editing, for me, is the purest form of the writing process.
    You said “at the end of the day you are writing for yourself.” So true. Your gnome book you must see it through, as anything you write see it through, even if you dislike it after, the point being you’ve made a complete journey of the writing process and can learn from it and go elsewhere.

    1. You summed this up so nicely, there is really not much I can add but your last sentence really struck a chord with me. You need to finish ideas in order to make room for the next one. (I had great ambitions to write a kitschy travel guide, places booked, and than covid struck …) What are your ideas, if you don’t see them through?
      You are right — I do not know if I will like this book in the end. Lots of stuff keeps changing and I am still not sure where we’re going. At least I found momentum. There will be book 🙂
      Can’t wait for your novel.

      1. Glad it resonated.
        Yes, I’m powering my way to the end of the novel with as much free time as I can between work and life and other projects. At the moment it’s going well writing a few chapters very rough, then taking time later to edit. One of the time killers though is the other day I had to do some research for some events between 1964 – 1969, thank goodness we have the internet or I would have spent hours at the library.
        All good 🙂

  2. Maybe the main thing is focus. In my case, lack of. I have a friend who has a business giving storytelling workshops for businesses and academics. She reads about the subject and distills what she reads into succinct blogposts. Every morning she writes ‘morning pages’ and takes notes in her journal about what she reads. She also occasionally goes off for a weekend or just 24 hours in a hotel so she can really focus. She’s really productive. Unlike me. My poor neglected blogs! Just as well I don’t want to write a book.

    1. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to write a book. Your blog success is also really a question of defintion! The day is short; so is your life.
      Your friend does sound super motivated. Maybe that is the essence — how much do you really want it? If you put in the work, there will be an outcome. I do like the idea of just getting away for work in peace. At the end of the day, TRYING is a fab thing. If you find in the end it does not work out/ is not for you / … / it’s still an outcome.

    1. And there’s nothing wrong with that 😉
      The classes just helped me to be more conscious with the words I use. Years ago in papers for Uni I often needed those long sentences. Describing a product you don’t get away with it.
      I had 17 ands in 200 words. That’s a proud count. I didn’t notice because I spent a lot of time wondering if it was too over the top to finish the last sentence with a question mark. Oh my, oh my …
      Your style is your style. If you can pull of the long sentences, go for it!

  3. I never really took a writing class, but I can identify with most of these items, having learned them from experience (and from reading lots of books on this subject)!

    1. It was fascinating that you can fit all the extra reading and homework into the week. After all is finished I started reading about writing, too 😉 but decided it’s really time to just dare. 5 chapters down, still a few miles to go but I cannot write just for Google anymore!

  4. Wow – I learned a lot from this post Jeanine. I am guilty with a capital “G” of the commas … I try not to string along too long of a sentence, but tend to use commas a lot. Guilty as charged. I had to agree about these difficult-to understand authors (James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Homer, J. R. R. Tolkien, Umberto Eco, William Faulkner, William Shakespeare) … hated them all. Didn’t have a clue as to Shakespeare half the time (even after CliffsNotes Study Guides). I took some literature classes in college – they were part of my program, so no getting out of them. The worst for me was that I had to read Middle English novels like “Baowulf” in multiple classes and I still didn’t “get” it and maybe as you speak two languages and read it, you had no difficulty, but it sure was difficult for me. Congrats to you for taking the classes. We can always stand to learn a little more – I know I can!

    1. Hi Linda, it sounds like you didn’t enjoy your literature classes. I really like Faulkner but I probably don’t get everything … Luckily, I did get spared Beowulf but I did see fellow students struggle with Artus and Erec & Co. (Is that’s way they say you EARN a degree?) My absolute worst class was English landscaping in the 17th Century. There is not enough coffee in this world!
      I think you are never too old to learn. Maybe someone is skilled with gardening, wood working, watercolors … in a class you will always learn something new.
      When I’m retired, I’ll probably more or less live in the library reading encyclopedias from A – Z

      1. I had some pretty boring classes during my college years Jeanine. I one time took an archeology class as I thought it would be fun – it was not a required class for my program. The teacher was ancient himself and I would get into class and nod off, ten minutes into the class. He read right from the book and had a monotone voice. What a disappointment. I dropped the class and got my money back. I had to read some books over and over again – same books. And didn’t understand them. I like a story I can follow and understand. I am looking forward to retirement and getting back into reading again. I used to read on the bus to/from work and at work on my lunch hour – I loved to read and then since I’ve worked from home since 2011 then began blogging in 2013, I never get books read. I bought some books in 2019 and read three and loved it so bought more and didn’t read them yet. As to the library and reading the encyclopedias – I once bought a book, which is outdated now but called “An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn’t”
        by Judy Jones, William Wilson. I got the name from Amazon, but won’t send the link as you’ll get visited by Amazon, but it gives you a little bit of everything and when I read it I realized how much I missed learning in high school and college. I’ll send you a link in a separate comment in case it goes to SPAM … I cannot go on this website as I’ll get lost there as there is so much to read.

      2. I used to get onto the bus and hurry up and drag my book out of my tote bag before anyone started talking to me. I didn’t mind chit-chatting while in line downtown waiting for the bus, but after that not so much. I cut corners on outside chores and housework has gone the way of reading since blogging.

      3. Glad you like it Jeanine – they really have a lot of stuff crammed in there … not a lot of white space, but there is something for everyone there. We use the expression “everything from soup to nuts”.

  5. I used to edit essay papers for a friend of mine doing online literary courses. He couldn’t understand why the professor kept red circling these paragraphs of his and asking him to do the project over. I told him that those particular paragraphs were one sentence each, and that he needed to break things into smaller sentences. Then he would show me some work by a famous author who had very long sentences. I told him– when you become a successful writer, you can write however you’d like. But oftentimes writing schools want to keep stuff a little simpler.

    1. That is some pretty decent advice! Once you’re a famous author you can even finish sentences with prepositions …
      It was fun to read papers by other people. I’ve edited a roommates final paper. He was some crazy computer science guy who built a “bus” that transported data quicker on a microship. Bus was pretty much the only word I could understand 😉 So you can really just look at spelling & Co.
      Ah, good times …

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