Week 2 & 3 Grad Class Recap

I have had zero time to blog, which was quite unexpected.  Last summer I took three classes and it was really tough.  I am only taking two classes this summer, and I thought that would leave me with more time: to write, to blog, to read for pleasure.  But that has not been the case.

The culprits: Critique and Insane Weather

I really take critiquing my peers work seriously because I know how valuable feedback is to a writer.  And for some of my classmates who aren’t a part of a writing group, this is the only feedback they get.  I also believe it’s a give and take, people will spend more time on your work if you spend more time on theirs.  I’m taking two creative courses, and between both classes, I’m critiquing 16 people’s work per week and between 120-160 pages.  Or roughly, it’s been taking me 45 minutes to an hour per person.  So… I’ve been overwhelmed by critique.  Other than Saturdays and Sundays, I’ve had no time to write, much less blog or read for pleasure.  BUT!  I do think that being able to critique is a valuable skill.  And who knows… I’m not planning on teaching forever.  I could see myself enjoying being an editor someday…

And last weekend, here on the East Coast, we were hit by this thing called a “derecho.”  Had never heard of it before, but it resulted in high winds (gusts up to 80 mph) that tore down trees, tore some of the roof off the University Library, and killed power throughout the region.  This was extra horrible because the temps have been over 100 degrees and without power… we had no air-conditioning.  The University was without power for about 36 hours which was much better than most other areas.  (I know people who are still without power… now 7 days later.  Ugh.)  Below are some pictures that illustrate how torn up campus was after the storm:

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Caroline at ProseBeforeWoes for sharing her pictures!

Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve been up to in my classes!!!  ^_^

Dystopian and Science Fiction:

We went over common elements of dystopian fiction.  Some elements we discussed are dehumanization, control of information, loss of freedom, focus on society.  We’ve been using Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy as a writing guide for our class.  It’s been very helpful.  During one class, we discussed chapter 3 in the book and talked about four different ways to structure your narrative (MICE: Milieu story,  Idea story, Character story, or Event story).  I discovered that one of my stories is a character story because the story revolves around my protagonist’s transformation.  Whereas, my dystopian story is an event story because the story revolves around the world making a transformation and being restructured from an event.

I also had a MAJOR revelation in regards to my dystopian WIP.  I’ve been frustrated because I didn’t know how to end my story.  Dystopian novels typically end one of two ways: revolution or escape.  Either the society/government is upended due to rebellion, or the protagonist runs away from the society they’ve grown to detest.  I wanted to find a new/different way to end my story.  And I did it!  I came up with an absolutely fabulous plot twist!!!  I’m so freaking excited.  I haven’t read any dystopian novel that does this, and I think I have something fresh on my hands.  And it allows for BRILLIANT sequel possibilities.

I also read Across the Universe for this class and will be posting a much delayed review of that this weekend as well.

Advanced Tutorial

My steampunk WIP for this class has been going much better than I expected.  I worried a little that the idea might be too strange and different.  But my class seems to be connecting with my characters really well.  They absolutely hate the characters I want them to hate and they love the characters I want them to love.  And they find my protagonist extremely sympathetic.  Yay!  I was also worried if I could pull off one of the settings… a factory… and have it make sense.  I haven’t exactly worked in a factory.  But they said my world-building is fantastic, and there’s been no confusion in how the factory is set up.  Double YAY!  And my pacing and plot are still strong.  As well as my “brushstroke” descriptions.  I don’t do heavy description.  I try to pick no more than three details to bring a character or setting to life.  I never do more than three, and I think it forces me to pick the three details that are most revealing and important.

There are still some things I need to work on.  My protagonist thinks in a puzzle-solving, scientific, mathematical way, and that’s hard for me to pull-off consistently because that’s not how I think at all.  I also need to do a better job of including my protagonist’s emotions and reactions to situations.  And I have my secondary characters down, but I need to add background people or tertiary characters to give my settings more vibrancy.  But I think for a first draft, I’m doing quite well.  And I sooooo appreciate both the constructive and positive feedback.  There is nothing more valuable to a writer than feedback!

I now have 10,620 words for my steampunk WIP.  Before the summer started I had sporadic key scenes and the first 1,600 words.  So I’m writing about 3,000 words a week which is great considering I’ve only had time to write on Saturdays and Sundays!  I trap myself in the library for 6-7 hours at a time and crank out the pages.  I’ve found I’m still doing a lot of research which slows me down a bit.  I’d love if I could hit 30,000 words before I leave for the summer.  We’ll see!

I am so, so, so behind in reading blogs.  I’ll read a post here and there on my iPhone when I’m stuck waiting somewhere, but it’s depressing how behind I am.  I’m going to try to do some commenting this weekend, but I’m not going to make any promises  πŸ˜¦  I still have loads of schoolwork to do.  But I promise to catch up at some point!

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6 comments on “Week 2 & 3 Grad Class Recap

  1. fakesteph says:

    I am so jealous right now! It sounds like you are having a wonderful summer! And I love how excited you sound about your projects!! I'm starting a class tomorrow call "Fast Draft". Its not really a critique sort of thing, but it's a structured environment to get down a draft in two weeks. Kind of terrified, but really looking forward to it.

  2. Okay, now I want to be a Beta Reader for your dystopian WIP, too! Seriously, I'm here if you need one! And I totally understand about all the time you have to spend critiquing–I have a degree in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing and most of my classes were centered on critiquing. It's a lot of work! Thanks for writing all these posts about your classes–I love hearing about them!

  3. Aylee says:

    It's so cool that you seem to have great classes and feedback systems for improving your writing capabilities. I am not a writer at all, but it's neat to read your thought processes here, what your class thinks you're good at, and what you need to improve. I am very intrigued about the ending plot twist for your dystopian WIP that you mention is different from most dystopian endings (you really hit the nail on the head when you mention most end in either revolution or escape – I've never really thought of it before, but you're so right). Hope you keep up the writing and accomplish your goals. Try not to stress too much about not being around on the blog more often. We understand that everyone lives busy lives and it's hard to balance everything.Never heard of an derecho before, but I hope you're all in the clear and you won't have to experience another one! Yikes.

  4. LHughes says:

    Your Fast Draft sounds so cool! I want to know more details!

  5. LHughes says:

    I bet you'd be a great beta reader! I'm striving to finish a first draft of my Steampunk WIP by the end of 2012 so I can start revising and getting a second round of readers in 2013, so I'll be in touch! Especially knowing you have a degree in English and mad critique skills πŸ™‚

  6. LHughes says:

    I hadn't heard of a derecho either! Until we were hit by one!You're so good at providing advice regarding blogging and reminding me not to feel bad if you can't do EVERYTHING.As much as I'd love to tell you my plot twist for a Dystopian ending… I'm gonna keep that to myself… :)But if I ever need a beta reader and you're free, I'll let you in on my secret early!

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