Hi there! This is your friendly still-mostly-newbie ML, Taube/Roxanne. For my first post on this blog, I wanted to share my experience with taking the NaNoWriMo Creative Writing Courses through Wesleyan University last year. I’ll talk about what the courses are, what you get from the course, some examples of what’s beneficial, cost and financial aid, and how to sign up.
What are these courses?
NaNoWriMo has partnered with Wesleyan University to create a unique offering of Wesleyan’s online Creative Writing Courses meant especially for Wrimos! This includes a break in the course that is intended to coincide with November so you can learn AND write your NaNo novel! The NaNo sections of these courses have a special lower price (50% off regular price!), and they are structured slightly differently from the normal progression to help you get prepared for November. Additionally, all the other people in the courses will be your NaNo peers and there are special NaNo mentors in the chat section to help guide you in ways specific to the NaNo experience. The courses are offered through the online Coursera platform.
What will I get out of it?
There are four themed courses plus a special capstone. The four regular courses cover style, setting, character, and plot. These are meant to be finished by the end of October so you can take November off to work on your NaNo novel. Then, in December, you will complete the capstone course, which is centered around applying the principles from the other courses to prepare a polished first chapter of the novel you just wrote. In every course, there are video lectures and readings, as well as writing assignments that help you work on that course’s themes and lessons. For each writing assignment, you will get peer reviews that will help you see how others interact with your writing and get valuable feedback. This includes your first chapter of your novel!
How will this help me?
Feedback, feedback, FEEDBACK!!! I cannot stress enough how important this is! Feedback is simultaneously one of the most important and one of the most terrifying aspects of becoming a better writer. In these courses, each assignment will net you feedback from three peer reviewers. That doesn’t take all the fear out of sharing your brain products with the world, but the nice thing about this particular feedback is that all of it is from fellow NaNo writers, so you’re all roughly in the same boat. It’s not like you’re going to get stuck in a cohort of stuck-up professional writers or snot-nose, unwilling young’uns. Everyone is a NaNo writer trying to improve their writing through these courses. I found the feedback sometimes infuriating, often gratifying, and always helpful! Being able to open yourself up to critique is also an important part of increasing your skill and refining your writing, so if you want to take things to the next step, this is a great way to do it. The writing assignments themselves are also edifying and challenging. The most frustrating/helpful one was where I had to write a really quite short story which I labored over, and then the very next assignment was to write the same story in half the words! Aieeee! But what a great lesson! I got such satisfaction from completing the assignments, and then I got wonderful feedback that took me out of my own head and let me see how others responded to my writing. Priceless!
Speaking of price . . .
“Great, but how much is this going to cost me?” you’re probably wondering right about now. Each of the five courses is $29, which is half of what these courses normally cost. However, if this is a hardship for you, there is financial aid. I needed help, so I worked through this. It’s done mostly on an honor system, but you do have to write several statements in the application process to explain why you need the aid. It’s certainly easier than getting traditional financial aid at a university, and I received enough help that it was feasible for me to take all five courses despite my situation. If the $29/course makes you worry but you still are interested in the courses, I highly encourage you to take this route. Wesleyan/Coursera are very reasonable.
“I’m ready! Sign me up!”
Sound interesting? It is! I hope this has helped clear some things up about the courses and encouraged you that they will be helpful and fun. If you’re interested, visit Wesleyan’s page on the courses to learn the specifics and see how to sign up. If you need financial aid, make sure to visit this page. If you have questions, reply here in comments or message me on the NaNo site and I’ll do my best to answer! I hope this was helpful and has given you some inspiration to maybe improve your writing. 🙂