I mentioned a while back that I was planning to take a UCLA fiction writing course, Novel IV. My motivations were twofold. First, I really enjoy getting know local writers and I figured an advanced course would have some interesting people in it. Second, I am humble enough to know that I am not done learning to be a writer.
The class started a few weeks ago. The instructor, Mark Sarvas, had my attention when he asked us all to say what we were reading. He assumed we were reading fiction. Hell yes. He went on to explain that writers should be reading and writing every day, and we should be reading more than we’re writing. Double hell yes.
Mostly, we’re working on scenes in this class. We spend the first half of each three-hour session on discussion of one particular aspect of scene (he has a check list), and the second half of the class is a workshop. Each week three of us submit 20 pages and get feedback. (Those getting feedback aren’t allowed to talk – which is brilliant – but those of us giving feedback have pretty lively discussions.)
I just submitted my first 20 pages. Having recently re-written my beginning, no one has actually seen these pages yet. I feel pretty good about them, but I’m very excited to hear what my classmates have to say.
All in, I am totally digging the class. I’ve already signed up for the next one (Novel V). I’m hoping to spend the next six weeks going through my draft with an eye for scene work and applying everything I’m learning. I’m not sure what the focus of Novel V is, but whatever it is, I’m on board.
It’s great to be back in a classroom, talking about the art of writing and having informed debates. I suppose after you publish a book or two you stop taking classes and start teaching them. In my limited experience teaching, I’ve learned even more than I have during my time as a student. So here’s to life-long learning.
May life always challenge you to grow and change as an artist and a person.