Writewell, the Last Post About It (for awhile) I Swear

It’s been really interesting working on these first courses. The 101 lecture is just an introduction to Writewell itself, but I’ve finished the slides and notes for 103 (Conflict), and I’ll finish 211 (4 Act Structure) today, and I’ve got a good start on 221 (Scene). Some of the time was spent learning the very basic skills I needed for illustration and animation (and I mean basic), but most of it was taking all the stuff I knew about the one particular topic and synthesizing it down into three support points and then making them as clear as possible. I’ve done the 103 lecture at least a dozen times, trying to find a balance between abstract information (“You need conflict”) and application (“Here’s an example of conflict”) that can then be extrapolated into exercises so people can use their own stories as examples of the concepts. Trying to hit the people who learn by watching, the people who learn by listening, the people who learn by hands-on doing, and the people who learn by reading is challenging. I’ve pretty much decided that the people who like to learn by reading paragraphs are going to be the ones short-changed here because I don’t want to write a book for each lecture. I’m thinking that the video lecture with voiceover, the separate audio (which will have to make some sense on its own even though it’ll be referring to the slides), and the support materials for hands-on learning (which for me will be a notebook* for ideas as you watch the slide show and a workbook to use for your own story) will cover it.

What always amazes me is how, no matter what I teach, getting ready for a class affects the story I’m working on. It’s impossible to think about these concepts without applying them to the story in my head, and I’ve had any number of lightbulb moments since I started this. They’re such basic concepts until you use them as lenses to see your stories through, and then they’re like one of those prism kaleidoscopes: what they mean depends on what you’re looking at. If I can make that happen for other people, that’ll be a good, good thing.

We have hit a couple of small snags, one of which is that there is no automatic download feature, so evidently after Paypal gets the cash, it sends us a notification and then we send the lecture on. Since we’re all on the computer pretty much all the time, there shouldn’t be much of a lag time, but it isn’t as swiftly automated as I’d have liked. On the other hand, it’ll work. I can’t imagine it ever taking longer than twenty-four hours for us to see an e-mail, so that’s probably what we’ll promise.

Still a lot has been fun. Getting the clip art together for the first lectures has been a blast. Once I decided that the only aesthetic guideline I needed was black and white drawings, I’ve been mixing and matching illustration styles and periods with abandon. My Virgo heart clutches sometimes when I see how much abandon, but since I’ll probably be using the same protagonist and antagonist clips throughout all my lectures, and since I love them, I’m stifling my inner iron-out-all-the-wrinkles and going for it. I’m counting on people liking dorky illustration and animation, but I also know that everything I’m putting in there really does make the concepts clearer, so I think I’m safe. Kinda. Maybe.

Also, we’re working out a way to have Writewell forums within the Cherry Forums structure, and they’ll launch when the lectures go live and the Cherry revamp is complete. Lots of new stuff here, but then it’s spring. New growth! Or something much like it.

We may not make the April 1 launch date (that’s only five days away ARGH), but we’ll definitely be up and running soon, and it’ll be a much, much better thing because of all of you. I am grateful as always to Argh Nation. You have the patiences of saints and the revision skills of surgeons. Thank you all so much.

Edited to add: This is sort of what a sample notebook page will look like (much better margins): One of the main slides (not all of the slides) with a grid underneath for taking notes (because I like quad-ruled better than regular ruled paper when I take notes):

54 thoughts on “Writewell, the Last Post About It (for awhile) I Swear

  1. Jenny, it sounds terrific. I just added “more notebooks” to my shopping list. I’m very eager to use the classes to learn and to move forward with my story. You’re working so hard to make it valuable for the students; I’m very glad you’re getting your own lightbulb moments as you work – and I’m looking forward to mine.

  2. What, no more new Writewell posts? I live for new Writewell posts.

    The clip art is great. It makes me happy and will make the courses even more fun!

    1. Well, it began to feel like exploitation.
      Which will not stop me from posting the revised first scene from Lavender’s Blue and demanding you tell me what’s wrong with it. It’ll just be a DIFFERENT exploitation.

  3. Quad-ruled! Allelujah! And I quite love the character illustrations, too. This is shaping up to be really really fun. Bravo!

  4. I LOVE the worksheet and the Conflict page. You all are beyond brilliant.

    I really like that this material will always be available whenever I choose to download. I’ve given myself permission to take a guilt-free break from writing fiction. So much going on with my life right now that it’s very difficult for me to focus and commit. I don’t honestly know if I’ll go back to it, but if/when I do, I’m taking the course and recreating my abilities from the beginning.

    Thank you for sharing this process with us, too!

  5. The experience you describe in how the prep for this has influenced your current WIP is why I think this idea has a wide appeal. New writers learning craft get to choose from a selection of good, concise crash courses. And experienced writers get refreshers in nice, bite-sized morsels.

    This could be the ultimate buffet for all writers:)

  6. I wondered about the quad-ruled, but it did not make my “top two” list of nit picky questions (I have limits. Really). We had an exchange student (or something, it was a long time ago) from Britain when I was in junior high, and she had such neat, precise handwriting, and it was, apparently, because they learn to write on quad-ruled paper. I suspect that even that would not have helped me. Heaven knows, the nice dotted lines on the unbleached green-line paper we used didn’t help me much with my letter height.

      1. I love the quad ruled- and the first thing I thought of when I saw it was “I can write on it sideways!” I have no idea why that made me so happy, but it did.

        Love, love, love the clip art. I am Even More excited about this, and I pretty dern excited before.

  7. Oh, and I’m so glad that you’re having fun! Teaching without grading or administrators – definitely the way to go.

  8. YAY!!! You can always put the downloads behind a password protected page and send the buyer an email with the link and password in it rather than worry about having to send each email out separately.


  9. I wouldn’t worry about making your April 1st goal. Better to be good than to be on time. (That can be our new motto.)

    Mind you, I am in the midst of MAJOR revisions, and this stuff would be very helpful, I’m sure. Gods, something had better be.

    Glad you’re having fun and getting something out it for yourself!

  10. <<>>

    You might consider letting this go as there is no evidence that catering to perceived learning styles has any impact on learning outcomes. One less worry! 🙂

    1. Jude, as a teacher (retired now) I strongly disagree with this research. I think a multi-modal approach helps everyone learn better. Even strongly visual learners or strongly auditory learners have more success learning and retaining material that hits all the learning styles. I have seen it work in the classroom. Kinesthetic learning especially has been widely neglected for too long. Of course, I was a primary teacher and this might influence my observations.

      1. As a parent of a child with a learning disability, Thank you for paying attention to different learning styles! There is no reason to leave people out. Also, as you cover the material in different ways, you re enforce that learning. Repetition is a part of learning and retaining information. Repeating it in different ways keeps it interesting. My sister teaches public speaking to college students. One of the important lesson she repeats often is to repeat, but in interesting ways.

        1. The classic pattern of teaching is:
          Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em.
          Tell ’em.
          Tell ’em what you told ’em.

          Just do it all in different ways.

    2. Oh, I think learning styles do. At least when I was teaching art it was really evident. By the time I got to English, I was heavily into lecture-and-discussion mode, but I found that explaining a concept, demonstrating a concept, and then having students DO a concept covered almost everybody, even the people who preferred to learn by reading. I don’t think anybody is fully oriented in one mode, but I think most people lean in one of the directions.

      It’s also good for me to think about the information I want to impart in those different ways. Sometimes demonstrating it in pictures tweaks the other forms, etc.

      1. Yep. Many approaches often shake something up, or cement it for my students as well. And even though my students are college age, they really appreciate the kinesthetic things we do, even though I often have a hard time thinking of enough exercises throughout the semester. Sometimes getting the body moving in some form helps the brain recalibrate.

      2. Learning styles do indeed matter. I learn by reading, I really HATE people yammering at me when I can read the material so much faster. My daughter, on the other hand, learns by watching other people demonstrate. It took us a while to figure out where she needed help… reading the material out and asking questions worked for us during her high school years. Now she’s in an intensive nursing program at Drexel. I can’t help with the specifics anymore, but she’s learned to record the lectures and re-listen as she prepares for exams. She learned that’s she’s an audio learner, and I’ve learned that I’m a written learner. Of course, neither of us are candidates for your program. But the discussion on learning styles is great. It took me a long time to figure out that my daughter learns differently from me. I’m a reader, and she’s a discoverer.

        BTW – love your blog, and should comment more frequently. Lurkers are the anathema of the web, but they shouldn’t be. We come out of the woodwork when we have something to say

          1. Agreed that everyone’s experience is different, but wanted to note that multimodal learning approaches are not the same as learning styles though there may be overlaps. Everyone benefits from multimodal, and Bloom’s taxonomy remains a powerful tool for thinking about the right approach for a given objective.

  11. Ack, the text I quoted did not not appear above–just the brackets <> remained. I was replying to this:
    “Trying to hit the people who learn by watching, the people who learn by listening, the people who learn by hands-on doing, and the people who learn by reading is challenging.”

  12. With each Writewell post I get more excited. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but it is.

    One of the things I enjoy about listening to previous RWA workshops is that I get something different out of them each time I hear them. I’m in a different place. My WIP, or the new one, is in a different place, and my world is in a different place. I’d imagine that teaching might be linked in a similar fashion.

  13. There’s several easy ways to link Paypal to a site that stores your downloads and sends them out.

    We used e-junkie.com for a LONG time before we switched to an actual shopping cart. It has its issues like everything else, including charging a monthly fee, but there’s other options as well.

    Zen cart is used a lot and we use Hika shop and I /think/ they may have a free version.
    We’ve been selling pdfs of our rules online for 5 years so if you have any questions feel free to hit me with them!

  14. (-: This is so exciting! It really looks good!

    On the quad paper, I’m quite fond of it for taking notes. It gives you a strong, solid structure, but then you are free to go anywhere in two directions — draw pics or offset the lines . . . really love it.

  15. I’m excited about this. Thanks so much for doing this. All very tantalizing. Can’t wait for it to be ready, but agree with those who said not to sweat the April 1st deadline. Plan to be among first to sign up!

  16. 1. You had me at t-shirts. I’m a sucker for witty t-shirts and free food.
    2. I wish this would have been around before I spent gazillions on a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the opportunity but it consisted of misogynistic professors and classmates. This environment seems a bit more…erm…female friendly (I was actually told by a guy in class my story was unrealistic because my character thought of two things at once and he said that was impossible! HA!)
    3. I too understand the Virgo heart seizing at the appearance if mismatched aesthetics… (MATCHY MATCHY!)…my Aquarian moon tells me it’s okay for things to be mismatched… My Leo rising says, “I MADE THIS! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!”
    4. *squuueeeeeeeee* A cool writing class! Sorry for this being number 4…but see number 1…

  17. I love the way you work on lesson planning. It’s inspired me. Now I really want to do the course, asap, I always wanted to do it but with little urgency. Now I want to be there as soon as I’ve organised the funds (in my case, exchange rates are the killer.)

    Good luck. I know it’ll rock.

  18. Just had to tell you, I’m a Golden Heart finalist in the romantic suspense category!!!! I’ve always said that I owe everything I know about writing to you, Jenny. And now I’ve added Lani to that list as well as she gave me some wonderful advice on Exposure.

    I’m shaking and my stomach is doing cartwheels. Should not have had that second cup of coffee. Off to spread the good news.

    1. That is so fabulous, Roben. A nomination for the GH is a big, big, BIG thing. Editors look at those immediately, and it’s huge to put in a cover letter. I am SO HAPPY for you!

    2. I just found this and was about to post it. Awesome ! Congratulations! I will be in Anaheim to cheer you on .

  19. CONGRATS Robena (and to all the Rita and GH finalists)!

    Love the grid pages and graphics.
    I’m excited to begin.

    Tell me when you want me to pimp this program on my blog and twitter. (and if you have some kind of ‘press pkg’ of graphics and info/link)


  20. Jenny, I was wondering if the writewell wasn’t a means of avoidance (writing), so I’m glad to see that it worked as just the opposite, sparking ideas. I like the idea of the lessons being visual based, even though I prefer to learn book style. Sometimes more is just more (and who has time for more paragraphs when the audio/visuals can do it for you?). Your teacher brain is definitely peeking through. Can’t wait to see it!

  21. Am so looking forward to your courses – hurry up! I have a writing group who are also interested – I’m putting the word out! Did I tell you to hurry up?

  22. Oh, I forgot to add what Lola said–please do let me know when I should start pimping Writewell on my blog/website. I’m happy to post whatever kind of promotional material you give me–my little guru can pretty much handle anything.

  23. Thanks for letting me puff up my feathers on your blog, Jenny. : 0
    Now back to business. I also love the quad-ruled paper. It’s so nice to decorate those little squares when you get stuck. Oh, but then you two will be our teachers so we won’t get stuck, will we?
    Looking forward to the beginning of class. I’ve sharpened all of my pencils.

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