I was going to wait until half-course to write an ‘ongoing review’ of how Inferno (my writing course) [link] is going, but today I need to… talk about it. I need to tell someone (or nobody) or I will explode. This is my equivalent to count to twenty in Greek.
Truth be told, I am… disappointed.
The first thing that surprised me was the feedback methodology. You share your piece and get to ask a few “open, neutral questions”. The reader then gives you a “statement of meaning” (i.e. tells you what you did right) and asks you a few “open, neutral questions” in turn. You answer them. Then they ask you if you want opinions on your piece. The way it is panned, there is no constructive criticism anywhere, because that is considered aggressive. The tutor follows this feedback process too, and after the piece you get a “grades” for different things (excellent, satisfactory, unsatisfactory). These are those points:
- Adherence to word limit
- Evidence of knowledge of components of writing
- Evidence of creativity and imagination
- Structure of the piece
- Language of the piece
- Textual cohesion/ coherence (pace, flow, storytelling)
- Evidence of self-editing
The first assignment was writing a synopsis. Pointers? “google ‘write a synopsis’.” Hm. Thank you, I can google on my own. I’m a fan of JFGIing, don’t need to pay to get it told.
The second assignment was a 3000-words piece. I chose the first chapter of Victim #14 for it. Most pointers were ‘satisfactory’. I asked specifically for feedback on pace, because I know it is one of my weak points, got none. And here is the fun thing. My language is merely ‘satisfactory’. Fucking excuse me for not trusting you much, but at least I can tell your/you’re and it/it’s apart. Failbook [link] is full of Grammar Nazis correcting those, so you would hope that your writing teacher could deal with them. Apparently not.
Here’s some pointers on my feedback:
- Le gasp. I use adverbs. Fucking surprise, I like them. And Terry Pratchett does too, so I feel vindicated.
- The gesture of extending your hand, palm up, to check if it is raining/snowing is strange
- The sentence “Maybe tonight he would be in a playful mood, but right now he would not even play Angry Birds.” got me a “What kind of game is angry birds?”
- Substituting Medical Examiner by ME is… super strange and disconcerting
- I give too much information, too many details
- Metaphors are not all right
- Reprhase, rephrase, rephrase (Why? Keep reading)
- Why do you use things like ‘The other one’, ‘the detective’, ‘the medical examiner’ as synonyms for their names?
Maybe I abuse the synonym thing a bit, but you try to write a same-sex intimate scene using just first names and he and see if it does not become awkward or confusing. If it does not, I want pointers!!
Pointers. That is what I wanted to reach. I have tried to explain every decision I made in the choice of words and storytelling, get told that I have defended my assignment well, and I come up with a wild idea. Since I have gotten some ‘rephrase!!’ comments I dare ask my teacher for pointers for improving my writing.
And here is the answer I got:
I am often asked this question, and to answer it fully I would really need to write a book as what you are asking is best covered in ‘how to write’-type books of which there are an awful lot out there. There are resources within the course site as well as Creative Writing how-to reading suggestions.
As I said in my feedback, I don’t think that it’s worth your while worrying too much about this kind of thing at this stage of the writing. Once you have more of it, and can see the whole thing – and are perhaps more confident of the style that the piece requires – that is probably a better time to be thinking about these matters.
I will however bear these questions in mind when I see your next assignment.
So basically… no, I can’t have pointers because it is too much work and I already have the material provided in the course, which is basically… let me count… okay, 15 pdfs, out of which half repeat the same information and give you the same prompts again and again, one is just a random collection of texts and the rest are rip-offs of online writing tips (copyrighted, of course!). Oh, and and hang on, I forget the one that says that everything I do is wrong (adverbs are wrong, details are wrong, descriptions are wrong, characters talking in coherent sentences are wrong…)
Conclusion: my writing course is not there to teach me to write better. Then why the fuck am I paying you? I am pretty happy with my narrative voice, you’re the one who says it is not right. The least you could do is tell me what you find wrong. And if it is ‘use of language’, learn your possessives first and then we talk.
*sigh* Hey, at least I am learning to be diplomatic i.e. outright lie to people and tell them that I enjoy something I don’t? I can write it up as research for You & I.
By now I’ve read all the “material”, I got myself the coursebook and have the three assignments planned. But allow me to tell you, my enthusiasm for this is long gone. What’s the point of paying a teacher who tells you ‘read the material’? I did that through uni already. There goes my hope for useful feedback.
I stop for tonight, leaving you a TED talk that I enjoyed for some reason. Because in the end my writing is mine and mine alone and Inferno is a “writing credential”.
How to build your creative confidence
P.S.: Wow, you can tell I was riled up. Almost a thousand words post and not one image XD