Final thoughts on Faber Academy Online Writing Course

It’s been almost three months since my Faber Academy Online Writing course (Getting Started (Intensive) Spring 2015) has ended and I have had time to really think things over.  Many people have asked for my opinion on how it was.  So here it is….

PROS:IMG_1801

1. The syllabus is concise and well-organized for the 8-week course.

Week 1:  Beginning to Write

Week 2:  Point of View

Week 3:  Character

Week 4:  Setting

Week 5:  Time

Week 6:  Structure

Week 7:  Writing Development Time

Week 8:  Writing Development Time

2.  The basis of the course is to write as much as possible during the 8 weeks. The writing exercises (videos and reading material) will slowly but surely bring you to an understanding of your writing and where you have difficulty.

3.  There is a big assignment to finish and upload on the forum every Saturday.  The practice exercises help you improve your writing and to focus on what is asked for in the big writing assignment at the end of the week.

4.  Reading and critiquing your peers’ writing will encourage you to try different things and motivate you to improve where you need to.  Each participant is supposed to critique at least two pieces of writing each Saturday.  The critiquing is meant to be based on the following criteria which is excellent (the following criteria was written by Faber Academy in the Taking it Further: Reading for Writers file of the course.  All of the critiquing must be done constructively and politely of course:

Clarity: How has the writer made sure the narrative is clear and the reader can follow the plot? If it’s tricky to follow the story line, is the author withholding information for a reason?
Point-of-view: Who is telling the story? Why might the author have chosen to use this viewpoint rather than another?
Pace: Is the writing energetic and absorbing? Does the pace vary or even flag at times?
Characters: How does the author engage us in these characters’ lives and bring them to life?
Setting: How much information are we given about where the action is taking place? Does the setting play the role of a character in the plot? What would the effect be of moving the story to a different place?

5.  Communication among participants is allowed throughout the course either through private messaging or online class forum.

6.  The Alumni section gives you a step-by-step plan on how to continue your writing for the next six months and allows you to exchange with other participants from your class and other classes.

7.  The price of the course was very reasonable compared to other courses I’d checked out online.  The fee for this 8-week course was approximately 430€.

 

CONS:

1.  There are only general comments from the tutor on the writing of the class as a whole. No personal critiques are given.  I was a little disappointed with this but I quickly adjusted to the general critique that was given by the tutor.  However, I tried to read as many pieces from the participants that I could on the weekend so that Wednesdays’ commentaries from the tutor made more sense.  I did enjoy getting critiques from other participants because when people noticed similar problems or similar good things about my writing I felt reinforced.

2.  Since this is an online course some participants aren’t always active.  The list of participants of the course was 15 names long at the beginning, but in fact less than 10 were actually active.  So it took a while to get used to who was really in the class because some never added pictures to their profiles.

3.  The examples of writing styles and authors centralized mostly around British authors.  I found that limiting and lacking in variety.  A list of authors was given to check out to expand our writing possibilities at the beginning of the course and Toni Morrison wasn’t even on it.  That really surprised me.

4.  Towards the end of the course, they propose an alumni section which costs 70€ to keep in touch with participants in our class and to have access to our course work for the next year.  It allows access to live chats with authors.  We also get regular updates on alumni members who have won writing contests or have been lucky enough to get published.  We can even post to the online alumni forum the writing we’re working on for critique.  The downside to this is that we are only three to join this alumni group from our class.  I don’t know if the others just went on about their business or if some joined the next course which is 28 weeks called Writing a Novel:  the First 15,000.  It’s an advanced course and I’m definitely not ready for that.  So the 70€ for the alumni section isn’t really worth it.  I have spoken to the other 2 ladies only once since the course ended.

5.  The last two weeks are spent writing the final assignment which is the first 3,000 words of Chapter One of our respective novels.  Now I was really excited about that until I realized we wouldn’t get any personal tutor critique unless we paid a little over 200€!  Needless to say, at least half the class didn’t even do the assignment.  I think there were only 5 of us that did it on time.  Oh well it’s to be expected because the writing assignments got harder each week and maybe were still too fast for some people to feel comfortable writing the first 3,000, words to their novels.

All in all despite the cons, the course has got me back to writing regularly and reading differently.  It has made me realize I have more of an aptitude for writing short stories, which is odd because you now how much I wasn’t in love with them before.  Happily, that has changed.  Moreover, descriptive writing is what I do best.  So, there are a few significant positive outcomes.  Now it’s up to me to keep at it until I can finally write something that one day can be published.  Honing good creative writing skills takes time, perseverance, continual writing, reading, and observation.