Final thoughts on Faber Academy Online Writing Course

Bookish Stuff / Monday, July 20th, 2015

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….


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€.



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.



10 Replies to “Final thoughts on Faber Academy Online Writing Course”

  1. So great to read your feedback on this D. It seems to be a common experience that the critiques come from one’s peers and the instructor (usually with excellent credentials that pull the participants in to signing up on the course) gives a general overview. It’s a little misleading, but then the great benefit is the realisation that there are many potential readers who can give their feedback and help improve our writing.

    I often wonder how you decide which of the feedback to act on and which to put aside, that is where a professional can be of help, we often know our own weaknesses and strengths and just need that little nudge to reinforce or improve.

    I’m so pleased you’re in the writing rhythm D, keep it up!

    1. Yes it is a little ambiguous at times. I tried to focus on critiques that were similar. If people were saying the similar things I definitely took that on board. It’s funny but writing is a lonely activity and I always feel that what I’m writing is just not good enough, but I’ll continue to try until I finally find something I really want to write about. Thanks for the encouragement Claire! 🙂

  2. Oh, Didi, you absolutely MUST CONTINUE WRITING! Though I agree that it can be lonesome. And I think we are rarely completely satisfied with our work. Thanks for the candid insights [and costs!] about your experience with this course. It’s eye-opening.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Leslie! It means a lot. I so admire your writing. Writing course online aren’t easy to come by but I think I gained some things from the experience even though it wasn’t perfect. I’m still going to look out for a course I can take in Paris in English or another online. In the meantime I’m going to keep writing. I’m toying with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo in November.

  3. What a great post this is, Didi. I am not an aspiring writer but I do enjoy good writing and this a balanced assessment that helped me in many ways. Writing a good blogpost is a daunting assignment for me and the thought of writing a novel would leave me paralyzed by fear (hyperbole!). I’m starting to read various short story writers and so enjoy the economy of their writing. Descriptions leave powerful images in the mind and if you can do that, thanit is a sign of a confident writer. I just finished ‘ Advise & Consent ( Drury) (a book long forgotten by many) but his description of Washington D.C. still lingers: ” …city of temporaries, city of just arrived…
    built on the shifting sands of politics of people passing through”.

    1. Thanks N@ncy! I totally agree when you say that writing a good blogpost can be daunting. However, its damn good practice and we should both keep it up. As for my writing I’m still going at it. I’ve been on break lately since I’m on holiday and will be getting back it strongly in September. Hope I can make sense of what I’ve written so far. 🙂

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