Online Course

Advanced Science Writing

April 11 - June 19, 2022

Level Advanced

If you are ready to move beyond character, scene, and setting in your science writing, this is the class for you.

Additional Information

Whether you write about environmental issues, health and medical topics, tech, or other science-related topics, this workshop will help you take your work to the next level. We will take a deep dive into the structure and narrative arcs of writing excellent science essays and address ethics, revision, and marketing your work in this class intended for students with experience writing short or long-form narrative nonfiction.

 

Course Schedule

Week 1: The long & short of science writing

Short news stories and blog posts for major journals are a great way to build your platform and demonstrate to future editors that you can engage readers. In week one we will practice the art of distillation and write a teaser piece for a full-length essay.

Week 2: Finding your beat

Writing about science invariably means searching for and talking to scientists. This week we will talk about the tools and craft of interviewing subjects and will look at different options for finding information about current or historic research.

Week 3: The longform essay

This week we dive into what makes full-length narrative and research driven essays about science sing. We will discuss the reach and impact of this kind of work, and the range of journals, websites, and publishers who are are interested in featuring it. You will share your working idea for input and encouragement, or brainstorm with peers on a new idea for the essay you will write over the rest of the workshop.

Week 4: Where to begin & when to end

In scientific research, the narrative “arc” can be obscured by inconclusive results, long-term studies, or uncontrollable variables. We will discuss how structural and organizing principles can turn a pile of research and interview notes into a satisfying and informative story. This week you will develop an outline for your longform essay and will have the chance to get instructor and peer feedback.

Week 5: Ethics, logistics, and reconstructions, oh my!

Often when writing about the research or discoveries of others, you will have to navigate between knowing and speculating about what happened. But when does reconstructing a scene become fictionalizing a scene? This week we will discuss ethical approaches to conjecture and how to keep work factual and engaging.

Week 6: Showing and telling science

How much quantum physics is too much for non-experts? How can you explain plate tectonics or trophic cascades so that readers are hooked on the science, rather than overwhelmed? This week’s readings will offer different models of exposition styles, and peer review will give you a chance to check in with readers.

Week 7: Organizing for action

The best science writing balances action and exposition artfully. We will work this week on techniques for organizing your writing so that action moves the story forward while backstory and explanation raise the stakes for readers. This week you will submit a draft of your essay of up to 3,000 words for instructor and peer feedback.

Week 8: Revision

Revision, both structural and at the sentence level, can turn a good piece of writing into a great one. This week you will learn several strategies for revision and practice them on writing submitted earlier in the workshop.

Week 9: Pitch it!

The next step is finding your readers. We will look at a variety of outlets–online and print–that publish science- and research-driven writing. We will talk about how to craft strong pitches and query letters and practice both.

Week 10: Working with editors and fact checkers

Once your essay is accepted for publication, the next step is often fact-checking and editor-requested revisions. For our final week of class, we will share experiences with pre-publication requests, talk through how to streamline the fact-checking process, and brainstorm ways to promote your work on social media once it is published.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

Course Registration

$435.00

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Please Note

It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you'd like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our director of education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

Hear from our Students

Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

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Testimonials

I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.

Catherine O’Neill

Online Course FAQs

  • What day and time is my online course?

    Our courses run asynchronously; meaning, you will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a weekly basis; you should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but in most classes you will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Courses feature one live conference session, which does require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in this session is completely optional, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can accommodate most students. This is scheduled by the instructor after class begins.If you are not able to participate in the live conference you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences in boot camp courses.

  • What makes CNF’s classes different from other online programs?

    Flexibility

    Some online programs work on a “synchronous” model, which requires you to be online at an assigned time each week. The asynchronous model used in our classes means that you do not have to be online at any particular time of day, and can approach the class assignments at your own pace based on your schedule. While some optional events—such as class video conferences—do take place at a specific time, the majority of class activities can be completed according to your schedule.

    Intimate Classes

    Classes are small—limited to 14 students per section—which means you’ll receive individual attention and feedback on your work.

    Experienced Instructors

    Good writing instructors not only need to be skilled writers, but also need to have experience in teaching what they know to others. That’s why all of our instructors are professional writers with extensive teaching experience.

    Substantial and Meaningful Writing Assignments

    Many online writing programs ask you to complete short writing exercises each week, and only near the end of the class are you invited to write a single essay or chapter. At Creative Nonfiction, we recognize the value of exercises, but also believe that completing an essay or chapter is the best way for developing writers to really explore how all the elements of creative nonfiction work together. Writing complete pieces also leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and with work you can share when the class is completed. For this reason, in our classes you are invited to submit longer pieces multiple times during a course. See course syllabus for more information.

    Sense of Connection

    We realize that it is difficult to find one’s writing community—which is why we now offer every new student membership to a Community Page where you can meet with other CNF students, during and after class.

  • What are your community standards?

    Creative Nonfiction is committed to creating a welcoming and comfortable experience for all staff and participants regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, or religion.

    We expect that staff and participants will treat each other with respect in all interactions. We will not tolerate discrimination or harrassment in conjunction with any of our programs. Harassment could include but is not limited to:

    • Repeated disruption of classes, lectures or discussion
    • Deliberate intimidation
    • Unwelcome sexual attention
    • Comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression

    Community posts violating any of these guidelines can and will be removed from the page at any time. Anyone asked to stop harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

    Harassment does not include respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. Reading and writing, by their nature, include exposure to controversial, challenging, and sometimes offensive language. We encourage all participants to follow the peer review guidelines provided by their instructor.

    When you join a course you agree to…

    • respect others and respect their writing;
    • maintain the privacy of all submitted work;
    • treat others with respect;
    • not infringe on anyone’s copyright;
    • not harass, abuse, threaten or impersonate another user; and
    • not use libelous, obscene, or abusive work.


    Online Communication Guide

    Online communication happens without the benefit of body language and tone. Therefore, it can be easy to misinterpret. The following tips may help participants engage in civil, intelligent, vigorous discourse without impugning the personal dignity of others:

    1. Start from a position of generosity (i.e. assume that people mean well)
    2. Address your post to someone or to the group. Instead of “Hey” or just jumping in to your post, try “Hi All” or “Hi [Name].”
    3.  Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and/or exclamation points! 🙂
    4. Please avoid ALL CAPS whenever possible, as they tend to come off as RUDE or YELLING.
    5. Avoid harsh or offensive language of any kind. If you’re in doubt, try rewording or reconsidering your post.
    6. Sarcasm is very difficult to convey in writing — best to avoid it.
    7. When interacting with your peers, please consider that some may have limited experience with English, online education, and/or creative writing. It’s a good rule of thumb not to write anything you wouldn’t say if that person were standing in front of you.
    8. Often writers from underrepresented groups are asked to explain everything for an assumed monolithic audience (often cis/white/hetero/masculine/able-bodied, etc. etc.). As you respond to peers’ work, keep in mind that you may not be the writer’s intended audience, and leave room for the possibility that the writer is writing for a group of which you are not a member. (For more on this, listen to this episode of Code Switch for an in depth conversation.)

    See your course for additional feedback guidelines provided by your instructor.

  • How do I find my course archive?

    All course work is saved in Wet.Ink. When the course closes, you can find the archive by logging in to your account, and choosing “Past Classes.” Archives include course content (lectures, readings, writing prompts, etc.), your posts and writing submissions, and any feedback given on your writing. The course archive will not include your classmates’ writing submissions.

  • What do the course levels mean?

    FUNDAMENTALS—open to all levels.
    Our fundamentals courses are designed for those who are new to writing or new to creative nonfiction, as well as those who could benefit from a back-to-basics review on how to effectively and intentionally use elements of the writer’s craft.

    INTERMEDIATE—prerequisites suggested. 
    Our intermediate courses are designed for writers who have some experience either in the genre or CNF’s courses. Past course participation is not required, but we do recommend starting with one of our fundamentals courses, especially Foundations of Creative Nonfiction.

    ADVANCED—prerequisites for enrollment. 
    Our advanced courses are for writers who have completed two previous online courses (not including self-guided courses) with Creative Nonfiction (one must be an intermediate level course).