January 09 - March 19, 2023
This class is designed for those who have already explored the basics of personal writing and wish to move on to a larger project or more challenging forms. You can choose one of two paths, working either on sections of a memoir or on personal essays in a variety of styles. You will learn how to structure chapters or essays, how to incorporate research into personal writing, how to develop character, how to use descriptive language effectively, and more. We will examine personal essays and memoir chapters from published authors to analyze their writing techniques, and discuss ways to use those techniques in our own writing.
We will set firm goals for the course, outlining the work you will complete during the 10 weeks, and your ultimate objective for this writing once it is completed. Those who do not already have an extended project in mind will choose one; those who have already started working on a project will plan their next steps. You will consider how your work fits into the larger writing market, but also learn when to leave the market behind and focus exclusively on the art.
Combining or counterpointing two different narratives or streams of thought can allow you to emphasize elements of both storylines that would not otherwise be apparent, or to create an extended metaphor by choosing to compare two seemingly unrelated elements. This can result in juxtapositions that the reader finds surprising, moving, and thought-provoking. The lecture and readings for this week will explore techniques for writing an essay that braids together two or more storylines, and for incorporating intertwined storylines into the memoir.
You will submit a writing sample to the instructor, either a memoir excerpt or a personal essay that uses the “braided storylines” technique from Week 2, with the option of participating in peer critiques. We will take a close look at some of the class readings to analyze the authors’ writing techniques, and continue to discuss the topics from Week 2 as they relate to our own writing.
Research adds depth to a memoir, and allows a personal essay to move beyond the purely personal. Even an ordinary story can become interesting when it is artfully combined with the right research. During this week we will discuss ways to obtain information that will embellish a piece of personal writing, and how to gracefully incorporate that information into your prose.
Most memoirs and personal essays are based on a personal narrative. While a good story is essential to creating a compelling piece of nonfiction, non-narrative components such as reflections, informational passages, dialogue, and so on are also important in creating an interesting piece of writing. This week you will explore techniques for integrating these components into your writing projects.
You will submit a writing sample to the instructor, either a memoir excerpt or a personal essay that uses the research and non-narrative techniques from Weeks 4 and 5, with the option to participate in peer critiques. We will take a close look at some of the class readings to analyze the authors’ writing techniques, and continue to discuss the topics from the preceding weeks as they relate to your own writing.
Revision is an essential part of the writing process, but one that some writers find tedious. During this week we'll discuss strategies for revision, both by yourself and with a writing partner, and ways to remain invested in your project during the long revision process.
The traditional way to tell a story is to start at the beginning and go to the end, but rearranging the events of a narrative allows you to highlight certain connections between events that happen at different times, and also to manipulate the reader's understanding of a series of events. This week we will explore techniques for writing an essay that uses an unusual chronological structure, and strategies for moving back and forth in time in the context of the memoir.
You will submit writing to the instructor, either a memoir excerpt or a personal essay that uses the non-chronological techniques from Week 8, with the option of participating in a peer critique. We will take a close look at some of the class readings to analyze the authors’ writing techniques, and continue to discuss the topics from Week 8 as they relate to your own writing.
After all the planning and polishing, structuring and revision, you want to share your writing with the world. During this week we will discuss the steps and best practices for submitting work to agents, literary journals, and magazines.
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].
Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.
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
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.
Replays include ongoing access to the recording and downloadable supplemental materials.
Every true story contains gaps. By imagining our way into these gaps, we can transform our material and our writing experience.
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