Tuesday & Thursday 3:30 – 4:45
Classroom: 140 McIver
Textbook: The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction
Editors: Willford & Martone
Instructor: John Dalton
Office: 124 McIver
Office Phone: 334-5650
UNCG email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office Hours: Tues. & Thurs 2:00 – 3:00 or by appointment
Critics of creative writing classes have long argued that no instructor or textbook can teach beginning writers how to write. Organized courses simply don’t work because compelling fiction comes from places too subconscious, too deeply personal, too mysterious to reach. And these critics are right. But what they fail to recognize is that every beginning writer has to spend years learning the craft of fiction. Simply being able to identify and discuss specific writing techniques is an important first step. Then there is the matter of employing these techniques in one’s own fiction, writing, rewriting, trying, failing, trying again. A good writing course accelerates the process, and, in many cases, saves the writer valuable time in learning the craft of fiction.
This is not to say that Writing of Fiction: Introductory is a class only for students who are certain they want to dedicate their lives to writing. There is room in this class for those who wish to explore fiction writing for the first time; such explorers, though, should be enthusiastic readers. Even though their majors and primary interests lie in other areas, they should have a keen interest in creating their own fiction and in reading the work of other students and well-known contemporary short story writers. The class will be demanding, time-consuming, and, we hope, thought provoking and rewarding. Please note: this is not an easy elective for those hoping to round out their schedules with a light-weight or otherwise unchallenging course.
Writing of Fiction: Introductory will stress clarity of the language, understanding point of view, and various fiction techniques. The textbook we use contains literary works, but the techniques emphasized apply to all avenues of fiction (popular, sci-fi, romance etc). The most important thing is your personal resolve to improve your own writing, to accept constructive criticism from the instructor and other student writers, and to revise and polish your stories. Other student writers will provide a sympathetic but also critical audience for your work. Writing exercises, reading assignments, journal keeping, thoughtful critiques of other students’ work will also be required. Attendance and participation are mandatory.
Requirements and Grading
• Two complete short stories. A complete story is one you have spent time thinking about, crafting, polishing and present to the instructor and a group of classmates for workshop. (40 %)
• A reading journal that records your reactions to well-known contemporary short stories you’ll read outside of class. You will be presented with a list of short story collections on hold at the UNCG library (of course, you may also acquire these collections on your own). You’ll read ten outside stories over the course of the semester. In your journal you’ll create ten entries revealing not just your opinions of these stories but you’ll also describe what the stories taught you about fiction craft. (10%)
• Writing exercises that address specific techniques discussed in class. (10%)
• Your written responses (end notes and margin notes) that you make on other students’ stories. (5%)
• Class attendance and participation: read the assigned stories from the Scribner anthology and come to class ready to talk about them. Read other students stories and join in on the workshop discussion. (15%)
• Final: A revised short story. You’ll choose one of your two short stories workshopped in class and revise it using workshop recommendations made by the instructor and other students. This revision will encompass both large changes (new or rewritten scenes, added characters or descriptions) and small changes (tinkering with words and phrases). This revised story is due on the last day of class, though it may be turned in earlier. (20%)
A Student turns in two meticulously written, well-crafted and complete stories (a clear beginning, middle, end). These stories demonstrate a remarkable effort on the part of the writer. Student completes an exemplary reading journal, one that’s unusually articulate and keeps zeroing in on a wide array of fiction technique. Every writing assignment is turned in on time and painstakingly done. Student’s written responses (end notes and margin notes) on workshop stories are unusually thorough and astutely presented. Student misses practically no classes and is an important and conscientious contributor to class discussion. Student again demonstrates a remarkable effort and presents a thoroughly reworked and accomplished final revised story.
B Student turns in two well-written and mostly complete stories (a promising first draft). These stories demonstrate a significant effort on the part of the writer. Student completes a thoughtful and clearly written reading journal, one that’s observant and manages to explore several important aspects of fiction technique. Nearly all writing assignments are turned in on time and carefully done. Student’s written responses (end notes and margin notes) on workshop stories are thorough, consistent, and clearly presented. Student misses only a few classes and is an important and conscientious contributor to class discussion. Student again demonstrates a significant effort and presents a determined and skillfully reworked final revised story.
C Student turns in two adequately written yet uneven stories. (sections of these stories feel rushed or underdeveloped) These stories demonstrate only a routine effort on the part of the writer. Student hands in an average reading journal, several entries are missing, others are incomplete. Little attention is paid to fiction technique. More than a few writing assignments are missing or incomplete. Student’s written responses (end notes and margin notes) are sparse and not well thought out. Student misses four or more classes and is an infrequent contributor to class discussion. Student makes a modest or lackluster effort at revising final story.
D or F Student is missing one or both stories or turns in such a poor draft that it feels entirely sketchy and rushed throughout. A poor or absent reading journal. Few complete writing assignments. Little or no effort to comment on other students’ work. Student has a habit of missing class and avoiding workshop discussion. Student makes few or no revisions and turns in a very poor revised final story.
1) Set aside certain hours of certain days for fiction writing. Make a schedule and stick to it. A late night, last minute writing session will produce poor or uneven work, work that you will be reluctant to hand in to your instructor and fellow students for workshop.
2) Be thorough and conscientious in your critiques of other students’ work. Let them know what is working, but just as importantly make it clear what they have accomplished, what elements of their stories engaged your emotions, or made you think.
3) When it comes to your final revised story, make sure you understand specifically what improvements need to be made. The best way to do this is to read the workshop critiques carefully and talk over your ideas or concerns with the instructor.
Aug. 17 introduction
meaning, sense, clarity
the writer / reader relationship
homework: read “Silver Water” by Amy Bloom; write 5 opening lines
Aug. 19 scene and summation
discuss “Silver Water”
share opening lines exercise
homework: read “The Man Who Knew Bell Starr” by Richard Bausch
Aug. 24 discuss “The Man Who Knew Bell Star”
who said that?
homework: “The year of Getting to Know Us” by Ethan Canin, write an exchange of dialogue that carries a hidden subtext
Aug. 26 discuss “The Year of Getting to Know Us”
share dialogue exercise
creating your characters, building your story
homework: read “Marie” by Edward P. Jones
Aug. 31 unraveling point of view
homework: read “Two Kinds” by Amy Tan, prepare first 2 reading journal entries, write point of view exercise
Sept. 2 discuss “Two Kinds”
turn in first 2 reading journal entries
elements of style
share point of view exercise
read “Gryphon” by Charles Baxter
Sept. 7 discuss “Gryphon”
Attention! Reminder! My story is due ______ and will be workshopped _____
Sept. 9 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 14 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 16 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 21 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept 23 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 28 ____________________ and ____________________
Sept. 30 ____________________ and ___________________
Oct. 5 ____________________ and ___________________
Oct. 7 ____________________ and ____________________
Oct. 12 no class – fall break
Oct. 14 ____________________ and ____________________
* you’ll receive the reminder of the syllabus once the class-size is established