Online Creative Writing Courses for NaNoWriMo Participants

Welcome to the signup page for Wesleyan University's Creative Writing Online Specialization. The Specialization consists of four core courses beginning August 21 to prepare you for your novel and a fifth capstone course that wraps around your November novel as the final project. Each course is offered by a different published author and Wesleyan University professor and takes place on www.coursera.org, an online platform featuring hundreds of courses across all disciplines, open to the world.  See below for more information about the individual courses. Though you’re free to move at your own pace, you should plan for each course to take about two weeks. You’ll want to aim to be ready for the capstone course shortly before you begin your novel on November 1, as it will help you prepare before setting you free for the month to write, write, write! Each course comes with After November, you’ll share your first chapter with the group for another round of peer review. The capstone will conclude with segments on revising and publishing and set you up for "Now What?" in January.  

To express interest in enrolling in the courses, simply fill out the short form below to provide your name and email address to Wesleyan. If you currently have a Coursera account, please provide the email address associated with it; otherwise, an account will get created and you will receive a notice from Coursera to finish setting up your new account. In either case, you will see the special Creative Writing courses automatically added to your account within a few days. If more than one person is interested in active participation in the courses, please fill out this form separately for each of you (Coursera requires unique email addresses for accounts). 

For any questions, please check out the FAQ below this form. For technical questions, such as account setup on Coursera, please visit their learner help center. For further questions about the courses themselves, please email coursera@wesleyan.edu
 

  

FAQs:

Why should I take this Specialization?

The goal of this Specialization is to be roughly equivalent to a semester of a university-level creative writing course while also preparing you with a deep toolbox of skills to draw on as you write your November novel. You'll have access to the courses for six months, meaning even after your novel is complete, you can return to the lectures and discussion boards and continue refining your story - or prepare for the next one! This offering is a special collaboration exclusively for NaNoWriMo participants, custom-tailored to that experience, at a 50% discount over the regular price. Your cohort will be full of people also embarking on this experience!

Who is Wesleyan University?

Founded in 1831, Wesleyan is a 4-year residential university in Middletown, Connecticut with a long history of writing instruction. Notable alumni authors include Daniel Handler, Robin Cook, Mary Roach, Sebastian Junger, Amy Bloom (one of the course instructors!), Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joss Whedon, Ayelet Waldman, Becky Albertalli, Alexander Chee, and more. We also host an annual summer writer’s conference and offer a Graduate Certificate in Writing.

What is Coursera? 

Coursera (http://www.coursera.org) is a platform that provides online courses anytime, anywhere, to a global audience. Wesleyan offers over 20 courses on Coursera, in topics as diverse as data science to memory to ancient Greece. For more about Coursera, visit their About page. While you're there, feel free to check out Wesleyan's complete offerings, too! If you do not have a Coursera account, you can create one before signing up here, or you may simply provide your email address through the form above and your Coursera account will be created for you. In that case, you'll automatically receive an email within a few days of completing this form asking you to create a password and fill out your profile.

How do these courses work?

The courses consist of a number of short video lectures, punctuated by four short writing assignments each. You will be able to submit these pieces for peer review and receive feedback while also providing critiques of your own. In addition, you can participate in discussion forums on Coursera to talk in even more detail about your writing, and engage with the instructors and a team of course mentors who will help you refine your skills.

Is this form the only way to enroll?

Yes. Because this is a dedicated, closed run of the course especially for WriMos, you'll need to indicate your interest through this form. If you prefer, you may enroll in the regular, open Creative Writing courses through Coursera's website, but you will not be in the NaNoWriMo group, and will not receive the enhanced features or discounted price.  

Who is eligible for this Specialization?

If you intend to participate in NaNoWriMo for 2017, you are eligible to take these courses!

What are the courses?

Each of the four main courses will focus on a particular aspect of writing. You will learn about the style of writing and taking care with words, creating enticing settings with vivid description, building bold and interesting characters, and connecting it all through an engaging plot. The capstone course will set up you for writing your novel, provide encouragement to wrestle with challenging moments as you write, and wrap up in December with guidance on revision while briefly touching on publication.

How much does the Specialization cost?

Each of the five courses is purchased individually through Coursera for $29 and grants you access to all of the material in it for six months. This represents a NaNoWriMo special discount of over 50% off the typical costs of these courses.

Is financial aid available?

Yes! If cost is an issue for you, financial aid is available through Coursera. See this article for more: https://learner.coursera.help/hc/en-us/articles/209819033.  

How will I find the time to take a course in November!?

Unlike the Creative Writing specialization open to the general Coursera public, we have built a customized capstone for NaNoWriMo that leaves a gap for November while you write. You are welcome to engage in the discussion forums during that time, of course, or drop in for some words of encouragement from authors who have been down this path before, but you can also choose to dedicate your full time to your novel and return to the course in the first week of December (after suitable celebration and sleep!)

Do I need to take all the courses?

We strongly recommend you plan to take all five courses, as they are designed to collectively be equivalent to an undergraduate semester in creative writing and work very closely in sync with each other. However, if your time is restricted, you are able to take only the courses that are most relevant to your needs. 

How long will each course take?

You are free to move at your own pace through the courses, though you will want to begin the capstone (and thus prepare for your November novel) by the end of October. As such, we recommend planning for approximately two weeks per course, at an estimated 5-10 hours per week.

Do I need to have written something before?

No! Whether you’re a nine-time winner of NaNoWriMo or planning to tackle it for the first time, the courses assume no prior experience in writing.

What are the courses?

The specialization consists of four courses - one each in style, setting, character, and plot - and a fifth course that will begin later revolving more immediately around your NaNoWriMo novel. 
Style
Your style is as unique and distinctive as your face, your voice, except that you can choose it, you can can work on it, enhance it. In this course we will introduce aspiring writers to the art of putting pressure on written language.  We will study the use of metaphor and imagery, and demonstrate how clarity, grace, and inventiveness in word choice are imperative to a story’s success.  Writers will emerge with the revision skills essential to all writers of good stories and good prose.
Setting
In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to the techniques that masters of fiction use to ground a story in a concrete world.  From the most realist settings to the most fantastical, writers will learn how to describe the physical world in sharp, sensory detail.  We will also learn how to build credibility through research, and to use creative meditation exercises to deepen our own understanding of our story worlds, so that our readers can see all that we imagine.
Character
At the center of a good story are the characters in it. In this course aspiring writers will discover how to build and bring to life complex, vivid and unforgettable characters. We will study the choices a writer makes to bring all characters to life on the page, and we will perform written exercises in order to develop a variety of writing and pre-writing techniques, in order to create a variety of characters. We will learn how to use our own life experiences, and the people we know (and how not to!). We will develop inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (appearance, habits, behavior) lives for our characters and see how that can lead us to richer and more interesting stories. We will breathe life into our characters and let them surprise us.
Plot
In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to perhaps the most elemental and often the most challenging element of story: plot.  We will learn what keeps it moving, how it manipulates our feelings, expectations, and desires.  We will examine the choices storytellers make to snag our imaginations, drag them into a fictional world, and keep them there. We will learn how to outline and structure a plot, discuss narrative arc, pacing and reversals and reveal the inevitable surprise: connecting the beginning, middle and end.
Capstone
Everything comes together in the Capstone as you write your NaNoWriMo novel. The skills you’ve learned of plotting, setting, physical description, characterization, and stylistic clarity and innovation will culminate in an original work of art all your own.  Before November, we will pull together materials and prepare for the spring. During November, you can use the course as a discussion area but are free to write! Afterwards, we'll regroup and discuss the steps that professional writers take to bring their work into the public world, with a focus on revision but also brief discussions of publishing and how to continue your engagement with writing, ultimately bridging you into the Now What? period of your writing process!