If you have ever considered 'becoming' a writer, or are working on building your writing skills and have done any searches online in regard to developing your writing skills, odds are you have come across the name Randy Ingermanson. In addition to being a published author of six award-winning novels and having a Ph.D. in Physics, Ingermanson is also the author of the http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/
Advanced Fiction Writing website and the co-author of Writing Fiction for Dummies. He is also the developer of the Snowflake method, which is a practical means of designing and plotting a novel. Through his website, his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, his lectures, and such, he has mentored countless authors, helping them to achieve their dreams of becoming a professional author.
One of the many endeavors that Ingermanson has tackled is his two writing courses, Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 designed for 'Freshman' and 'Sophomore' writers. Over the years, Ingermanson has spoken at and taught these two courses at countless writers' conferences. If you cannot attend one of these courses in person, you can purchase, and download these courses directly from www.advancedfictionwriting.com and go through them at your own speed. These two courses are the subject of this review...
Each course consists of two main components, an audio recording, in MP3 format, of Ingermanson delivering the lecture, along with a written set of corresponding lecture notes in PDF format, and in a format that can be opened via your web browser, making these courses accessible to both blind and visually impaired writers. Fiction 101 comes with 217 pages of lecture notes and 6.5 hours of audio, and Fiction 201 with 310 pages of lecture notes and 10.5 hours of audio.
So What Will You Learn in These Courses?
In Fiction 101, Ingermanson concentrates on teaching what he calls the "Four Pillars of Craft." These pillars are: Story World, Character, Plot, and Theme. For each pillar, Ingermanson explains what each is, why they are important, and how to develop each component and, more important, how they are combined and interact with each other within the scope of novel writing. He also covers the basics of how dialogue is used, tips on designing and organizing your novel, how to start marketing your novel, and yourself, even before you finish writing your first book, how to develop efficient work habits, and steps that you can take to improve your craft.
In Fiction 201, Ingermanson builds upon the information contained in Fiction 101, and in doing so he does touch upon much of the same ground presented in the first. However, when he does, he goes into greater detail and provides information geared toward a more seasoned writer, rather than the novice writers who are the target audience for the Fiction 101 course. For example, in his discussion of 'characters' in Fiction 201, he tackles the use of flashbacks and other more complicated writing techniques. In addition, in Fiction 201, Ingermanson also enters new territory, such as how to write a book proposal, and how to focus more on 'showing' rather than 'telling' in your writing. An easy concept in a textbook, but it can be a challenge to put this maxim "Show, Don't Tell" into use when you are actually writing your novel! He also delves deeper into the usefulness and necessity of being your own PR agent and aggressively marketing yourself, as well as your book. Most important, he provides concrete advice on how to perfect your public relation skills, and how and when you should hire an agent.
As with any course, you get what you put into it. If you simply read or listen to Ingermanson's Fiction 101 and Fiction 201 courses, and don't do anything else, that's all you'll get. However, if you do your 'homework' by putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and incorporate Ingermanson's advice into your own writing, you will gain immensely...
The information presented in these two courses is offered in small, bit sized pieces that are easy to understand and use. Intended for novice and advanced-beginner writers, the information presented in these lectures might seem very basic to more seasoned writers. Yet even seasoned writers will benefit from Ingermanson's marketing advice and they might be surprised to find the odd tidbit of information or insight that they have always needed to make their writing more powerful and more saleable!
Both courses also include a roadmap that will help you to determine if you are a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, or Senior writer. In addition, this roadmap will help you to determine what skills you need to develop to advance to the next level. You 'graduate' when you finally get published. Ingermanson has plans to write a Fiction 301 and Fiction 401 course to correspond with the Junior and Senior levels, but as of yet they have not been completed.
These courses will not turn you into an overnight success, nor will they teach you all you need to know to become a professional - published - writer. However they will help you to achieve your goal, and to do it a bit more efficiently, effectively, and faster than going through the same trial and error methodology used by so many new writers who discover, in the end, that they had merely 're' discovered the innumerable lessons that other writer's have been learning and relearning for years. Many of these writers have been generous enough to share the lessons that they have learned with others. In many regards, this is what Ingermanson is doing in these courses. He is sharing with you the various lessons and skills that he has learned over the years, offering you a chance to skip some of the trial and error rigamarole that every writer goes through, allowing you to get down to what you really want to do, write your novel and have it published. Following Ingermanson's advice is not a guarantee that you'll reach your goal, but it will help propel you in the right direction!
Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy.
A handy reference book that will walk you step-by-step from novice writer to published novelist.
When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Writer, by Cynthia MacGregor.
Finally, a book for the budding wordsmith! Filled with entertaining anecdotes, practical tips, and useful exercises, this book encourages children to sharpen their pencils, satisfy their creative urges, and strengthen their communication skills.