WRITING FICTION I-II-III
TTH 12:30-2:40 R201
Jeffery White Office Hour: 8:30 - 9:20 M-F
R230 (425) 564-3084 (Also available by appointment)
Required Materials: Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway
3-ring, loose-leaf binder (1-2")
Content: This course will be an introduction to the fundamentals of writing fiction. Each week, through discussion, writing exercises and the writing and critiquing of our own work, we will explore a different element of effective fiction writing (characterization, plot, dialogue, imagery, etc.). Your final grade will be based on five elements: preparation for and participation in class activities, formal critiques of your peers' writing, formal writing exercises, a final fiction project of 2500 words (approx. ten pages) and your attendance. The course will be conducted in an informal, workshop atmosphere with the success or failure of each meeting depending on the degree to which all thoughtfully engage the work at hand. There are no tests, or quizzes. This course assumes you have enrolled because of an interest in developing your fiction writing skills. What you gain from this class depends entirely on your level of engagement.
Objectives: Expressive writing serves different people in different ways. Much writing comes from the author’s need to make sense of experience and try, in the process, to reveal to others the significance of some aspect of existence. This course is designed to introduce you to, or remind you of, some fundamental tools, techniques and strategies to shape raw experience into something meaningful. We’ll be working from the premise that the strongest fiction is a balance of art and craft—inspired vision and mastery of the medium. We’ll be focusing primarily on the craft aspect of this equation. To do so, we will need to concentrate on the particulars of everyday life, while avoiding the supernatural, fantastic and the gratuitously violent and sexual. All effective fiction, no matter the genre, is built on solid execution of a handful of basic skills. Poor fiction attempts to hide its deficiencies with various distractions and pyrotechnics. This class asks you to develop that handful of basic skills which you can later apply to make the fiction of your choosing. While you may find some of our work stimulating and immediately applicable to your final project, you may also wonder at the necessity and relevance of other aspects of our work. At such moments, try to keep in mind that each sentence you write prepares you for the next. Each exercise strengthens your understanding and execution, regardless of the subject and your engagement with it, regardless of your skill level and talent, regardless of whether you’re having fun at the moment or not.
It’s all practice.
Most of what you produce will be nothing more than compost for future writing. And some of what you produce may hold up to scrutiny to stand on its own. Both types of writing deserve your respect and attention; they both teach you about what works and what doesn’t.
The course calls for you to practice with these tools and techniques in writing exercises and critiques and apply them to an on-going fiction project that you identify and commit to at the beginning of the quarter.
Grading Final Project Portfolio - 30%
Formal Peer Critiques - 20%
Formal Writing Exercises - 20%
As the above outlines, your final grade will be based not only on the quality of your final writing but, to a larger extent, upon the degree to which you meet related obligations to your writing and the other members of this class. Those of you who do all or most all your work, who participate and are reasonably committed to your work will receive a "C" for a final grade. A "C" grade represents average work. Those of you who do something less will receive an appropriate lower grade. Those of you who do exceptional (pick a superlative: outstanding, remarkable, superior) work and/or who show notable commitment and progress will receive an "A." "B" work is something, as you might guess, between an "A" and a "C," that is, above average but not remarkable.
Remember: You are responsible to the other members of this class and your writing equally. Offer them nothing but your most sincere efforts and you may justly expect, from the others in class at least, the same in return.
Preparedness/Participation: This is a writing and discussion class. With few exceptions, this period will consist of you voicing your thoughts on the material at hand. Therefore, the quality of this class depends upon how prepared you are and the degree to which you participate. Each person in this class -- and 30% of your overall grade -- depends on it. All students will also need to present at least twelve formal critiques that meet certain standards (I will drop the two weakest from your record). Any student who fails to turn in these twelve formal critiques or who misses FIVE classes fails to meet the minimum requirements for credit in this class and, consequently, will receive NO CREDIT for this course.
Absences: Should you miss more than half of a class period (60 minutes), you’ll receive an absence for that class meeting.
1. Miss the first week of class: no credit for the course.
2. Attendance is part of your preparedness and participation grade. Three or fewer absences should not negatively affect your overall grade in the course. Should you acquire 5 absences (10 sixty-minute periods), you have missed 25% of our class meetings and failed to meet minimum attendance requirements. You will receive no credit for the course.
3 If circumstances prevent you from meeting these guidelines, discuss them with me before they impact your work so that we might explore acceptable options.
Tardiness: Please be warned that I consider lateness both disrespectful and disruptive, particularly to those who may be speaking to a point or reading from their work. Arriving late too often halts group or class activities while someone catches you up. You're tardy if you're more than five (5) minutes late for class. I consider three late arrivals acceptable. Beyond that, you will receive an absence for each pair of lateness’s that follows.
Gadgets: Cell phones, pagers and watch alarms will be turned off during this class and kept out of sight. Any interruption due to these devices is an unreasonable imposition on the members of this class and will foul the instructor's usually sunny mood. Those with reason to be exempt from this policy should speak to me in person outside of class before we are faced with an unexpected interruption.
If you have medical information to share with me in the event of an emergency, please contact me via email or come to see me during office hours. Emergency preparedness is important!
If you need course modifications / adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, I can refer you to our Disability Resource Center (DRC). If you prefer, you may contact them directly by going to B132 or by calling 425.564.2498 or TTY 425.564.4110. Information is also available on their website at http://bellevuecollege.edu/drc/
A FINAL NOTE: I consider myself and those in my class members in a learning community. As in any community, the health and prosperity of that community depends on each member contributing all they can to make this an enjoyable and constructive experience for everyone. Our job is not to judge or criticize the other members of the class. We are here to offer insights and to encourage inspired writing and dialogue. True growth comes from risk and discovery and from making mistakes. In fact, in this environment, I value risks and mistakes over cautious success. None of this is possible, however, if we don't trust our imaginations and each other.
Please understand that I am here to serve as your guide and then to evaluate your work. My primary interest is in helping you do as well as you are able to in this class. If you're having difficulty, speak to me about it. If you show me that you're concerned with doing good work, I'll do what I can to help you around the obstacles. Communication is the key here. Keep me informed of your circumstances, and you should do fine. However, if you don't discuss these matters with me until after things have fallen apart, I may be able to offer little beyond sympathy.