Continuing Education

Covering the Basics of Beginning Fiction–Crash Course

Beginning Fiction—Crash Course instructor Leslie Adkins-Hall has always loved writing. Genre was seldom a concern; she simply loved making words come alive. “I have always wanted to be a writer, starting with screenwriting and poetry, evolving to novels and short stories—but I Imagewrite everything!” she says. “Writing is about studying people and experiences. Writing became the thing I did for ME. For many years, I was a single mom working full-time—challenging and overwhelming. Writing became the way I worked through hard times. Even now, I use writing to process change, to laugh, and to grow.  I get a little crabby when I’m away from it too long."

If we must be particular, Adkins-Hall says fiction fascinates her most, because in fiction you don’t have to worry about telling the truth. “Making things up is part of the fun! Creating worlds, past/present/future, real world/fantasy and inhabiting those worlds with interesting people is fascinating.”

Many veteran writers declare the best advice to bestow upon a neophyte is to “write what you know!” Adkins-Hall considers it sound advice, but it only scratches the surface of the writing process. “It’s good advice for a beginning writer,” she says. “Starting with the familiar is often easier and needs less research—but not always. We also have to get away from who WE are and get into the characters’ world. But I also say, ‘write what you want to know!’  Learning new things is part of the writing experience.”

Coming to appreciate self-editing is another vital aspect of the writing learning curve. As scary as it sounds, many writers recommend one throw out their initial ideas, or at least reconsider Imagetheir value the further along one gets in the process. Adkins-Hall does not entirely agree and says your first ideas aren’t always your worst, but she has encountered it on more than one occasion. “I haven’t heard that line, but I have experienced it,” she says. “All ideas are great—as a writer you want lots of ideas.  You just need to find one that inspires you, the one you want to spend some time with. First drafts are very important. Capturing all ideas without editing is important. You can’t write good stuff until you write something.  Usually first drafts are bad, but we need them to have something to edit. Same thing for first ideas—you need to start somewhere!”

This leads us to rewriting. “Rewriting is so important,” says Adkins-Hall. “Stories are not written, they are re-written. I strongly believe in writing groups; sharing drafts and getting feedback from other writers can be extremely helpful.  The group (a positive, safe, motivating one) can help you decide when a piece is ready to move to the next step. As a writer, it’s hard to know when your manuscript is ‘done.’  You can edit too much; edit the life right out of a story.”

Adkins-Hall says though there are many elements to telling a successful story with weight and depth, good storytelling essentially comes down to character. “It’s all about characters. Plot, setting, dialogue, and voice are all important, but if the reader doesn’t care about the people, Imagethey won’t keep reading. If the reader doesn’t engage with the characters, the story won’t be memorable. There are no new plots, only new characters.  Of course good writing is important. And the writer needs to be passionate about the story they are writing. That passion will come out in the story and its characters.”

Unlike many fiction writing courses, Adkins-Hall says due to the nature of Beginning Fiction—Crash Course, students will not be workshopping their efforts as a group. “This is truly a crash course. We’ll cover the basics and I’ll provide lots of resources for future learning. We will do writing exercises in class, but not in-class critiquing.” That said she assures students there will be plenty in her class to ignite the new writer’s enthusiasm. “I hope students will leave excited to write!  Just getting started, knowing they can begin a story and it doesn’t have to be perfect—or even good.  I want them to be hooked on the process and the fun of creating new worlds.”

Learn more about Beginning Fiction—Crash Course.