Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Creative Writing: How to Outline Your Way to a Terrific Story!

The following is a description of a class I'll be offering to homeschoolers this spring at the Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning in Valencia, California.  All classes for the spring semester begin the week of  February 7, 2011 and end June 2, 2011.  If you have questions regarding registration, please visit:  Huck is a vendor for several area charter schools.  

This class will be on Wednesdays from 12:30-2pm. 

To see completed projects from the Fall, 2010 version of this class, click here.  And to see details from our recent "Book Signing", click here.

Ages 11+ 
J.K. Rowling outlined her Harry Potter series for 5 full years before she began writing the 1st book!  This method allowed her to develop ideas, maintain cohesion and create connections throughout ALL 7 novels that surprised and delighted her readers.  Before we even put pen to paper in this class, we will disable, bind and gag our “inner editors” to free ourselves to create and imagine -- uninhibited (don’t worry we’ll eventually free them, but only towards the end J).  We’ll then start in on our work by looking closely at the characteristics of great novels and drafting our own “Story-Idea Maps.”  We’ll then move on to character and conflict development as we make “Scene Cards” to help chart our stories.  We’ll use the concept of “roller coasters” to figuratively outline our plots.   Once our plots are outlined we’ll explore and create various “settings” and “moods” for our scenes before turning to the tricky art of writing strong dialogue.  We’ll use “cartoon strips” to help us develop and sharpen our dialogue before we move backwards to examine “great starts” and how to hook a reader in the very first pages.  Narrowing our focus, we’ll then move on to “details, details, details” and create “Theme Spiders” to make sure our stories have a meaningful impact on our readers.  We’ll then utilize character interview “lists” to help sharpen and individualize not only our protagonist and antagonist, but supporting characters as well.  We’ll spend two weeks participating in “Revision Workshops” where students can ask for help from the class on particularly tough scenes, and finally, mercifully, unleash our inner editors to rage their way across our pages before submitting our “novellas” to “” for self-publishing.  Each student will leave the course with a published, paperback-bound version of their book in hand (with more available for friends, family and general readers to buy online).   We’ll even design “book jacket” advertisements for each book to hand out at the “End of Semester” show!   Although we’ll be utilizing our outlines to create fiction, the techniques we learn will be quite useful (in fact, invaluable) in expository and argumentative writing as well.  The ability to outline quickly and efficiently is especially crucial for timed writing tests. Organizing ideas into a cohesive whole is essential for good writing of any kind and students will enjoy learning to wield this useful tool through creative writing. 

Age Range:  11+
Homework:  Writing (2-3 hours/week)
Materials Fee:  $25 (includes a paperback bound copy of finished book) 
Tuition:  $240  (For details see

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