Classes Coming Up This Weekend

The Mystery Writing class is canceled, but three others remain this weekend, wrapping up a great month of classes.

Demystifying Outlines with Margaret Dunlap, accompanying picture of a chalk outline of a bodyDemystifying Outlines with Margaret Dunlap, Saturday, March 26, 2022, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific Time.

Outlines: some writers swear by them, some writers swear at them, some have sworn off them entirely.

I, Margaret Dunlap, became an outliner because outlines are an integral part of the television writing process. (It turns out, studios  want to see evidence that you’ve got a working story before they commit a million dollars or more to putting a group of writers’ hairbrained ideas into production.) Over five seasons as a writers assistant on four different series, I wrote more outlines than I probably should have been asked to, but I learned a lot doing it. What I took for granted at the time was that as I was learning, I always had a slew of examples I could reference, and a staff full of writers giving me notes when I got something wrong.

It wasn’t until I started collaborating with novelists that I realized there’s no equivalent resource for fiction writers.

So let’s pull back the drape and get into the guts of outlines. What are they? (It depends, what do you need it to be?) Do they have to have bullet points? (Not unless you find them useful.) Do they have to follow a set format? (Now that your English teacher isn’t reading it, probably not.) Is there a minimum length? A maximum one? (Nope! Although there are some practical upper and lower bounds to keep in mind.) Wouldn’t the time you spend on an outline be better used writing the actual story? (That’s my secret, Cap. I’m always writing my actual story.)

In this class, we’ll talk about outlining as part of an iterative writing process, whether it’s part of your pre-writing, a tool to turn to when you’re adrift in mid-draft, or a way to kick-start revisions after you’ve typed “the end.”

We’ll look at examples of different kinds of outlines and explore tips and tricks for incorporating story planning into your own creative process. We’ll also learn how to read an outline, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, and how to use it to spot a story’s pitfalls… and also its potential.

The phrase “write an outline” doesn’t have to trigger flashbacks to research papers, didactic English professors, or oceans of red ink. In fact, they’re a surprisingly flexible tool that you can learn to use to spark, rather than block, the creative process.

Picture of an open doorway to illustrate the online writing workshop "Beginnings and Endings" with Cat Rambo, an online live class.Beginnings & Endings with Cat Rambo, Saturday, March 26, 2022, 12:00-2:00 PM Pacific Time.

Beginnings are sometimes the last thing a writer finishes, and they must lead gracefully into a work that ends with the same sense of panache. In a class that combines lecture with in-class writing exercises and discussion, we’ll look at examples from speculative fiction in order to figure out how they work and develop concepts that we can apply to our own writing. You will learn how to use beginnings to create their counterparts and vice versa while looking at strategies for both and getting a chance to test and ask questions about these techniques over the course of the workshop.

Picture of a teacup and toast to accompany "Dunking Your Reader in the Details," an online workshop about creating immersive description.Dunking the Reader in the Details: Tools for Creating Immersive Worlds with Cat Rambo, Sunday, March 27, 2022, 12:00-2:00 PM Pacific Time.

How do you create a world that feels immersive to your reader without drowning them in description? What details should be included — and what should be left out? How does the writer pull a reader in through word choice and invocation of the senses? How can making a map help you make the world more understandable for the reader? What are the most important considerations in both world building  and character creation? Cat Rambo gives you twelve tools to use for creating immersive worlds, along with writing exercises designed to help you master each technique, and a chance to ask questions about their use.

As always, there are three free scholarships in each class! Details are here on how to apply.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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