I took a creative writing course at my first college. I dropped it later, because the professor didn’t know how to actually teach creative writing. That’s not to say that I knew what I was doing; I’d been writing since I was eleven, and by the time I took this professor’s class I was told by one professional author and another English professor that I was publishable, but I (today) wouldn’t consider myself (then) to know what I was talking about any more than that professor. I learned far more from the assigned texts than I did from her.

The problem with many creative writing courses is that they spend a lot of time teaching you what not to do rather than what you should do. That’s a lot easier, I suppose; as I frequently say, writing is an art, not a science. There are a few ways to fail, and an near-infinite number of ways to succeed. It’s easier to talk about what not to do. The problem is that these courses go on and on with their rules rather than treating it as an art form. When I teach writing, I actually approach it the same way one might teach drawing or painting: here’s some stuff to try, and here’s how to refine it. The rules of fiction aren’t the laws of physics.

blogger-image-1782337503

One such rule, which this professor was quite strict on, is one that many of you will no doubt have heard. Don’t use adverbs. The professor in question was even more specific: “Don’t use -ly words.” Whether she didn’t care about adverbs that didn’t end in -ly or she just thought we didn’t know what an adverb was, I don’t know; it could honestly have gone either way. (You can tell I didn’t enjoy that class.)  Continue reading