Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Explaining Ourselves

Happy February, everyone!

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m teaching an online class called Kiss Me or Kill Me: Cozy Mystery Writing 101 for Romance Writers starting in a couple of weeks. And, as I said in that blog post, it isn’t really only for romance writers. It revolves around the basics of writing cozy mysteries.

I’ve started writing the class lessons and it’s a fun but incisive experience. Yes, I know how I write a mystery... sort of. And yes, I’ve done some review of how others appear to do it, too. But the process of explaining it to someone else is a bit like looking in a mirror and making notes!

Teaching isn’t really new to me. I’ve taught writing classes before, and I’ve been on plenty of panels where writers discuss their work. Even so, I’m finding the process more intense this time, maybe because it’s an online class so it’s like writing an essay for each class--or a blog! When I’ve given lessons in person, I’ll generally do an outline, and even if I write a whole talk I don’t always stick to it.

I’d already outlined what I’ll be describing in the four-week class. I’ll teach two classes a week, plus give assignments. Each class will be on a cozy mystery basic. The first class will describe what a cozy mystery is, and what distinguishes it from other genres. Others will be about how to choose a protagonist, another about theme, and so forth--all the elements of what must be blended to come out with a good cozy mystery.

I’m hoping to teach my students a lot, but I’m already learning from it myself. Describing the elements is more compelling and thought-provoking, in some ways at least, than just doing it. When I write a scene in a novel, I just sit at the computer with an idea of what I want that scene to contain. Sometimes my characters spin it in a different direction, which is often a good thing. If not, I mentally scold them and get back on track.

With a how-to lesson, I’ve tried to be concise yet all-inclusive, addressing all parts of the day’s lesson theme in an interesting way. Plus, my subconscious takes over in different ways, asking me questions about whether I really do things myself the way I’m describing, or if I just wish I did! The answer usually is yes, that’s my process, although I have to consider the question carefully.

Which do I like better? Well, I love my fiction writing and don’t intend ever to give it up. But writing lessons for an online class is educational to me, too, and I’m having lots of fun with it. I’m looking forward to having real students read what I’ve said and provide questions, feedback, and responses to the assignments I’ll give them.

And if they learn too much about me and how I write? I’ll just have to change myself, so I can remain mysterious!

In case you’re now brimming over with eagerness to see all the juicy tidbits about my writing that I’ll impart to my students, here’s the link again:

How about you--have you ever taught a class or even an individual something that’s of special meaning to you? What did the process feel like?


Janie Emaus said...

I've taught bookkeeping, but that's not too exciting! Good luck.

Katreader said...

I can't wait for your class! I run a group called The Arts for forensic patients at a psychiatric hospital. We discuss all manner of art forms and create as well. I have a general lesson plan...kind of...but spend a lot of time discussing. We're about to start our section on opera. Imagine my surprise at the last group when people decided not at attend as we were making cards and not starting opera yet!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I'd imagine teaching bookkeeping could be interesting, Janie--if you're teaching a creative way of doing it! :)

Linda O. Johnston said...

Making cards sounds fun, as does discussing opera, Katreader. Your class sounds quite versatile! Looking forward to having you in my class.

Chrystle Fiedler said...

Good for you that you are teaching what you know! Lucky students!

mollie bryan said...

I love teaching and really look forward to the times I get to do it. Last week, I taught a mystery writing class at the Roanoke Regional Writer's Conference. When I was the outline, it forced me to think differently about writing in the genre. And that's always a good thing! Wonderful post. I bet that class is going to ROCK!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Thanks, Chrystle! I hope the students all enjoy it.

Linda O. Johnston said...

That's part of the fun of preparing for a class, Mollie--looking at writing closely and differently. Thanks for the confidence. I'll bet your class rocked, too!

Betty Hechtman said...

I'm afraid I'm more about taking classes than teaching them. I love learning new things.