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On Scheduling: Fall 2011

As you’re well aware, I’m halfway through my pursuit of a Master of Professional Writing degree at the University of Oklahoma. My classes start tomorrow.

But I was on campus yesterday running hither and yon, signing up for tutorial time with the chair of my graduate committee, applying for a two-hundred-dollar parking pass, and picking up textbooks for my class “Writing the Nonfiction Book.”

The other class I’m taking, “Advanced Fiction Writing,” isn’t actually part of my Master’s program. My program takes place in the College of Mass Communication. “Advanced Fiction Writing” is taught in the College of English. There’s apparently friction between the two.

But I need to take one elective outside my college as part of my graduation requirements, and “Advanced Fiction Writing” sure sounded like my kind of thing. If I took those three courses this fall (“Advanced Fiction Writing,” “Writing the Nonfiction Books,” and my project tutorial), I could reasonably finish my degree next May. That sounded nice.

And then I discovered, to my delight, that “Advanced Fiction Writing” was an online course. Since I live an hour from campus, and work 45 minutes from campus, I really like the idea of an online course. That really sold it for me. I’d heard some rumors about these tensions between Mass Comm and the English guys, but there were so many good reasons to take the course.

So I enrolled in Advanced Fiction Writing. It took me a couple weeks and some jumping through hoops to get the instructor’s permission to join it (since I’m not in their program), but last Thursday I cleared the last of the hurdles. I went to the class’s web page and started looking over the course material.

It’s all about writing short stories. Isn’t that wonderful? That’s precisely what the Consortium School of Writing is collectively working on right now. Not only would I learn how to write short stories, but I could pass on a lot of that to my colleagues. I kept reading through the syllabus, getting more and more excited about the class.

And then I hit this:

No science fiction or fantasy allowed. All stories must be character-driven. The emphasis in this course will be on helping you to develop credible, complex fictional characters (people) living in the world as we know it.

That’s awfully hard to hear, for the author of a bestselling Fantasy novel (and one that’s character-driven, with a credible, complex fictional character according to most of my reviews at Amazon). But what’s a guy to do? This course fits all my requirements.

So I spent two days thinking very hard, and picked two compelling stories out of the background of a couple unwritten novels I’ve designed (Johnny Cass and the Castle in Catoosa and Federal Express), and got those all ready to write. Now I just have to spend a whole semester pretending not to feel deeply insulted by my professor’s biases.

Well, not just that. I also have to write two compelling short stories (something I’m by no means a master of). I’ve also got to finish up The Dragonswarm for my December publication date, and write its sequel for my Master’s Project. And then I’ve got to write that non-fiction book. And I’ll probably try to do a Ghost Targets book for NaNoWriMo.

Whew! That’s a busy schedule. It’s going to be a lot of fun, though. Classes start tomorrow, and while I’ll probably back off my regular posting schedule to just these weekly stories, I suspect the stories will be good ones!

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