once-upon-a-time-719174_640Most of the Groupons that come through my inbox are for food I don’t need to eat or for services I didn’t know I needed. So I was surprised when I saw a novel writing class offered (at a hefty 94% discount, no less!) and decided for the price, I’d give it a shot.

The course is called “How to Write a Great Novel” and is offered by Writing & Dreams.

The Content:

The positive — The content is solid. The course consists of 8 modules for an “advertised” 31 extended lessons. I say advertised because there are actually 29 numbered lessons in addition to a lengthy intro that includes a helpful glossary, some tools, and a reading list.

Most of the workshops and content I’ve been going through lately have felt surface-level. This is long enough it can cover topics in-depth with specific instructions and ideas. A lot of time is spent not only explaining how to structure a story but why something may work this way but won’t work that way.

The organization is great — it starts with preparation for writing, moves through development, planning, first draft, and revisions. It ends with submission and information for doing a deal, as well as information on alternatives such as self-publishing. In between, it covers plot, dialogue, character development, marketing, agents, editors … It’s thorough.

There are writing exercises throughout though I haven’t done them yet. I’m planning to go back and do them as I work on an idea for a novel.

The negative — You’re not going to agree with everything, and I had a few disagreements with points along the way (nothing too major — I cant remember any so I’m going to assume they were beefs with editing issues). I wish a bit more time had been devoted to self-publishing rather than half a lesson shared with vanity press. Ebooks also felt like a bit of an afterthought when mentioned.

And a neutral — there are “quizzes” at the end of each lesson. I’m not sure they serve any point, but there’s an emphasis on this being a “certification course” so I suppose you have to prove you’ve learned something. Don’t let the quizzes scare you away. There are usually 3 or 4 questions each, and you’re not penalized for retaking a quiz (I retook a couple).

The Experience:

The positive — Each lesson consists of reading words on a webpage. It’s a manageable amount of text, nicely formatted and split up by images and some great author quotes, which was a big win with me.

The questionable — This is less about content and more about business/operations. The course is from “Writing & Dreams” but the site itself is screenplayscripts.com, which is something that signals a scam to me in most cases. Except here, my money was going to Groupon, not the site directly (and for $39, I was willing to risk it), and I wasn’t counting on this “certification” for college credit or a job promotion. Also, I didn’t enter in personal information beyond my name and email address. (Additionally, the site was written for a British audience and the prices presented were in pounds. That doesn’t mean it’s a scam — it was unexpected.)

The negative — The promised certificate is CHEE-ZEE. It’s a link to a common PNG. It doesn’t even auto-fill your name or pass date.

Randomness:

I worked on this a little bit most weekdays during the month of April, some days completing as many as 4 lessons in a sitting, many days only fitting in 1 lesson due to my schedule. The on-demand flexibility was great.

The site being created for a British audience was kind of nice because every so often I’d feel bogged down, and they’d tell me to go have a pint or head for the pub. It made me feel quite author-ly.

The Verdict:

The later modules on submitting and deal negotiation weren’t of great interest to me at this time, but the first 80% of the course was timely and relevant.

For the supposed “full” price of $680, I wouldn’t recommend this course. I feel I received far more value than the $39 I paid for it via Groupon, however, and would certainly recommend it if you haven’t written a novel before or have written problematic novels that haven’t developed as you wished.

The deal is still available if you’re interested in purchasing it. (In fact, I believe it said “limited time remaining” shortly after I bought mine at the end of March. And I drafted this post Monday but received it as a headlining deal today, so take “limited time” with a grain of salt.) I don’t receive anything for you signing up unless you’re new to Groupon and want to sign up using my referral link. Which you’re welcome to do, but it’s not important. My motivation was only to share about the course in case anyone out there might be interested in taking it.

If you have any other questions about the course, let me know and I’d be happy to answer them. If you sign up for it, let me know that as well – I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.

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