Private Lessons in Writing
Pen & Paper Lessons
Personalized instruction in the craft of writing commercial fiction
During my time at the university, I was surprised to see professional musicians take private lessons with the very same people I took lessons from. These were not recent graduates that needed a little refresher. These were seasoned professionals who held top posts with major symphony orchestras.
For both writers and musicians, sometimes it is beneficial to take a private lesson from a good teacher. Pen and Paper Lessons provides said benefit for writers.
What does a private writing lesson look like?
That is an excellent question. The short answer is this: you submit your writing and I review and comment on it.
Note: Instruction will be in the form of written feedback on your writing. There are no phone calls or video conferencing. Only written feedback.
How Does it Work?
The process is simple.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In your email, please let me know that you are interested in a lesson. I will then forward an invoice for the lesson.
Upon receipt of payment of the invoice, I will forward directions where to submit your writing. I will send you an email confirming receipt of your writing and an approximate date when you can expect my feedback.
- Your submission must be fiction. Your writing can be any of the following: short story, novella, or novel. These lessons are not designed for any sort of nonfiction.
- Submit the first 5,000 words of a completed work of fiction – your best work. You should not submit a rough draft.
- Please do not submit any writing that contains the following: gratuitous vulgar language, explicit sexual content (erotica and/or literary pornography has no place on this site), and/or writing that contains a significant number of spelling and/or grammatical errors.
Prior to purchasing Pen & Paper Lessons, you might consider registering for the course Pen & Paper.
So that you understand my expectations for what makes for good writing. This, in turn, could save you time and money.
You could also look through the Learn section on this site in order to find out more about my ideas on writing.
It is important that there is a good fit between student and teacher. The same can be said for therapists, hair stylists, doctors, and automotive repairmen. You have to trust these people. You have to like them. Carefully, peruse all of the materials found in the course prior to taking a lesson to see if you like what I have to say. You don’t want to waste your time if we are not a good fit for one another. Another way to tell if we are a good fit is to look at my list of the best writing and writers. Everyone has different tastes. Here is what I like.
1. Why take a lesson in writing?
Because it helps to have a teacher. How did Beethoven and Mozart learn to compose music? They took lessons. Mozart learned composition from Haydn. Beethoven wanted to take lessons from Mozart, but I don’t think that he ever got the chance due to Mozart’s untimely and unfortunate death. I have known professional musicians who still take lessons from their teachers. And it helps to have a good teacher.
Also, there is a difference between words on the page and good words on the page. You need to learn to discern the difference between the two, and sometimes it helps to have someone provide some feedback on your writing as you learn the craft and writing.
You should not have to spend thousands of dollars to learn the craft of writing fiction.
2. Why 5,000 words?
To keep your costs down. More words means more time (from me) which, in turn, means more money (from you). Think of this in terms of a private music lesson. Remember the metaphor of music? Most music lessons are about an hour.
3. Why do submissions have to be a finished product?
A finished product allows me to assess your understanding of various elements of writing such as plot structure. For additional lessons, this won’t necessarily be true.
4. What does instruction look like?
Instruction comes in the form of written feedback. Upon payment and submission of your writing, I will print and read what you have written. I like to work with pen and paper. I will read your writing several times and make comments and corrections and ask questions. For me, the best way to teach someone is through the Socratic Method, thus I ask a lot of questions when I review a piece of writing. I will evaluate your writing with respect to the following: grammar and mechanics, understanding of plot structure, character development, and other criteria as set forth in Pen & Paper.
5. Can I take lessons more than once?
Yes, certainly. However – and this is important – there is no need to for you to take weekly, or even monthly, lessons. You should spend the bulk of your time writing. My recommendation would be to take this course once per quarter…if, and only if, you are actively writing and working on your craft. There is no need to spend the money on lessons on a regular basis if you are not investing serious time on your writing. Also, if you do decide to take another lesson, then the word count for your submissions may change. It depends upon the student. Each individual student is unique and has different needs. After the initial lesson, I may ask for 10,000 words for the next lesson. Why would this be the case? If I don’t have to pore over the text correcting mistakes, then it is easier to look at the finer points.
Lessons are designed to help you become a better writer – not to bleed you dry. You should not have to spend thousands of dollars learning how to write. You should spend your time writing.
6. I’ve taken the course. Isn’t that enough?
Not necessarily. In the course, Pen & Paper, I told you exactly what you need to know in order to write commercial fiction.
However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to do it.
You have to work at the craft. And just like craftsmen from the past who would take on an apprentice in order to teach their craft, it helps to have someone who can take you on as an apprentice in writing.
7. Why do I have to use the calendar to sign up for a lesson if there is no actual live, in-person meeting? This is asynchronous learning.
The calendar is there so that you can see my general availability each month. It also provides a framework for me. Certainly, I could just have a button that says Buy Lesson and have it posted on this page. What happens when fifty people all purchase this service on a Monday? There will be one stressed out teacher and probably fifty soon-to-be unhappy writers who aren’t having their writing assessed in a timely manner. There are only so many hours in the day and I want to respect the needs of potential students. Having a calendar ensures that I am able to read, review, and comment upon writing in an orderly and timely fashion.