Fiction Writing Instruction

Fiction Writing: the Private Course

This is an introductory creative writing course aimed at the writing and marketing of short fiction.  Throughout the course, the student will submit original creative work for oral and written critique.  The student will also read and discuss a wide variety of published works with the intent of studying how professional writers operate.

How long is the course?  What are its parts?  And how much does it cost?

The private course runs for nine weeks.  Every week I will introduce a theme, give you readings, assign exercises, and propose further optional readings.  The weekly themes are as follows:

  1. What is a story?
  2. How do we create a character?
  3. How do we construct a plot?
  4. How do we use perspective?
  5. What makes good description and detail?
  6. How do we use dialogue as a storytelling tool?
  7. How do we use setting and pacing?
  8. What is voice and how does it expand what we can do?
  9. What is the submission process?

In the third week, you’ll email me your first story.  I’ll take a few days to read it and write a critique.  Then we’ll talk about the story and my comments via Skype or further via email (your choice).  Then you’ll have the option of revising it and sending it to me a second time.  We’ll repeat this process in the sixth week.  If we’re really motivated, we might have time to do a third story towards the end.  In the ninth week, we’ll take your best work, write a cover letter, format the manuscript, and submit it to magazines.  I’ll help you with all of this and model the process.

Think of this like a conversation.  My first question before I write comments is always, “What is the writer trying to accomplish?  What is her project?  And how can I help her do that?”  I don’t judge or evaluate.  I want to help you write what you want to write.  So our work is dedicated to determining what that is and how you can do it.

Total cost: $300 USD.  I’m not here to siphon money out of your wallet, but I think my time and experience should be worth something.  $300 for nine weeks of intensive personalized instruction is pretty good and relatively inexpensive.  Most online writing programs run upwards of $400 to $600 for slightly less instruction and you’re usually in a workshop where the instructor’s attention is divided by ten to twenty students.  I know because I’ve taught in those formats.  There are various ways you can pay me, but I usually rely on PayPal.  I travel internationally a lot.  So sometimes a particular payment method will be preferable to others.  We can talk about it.

I will only take one to three individual students at a time, but each course will be held as a one-on-one between student and instructor.  If there is a lot of interest in this course, I’ll set up a waiting list.  I don’t make a living off this.  I just enjoy doing it.  So I don’t need to charge a lot or teach many students in order to keep the lights on.  I’ve offered more traditional writing workshops of up to 10 students before online and have enjoyed that, too.  But it’s a different experience.  If you’re interested in something like that, email me at the address drmichaeldavis(at)gmx(dot) com and if there is enough interest, I might put one together.

This course is unique.  It’s three courses in one.

Three-courses-in-one means: (1) a studio writing course (making original stories with written feedback and discussion from the instructor); (2) a “form and theory” seminar (discussing the way others make original stories); and (3) a guided walk-through of the magazine submission process (taking one of your stories from first draft to submission).  Most courses focus on one of these three.  This does all of them in an intensive personalized format.  It not only gives you a lot of individual feedback, but it provides a way for you to continue learning far beyond the end of the course as you keep writing and sending your work out.  This course is therefore more comprehensive, personal, and valuable than most you will find via e-learning or at traditional brick-and-mortar university programs.

How many students are in this course?

One.  It’s just you and the instructor, which is another thing that makes this unique.  There are very few opportunities to learn directly from a heavily published, experienced professional in any field unless you spend a lot of money and take a huge risk.  This is a labor of love.  I’m not charging very much because I just love teaching fiction writing.

What will you have accomplished / what will you know by the end?

This course will give you priceless time and motivation to write something original for an interested professional.  That is the most valuable reason to take a writing course.

It will acquaint you with a wide range of creative techniques and forms, broadening your awareness of what is possible.  By the end, you’ll have a big creative toolbox

It will also show you how feedback is given on creative work and help you develop a sense of what is good feedback versus useless feedback.  This will help you take other creative classes in the future as you will be able to learn from good advice and immunize yourself against that which is bad or hurtful.

It will show you how professional writing actually gets produced, improved, and published—something that even those of us who have been formally trained in MFA programs often have to learn by trial and error.  In a sense, this course is also like working with a personal editor.

Lastly, you will come out with a portfolio of two to three polished short stories.  This is an achievement in itself, but it will be important if you ever want to apply to a MFA program or an art school.  Having a writing portfolio is also a great way to diversify your CV and is very helpful in communications, advertising, law, editing, and any field where writing skill is paramount.

Who am I and what are my credentials?

I’ve been teaching in traditional universities and schools for about 20 years.  I’ve taught every age, education level, and type of student conceivable and some who were inconceivable.

I currently work as a book editor, journalist, and freelance writer.  You can get an overview of me here: this link also connects to an online portfolio of some of my journalism (with a few magazine short stories linked as well).  A comprehensive list of what I’ve published is on my blog here:

As found in my bio here and elsewhere online:

My writing has appeared in DescantThe San Joaquin ReviewThe Jabberwock ReviewThe Black Mountain Review, Eclipse, Cottonwood, The Mid-American Review, Full Circle, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Georgia Review, Storyglossia, The Chicago Quarterly Review, Willow Springs, The Normal School, Arcana, The Superstition Review, The New Ohio Review, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Atticus Review, Isthmus, the Earlyworks Press Short Story Anthology, Redline, Forge, The Writing Disorder, Small Print Magazine, Ginosko Literary JournalThe BlatherPain TalksReVue, Literati Magazine, Student Voices, Human PartsInk & CodaVisitantTerror HouseWest Trade ReviewDecomP, and Splice Today.  My first collection of stories, Gravity, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2009.  My second story collection, Cruel Stars, came out in 2017.

I have a PhD in English from Western Michigan University, an MIS in Information Technology Management from University of Phoenix, an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Montana, and a BA in English from the University of California, Irvine.  I hold an Expert TESOL teaching certification from the American TESOL Institute and an ABA Paralegal Certification from the University of California, San Diego.

I’ve taught English at Stamford International University (Bangkok, Thailand), The Gotham Writers Workshop (online), Tallinn University (Tallinn, Estonia), Butte College (Oroville, CA), Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI), San Joaquin Memorial High School (Fresno, CA), University of Missouri (Columbia, MO), University of Montana (Missoula, MT), California State University Fresno (Fresno, CA), and Fresno City College (Fresno, CA).

My awards include the Editor’s Choice Award in the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Contest (2004) and the George Garrett Fiction Award (2008).  My story, “The Man in Africa,” was voted one of the Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2007.

My fiction has been reviewed in Five Star Literary Stories (2008),  The Southeast Review (2009), and Third Coast (2010).