Quiz on Your Writing Priorities


I’m about to start teaching a fiction writing class at the University of Tennessee. To help me design my syllabus, I emailed my students and asked them a few questions. In particular, I asked what they most wanted to write, and what they liked to read.

(The standard thing in a fiction workshop is to teach and workshop literary-style short stories, and to assign similar readings for study. But I was curious how many students actually wanted to write short fiction.)

Here’s quiz, below. I’m curious: what would your answers be?

Dear Students,

Welcome to this class on the writing of fiction.

Before we meet for the first time, I wanted to ask you some questions. Please reply to this email before Monday morning.

Question 1: what do you most want to write?

A. Short stories.
B. Novels.
C. Strange hybrid forms that challenge genre boundaries.
D. All of the above / Don’t mind.

Question 2: what do you like to read?

A: Classic fiction / literary fiction.
B: Werewolves, time travel, robots, magic.
C: It’s all about the language. Prose style draws me in.
D: Anything good, really.

Now, if I told you that when the replies from the class came back, and very few students replied with As, do you think I should alter my syllabus to reflect that?

5 thoughts on “Quiz on Your Writing Priorities

  1. That’s a tough one. One the one hand, I think in order to stretch a student’s mind, all types need to be looked at and possibly written about. But depending on the structure of the class, that may not be possible. I think students need to be pushed past comfort zones. How are they going to learn long form (novels) if they can’t write short? They are two different beasts I understand, but one builds on the other. In my opinion anyway. Keep us posted on how the class goes and what you intend to teach. And good luck! 🙂

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  2. My answers would be “Bs.” Short stories in the literary form teach what is required to write a fiction novel, so would not alter the syllabus much if any. However, you could provide extras focused in the areas of interest. For example, did you talk about elements of fiction writing by Jack Bickham in one of your blogs? (I don’t recall.) Or The War of Art by by Steve Pressfield.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was reading this as a student, and trying to answer, and I can tell you I avoided A answers as well, but at the same time it was because of their intimidation. They represent the foundations for better and more theral, felt writing, and can separate you, evolve you from someone who just has original ideas. I would most certainly appreciate both the knowledge and challenges offered, hence why I do not think you should change the syllabus, perhaps merely tweak it a little, to ensure the learning process feels personal for everyone.

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