Guest Blog by a student in Delta College’s English 49B, Creative Writing Fiction, Fall 2015.

In June Gillam’s class I learned tools I am certain will help me in the future. Her method of teaching involves a lot of group work and constructive criticism from one’s writing peers. In this class, hard work and teamwork pay off. By examining other people’s rough drafts, we form ideas about our own writing and how we can improve it.

At the beginning of the course there are plenty of guides to help the student understand what will be expected throughout the semester and how to succeed. Gillam really does seem dedicated to seeing her students succeed. She urges us to view ourselves through the lens of the fiction that we write. One of the most interesting things I learned this semester was that each of our characters can be considered a version of ourselves, and that by taking the time to study those characters and getting to know them, we are also getting to know ourselves. This is important for a writer, because by knowing ourselves, we can better understand the ways we view the world and why we view the world the way we do. Our perspective can invariably affect how and what we write in our fiction.

The book that Gillam chose for this class, Crafting Novels and Short Stories, is an invaluable tool for the fledgling writer. The book discusses all sorts of topics important to the story writing process, and also includes the opinions, thoughts, and advice of lots of different authors. Gillam connects her course materials to the subjects in this book, such as character development, plot development, how to make a good villain or conflict, and how to wrap up a story without leaving too many loose ends.

Throughout the course, Gillam provided us with tons of clips and excerpts of outside stories, articles, and videos about or by famous authors, in order to help us learn a bit about the writing process itself, the publishing process, what it takes to be a full time writer, and what it takes to finish a story from beginning to end. All of this information is incredibly important for a new writer to have, and was also a great refresher for writers who may have already been aware.

Through Gillam’s class modules and through the books, we were able to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each different point of view style, and how to expand on our stories by using point of view in them. We learned a lot about how some types of points of view work better than others for different types of stories, but we also learned that there’s no shame in taking a big risk in our POV when writing a story.

Something I learned from this class that I think is important is that even though there are some standards for writing, and even though there are some things that work better than others, there are actually no absolutes in writing, and that literally anything can work—if the writer goes about it in the right way.

I think my favorite thing in this class was how to outline plot. I have saved some of the diagrams offered, and in fact, I am putting some of them to use as I work on my own fantasy novel! Also, I was able to learn how to make my characters pack even more of a punch, and how I can help work them into full fledged characters my readers will always remember. As a fantasy writer, knowing how to make a memorable character (and storyline) are incredibly important to me.

All in all I am grateful for this class, and now that it’s over, I can say I’ve walked out a stronger writer because of what I learned. Thanks, June!

Melinda Matthews

(excerpted by June Gillam to send link to future students so they get a sense of the class)