Note: This is a sample syllabus. It may change slightly from year to year
English 318R Syllabus
Instructor: Brandon Sanderson
Brandon’s Email: [email protected]
Lynn Buchanan’s email [email protected] (CC on all emails.)
I assume you’re in this class because you want to learn how to produce professional-quality speculative fiction. Some of you may not intend to be professional writers. However, for the purposes of this course, I am going to pretend that you’re all aspiring professionals. My job is to teach you what you need to know if you decide to pursue professional writing someday. There are many elements involved in becoming a writer, but the surest way to get better at writing is to practice. In my opinion, the following ideas are central to a writer’s life, and they are the focus of this class.
1) Writers write consistently and improve through constant practice. 2) Writers spend time in workshops and writing groups getting feedback from other writers.
The philosophy, and the grading, of this course are focused around these ideas. However, this isn’t a class about grades. It’s an upper-level elective and is filled with seniors and grad students. As your instructor, I expect more from you than simply the completion of assignments—I expect a true and serious desire to understand what it takes to be a writer. I expect a commitment to writing and a determination to improve.
Point One: Writing Consistently. While I don’t like to limit writers in the class, the following requirement has worked well in the past. Your goal in this class will be to write a 35,000-word project in three months. The assignment will be a long novella, and it has to be something new and original you begin this semester. This is a lot of writing. You will be graded on whether or not you meet your goals, and the project is focused on teaching you to write consistently and learn what writing methods work for you. In the end, you will turn in all 35,000 words of prose—not outlines, not notes from your critique group, not blog posts, not emails to your family—only prose, which will be graded quantitatively, along with a 5,000-word sample to be graded qualitatively.
Point Two: Workshopping. You will be split into writing groups, but you do not have to read all of the writing that your group is producing. Each week, each of you will submit 1,000 words of material (5 pages double-spaced in Courier, about 4 pages in Times New Roman—count words, not pages, though) to your writing group. After being divided into groups, you’ll be invited to your group’s Dropbox folder, which is further divided into folders for each week of the semester. Save your writing submission in the folder for that week with this naming format: Date of Class_Last Name (ex. 04 April_Stewart). You will then upload your words for the week to the dated folder by MIDNIGHT Monday night/Tuesday morning of the week of that class. That gives all of you three days to read the submissions, and gives no excuses of “the email didn’t arrive.” This is part of your grade—a big part. If you have internet troubles one day, find a friend’s computer and upload it that way.
Your grade will come from the self-reporting sheet on the back of this page. Don’t lose it!
Your Grade (is based on)
40% Lecture Attendance & Weekly Submissions
40% Final Portfolio
20% Reading & Critiquing
Personal Tracking Sheet
Check marks for each week of class
I submitted 35,000 words of new prose
I read & critiqued subs before lecture
submitted to my group on time
Note 1: Attending each lecture is part of your grade. You can still count it if you arrive less than fifteen minutes late, but walking in an hour late means you weren’t there for the lecture and are absent.
Note 2: If you visit The Leading Edge www.leadingedgemagazine.com twice during the semester, you can earn ONE “free pass” week on writing submissions. They meet T/Th 7:30–9:00 p.m. in 4035 JKB. You still have to make up reading those submitted by your colleagues. If you are going to be out of town, you will need to submit your 1,000 words anyway (you may post them early) and submit comments to your writing group via Dropbox.
Note 3: You may make up ONE lecture absence by visiting The Leading Edge once during the semester.
Note 4: If a member of your group is not pulling their weight, then 1) Remember to be kind; you might not know about all the circumstances, and 2) Talk to Brandon about it in private. He’ll take care of things from there