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Getting Assignments Right in an Online Writing Course

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person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook


person holding ballpoint pen writing on notebook

Anyone investing time and money in an online creative writing course wants to get as much out of the course as possible. These tips will help to avoid wasted effort.

Although doing an online writing course is time-effective and convenient, sometimes students are not sure about what is required from them as essay writers. It’s easy to send in the wrong thing or to fail to use the tutor’s feedback most effectively. The following four mistakes are quite common – but easy to avoid.

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1. Sending in Too Many Course Assignments at Once

Tutors of online creative writing courses tend to sigh and shake their heads whenever a student sends in a batch of assignments at the same time. Sometimes, the quality is good – but all too often, it isn’t. The tutor marks the first assignment and finds errors in grammar, style, or both. And guess what happens? That’s right… these mistakes are duplicated in all three/four/five assignments that have been sent in one mailing.

While it is sometimes more convenient for writing students to do several assignments at a sitting, it’s best to carefully edit, polish, and submit just one at a time. Wait for feedback, so mistakes can be corrected in the remaining assignments before submission. Managing time for online writing courses can be a balancing act, but it’s important not to rush into assignments too quickly.

2. Failing to Apply Previous Feedback to Creative Writing Assignments

Most people have heard a saying that goes something like this: “He doesn’t have ten years’ experience: he has one year’s experience repeated ten times”. In other words, this is someone who has not grown and moved forward.

It’s incredibly frustrating for creative writing tutors to spend time marking an assignment and pointing out how a writer can improve, only to find that the advice is ignored in subsequent assignments. Admittedly, comments on style are subjective: a writing student may not want to change his or her basic style. However, a writing tutor is usually speaking from experience.

For example, some writers tend to be very wordy while they are conducting research for academic essays. A tutor may point out that long, convoluted sentences can be confusing for readers, as well as slowing the pace of the whole piece. It is certainly up to the student whether to act on this advice, but ignoring it doesn’t show a willingness to learn and grow.

3. Failing to Answer the Assignment Question

Sometimes, writers seem to confuse a writing course with a critique service. Rather than sending in the set assignment, they simply send in whatever they feel like. The bemused tutor reads through the scene or story and tries to work out how it answers the question. Finally, they realize it doesn’t. Usually, the tutor sends it back with an explanation that in a creative writing course, an assignment is designed to test the student’s understanding of the course content.

If a student simply wants feedback on existing writing, then a critique service might have been a better choice than a course with set assignments.

4. Sending Part A and Part B of an Assignment Question in Separate Documents

When a tutor marks an assignment, they usually just open up the document and work their way through. Therefore, if the question has several parts, these should be in the same document, not submitted in separate documents. (Each part of the question may be assigned a new page in the document, but usually clear section headers are enough separation.)

In the unlikely event that a tutor wants each part to be submitted as a separate document, this is usually specified in the assignment information section.

Writers who are new to online courses often take a while to find their feet. Even though the course providers try to address anticipated issues, tutors do tend to find that people make the same mistakes in submitting assignments or fail to demonstrate that they have understood the feedback. The four common mistakes above will help to ensure that any online creative writing course student will get off to a good start.



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