August 23, 2011

Review of Craftsman (novel) course with the J.B.J. Christian Writers Guild - Dorothy Bentley

I took the CWG's first offering of the Craftsman course beginning in May 2008.

When I first found out about the CWG's novel writing course, I practically jumped out of my chair with excitement. It seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I applied and was accepted, based on my writing resume, and a book proposal (including three chapters), without having taken previous CWG courses. It seemed to me that God had opened the door. But where was He leading?

John Perrodin was my mentor. He was professional, helpful with comments, and very encouraging.
Until the Residency, the course was like any distance course. I was only in touch with John via course materials. The materials were very good. I had been reading about novel writing on my own for several years, but learned new things through the course.

I had just about a complete novel in my head when I applied for the course, as well as three complete chapters. After the idea finding lesson, I had a new novel begun. The novel idea and first few chapters went through many revisions with each new lesson.

I pitched an incomplete novel at the Writing for the Soul Conference in February 2009, was invited to submit it to two editors, and one agent was interested. (All were also interested in my initial novel.)

It was rejected, but I did receive a personal letter, which I’m told, is an achievement in itself. I also submitted my original novel, and with that rejection, I received reviewer's notes. So helpful! Now I know where my weakness is, and what to work on.

The Residency part was great, and I think it sets Craftsman apart from other correspondence courses. Meeting Jerry B. Jenkins, having one-on-one sessions with him editing my work, getting feedback and encouragement, were all great experiences, though I couldn't help but feel a little awkward with such a well known writer.

Also at the residency, meeting with my mentor, John, was great. He was an excellent mentor and led sessions on several aspects of the craft.

James Scott Bell was another instructor for Craftsman I. Lots of experience, willing to share his knowledge… and funny.

Chris Fabry, radio personality gave feedback through a mock interview. Super nice guy.

McNair Wilson was an entertaining, thought-provoking pitch and speech coach.

And of course my fellow students were all really good writers, and we got along well and became friends at the residency, and at the conference we spend time together as a group. As Craftsmen, we had some special events. Breakfast with Jerry, Q&A session with Karen Kingsbury, and more… loved it.

Dorothy Bentley with Karen Kingsbury.


Was it worth the time and money spent? Yes, for me it was. I think it did help that I had done a lot of reading about novel writing beforehand, and had tried my hand at it, so I knew exactly where my weaknesses were-- holes about the process that needed further fleshing out. I have a much better understanding about things like P.O.V., characterization through the story, and more.

I was really sad when the course ended. I liked getting regular feedback, and thought it would be great to have someone to work with through to a complete novel.

Time invested in the course? I cannot say for sure. I know I spent hours and hours at it, but it wasn’t work to me… just doing what I love. I did find that I had to drop back from several other commitments to make more time to write, a good discipline for wanting to be a professional novelist.

I cannot tell you if you should invest your hard-earned cash. I suggest praying about it. I personally have no regrets, even though it meant taking on a part-time Instructor position at my local college to cover my costs. I later resigned, to allow more time to spend with my family, and to write.

Past Craftsman Mentor, John Perrodin with me.

Now, a couple years later, it all seemed like a whirlwind. A time between Dorothy and a Wizard of Oz, but ultimately, I am supposed to find my own way home. Clicking my heels together just doesn't seem to be doing anything!

I thought completing the course would open doors into the publishing world for me. It did, but I wasn't ready. There is no magic. No secret insider society in which to be accepted. The Craftsman course did set me up with that false illusion. My own making, no doubt.

Ultimately, there is only the quality of the writing.

Oh from what heights we fall, to the lowest depths. I am my own worst critic and have even questioned whether or not I should be trying to write novels after just two recent rejections from agents. Obviously, my quality of novel writing still needs to improve.

No-one said this would be easy.

The Craftsman course wasn't an arrival, but rather one training experience, now a part of my writer's scrapbook. I am trusting God to use me as He wishes. I am responsible to work diligently; He is responsible for the results.

Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people. 
Proverbs 22:29 (NLT)

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Dorothy! I appreciated the way you highlighted the benefits of the course and your emotional highs, but also shared your rejection lows. May God continue to guide you.

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  2. Thank you for your comments, Ruth! Blessings! D :)

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  3. Dorothy - thanks for sharing. It's great to hear about other opportunities to learn as writers. I think you should definitely keep working on your novels! Some writers have taken years to write novels, and the fact that you got personal rejections is encouraging. Try again! :) I need to give that advice to myself, because I have a couple novels that I need to revise before submitting for publication (I haven't even tried yet, so you're ahead of me!), but I know how much work it is to edit/revise and I keep putting it off. Lately, however, I've been feeling urged to kick my butt into gear and just start editing them. :)

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  4. Only 2 rejections?! Definitely keep on! I enjoyed hearing about your journey and benefits of the course.

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