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|Amber Brooks • 12/19/17|
The Short Version: Based in New York City, Gotham Writers Workshop demystifies the writing and publishing process with over 50 instructive courses. What began with two writers teaching out of a living room in 1993 has grown into an international operation involving dozens of experienced instructors. Over the decades, the company’s classes have walked thousands of writers through the elements of good storytelling. Romance author Leigh Michaels has personally taught over 900 students in her Romance Writing course, a popular resource for aspiring romance writers around the world. If you’re interested in developing your writing skills, you can take a 10-week online class on the subject of your choice and learn the tricks of the writing trade from professionals in the Gotham Writers network.
When I was in high school, none of my friends liked to read and write quite as much as I did. I’d spend long hours typing up imaginative, convoluted, and maudlin stories in hopes that I’d be a teenage author prodigy. But, in my heart, I knew I still needed a lot of practice.
Occasionally, I’d ask my close friends to read one of my unpublished manuscripts and tell me what they thought. After weeks of anguished waiting, I’d hear back: “It’s really good,” or “It seems book-like.” I never got any specific critiques.
I appreciated my friends’ vague compliments, but what I needed was someone to tell me how to make my stories better. I needed the kind of feedback writers give to other writers in supportive communities like Gotham Writers Workshop.
In 1993, Gotham Writers designed a curriculum to teach people how to craft page-turners and embark on writing careers. Now you can register for an online or in-person class to work on your manuscript in a diverse and worldly group of writers.
The company’s community-driven learning tools attract aspiring authors who want to help one another improve. If you dream of writing and publishing a romance novel, you can learn how it’s done by taking a genre-specific course on the site.
Gotham Writers’ writing courses cover a variety of subjects and genres, including poetry, romance, blogging, and screenwriting. There are even teen classes for writers between 13 and 17 years old. These helpful and hands-on learning environments give budding writers the opportunity to expand their talents and learn the skills necessary to publish fiction and nonfiction works in today’s market.
As a Gotham Writers student named Hannah Siddiqui said, “I came into this course feeling so stuck with my novel, and I’m leaving it feeling more inspired than ever.”
In the summer of 1999, romance author Leigh Michaels happened upon a flyer for Gotham Writers’ classes and noticed that they didn’t offer romance-specific classes. She promptly sent the company her résumé and offered her services as an instructor for a romance writing class. About a year and a half later, a Gotham staffer called Leigh up and offered her the job of heading up the workshop’s brand-new romance writing course. Leigh has been teaching Romance Writing (Level I and Level II) for Gotham Writers ever since.
The 10-week online course includes weekly modules, private assignments, and peer-to-peer feedback. Each week, Leigh posts a thought-provoking lecture on character development, conflict, plot, or some other important subject — and then the writers express their opinions via the discussion board.
Additionally, each student gets two to three opportunities to share his or her work with the class and get feedback in a structured and constructive format. The writer posts an excerpt from a manuscript, and then the other students must name two things they liked and two things that could be improved. The writer must stay silent during the critique, but he or she may ask questions and get clarification at the end.
This interactive process teaches romance writers to identify the strengths and weaknesses in any piece of writing.
“We find people learn from looking at someone else’s work as well as writing themselves,” Leigh explained. “Our focus is on the writing, and you could easily workshop half a romance novel by taking the intro and advanced courses back to back.”
People of all backgrounds, from firefighters to attorneys, have taken Leigh’s course and have excelled by applying her techniques and strategies to their writing. The instructor said her students often bring a unique professional expertise to the table and can authoritatively answer medical, legal, political, and other nuanced questions in the romance stories.
By brainstorming relationship dynamics and filling in plot holes, the writers make each other better with every new post. The courses are never the same twice because the students drive the conversation.`
“I love the genre, and I love my classes. It’s an incredible support system,” Leigh said. “Romance writers support each other with positive feedback and encouragement, so it’s a phenomenal resource for anyone just getting started.”
Since she was young, Leigh loved telling stories with happy endings. As a 14-year-old, she wrote about idealistic heroines and perfect romances, drawing more from her imagination than her experiences.
“Everything I knew about love then could fit on a Post-it note,” she told us with a chuckle. That first book would never see the light of day, and neither would five other works that she completed as a young adult. She wrote them, burned them, and started fresh, determined to hone her skills and write something worth publishing.
“That was how I learned what makes a story work and what makes it not work,” she told us.
In 1982, Leigh decided she had written something worth sending to publishers and seeing what their feedback would be. She kept her expectations low, so she was pleasantly surprised when an editor gave her constructive criticism and expressed interest in publishing the revised romance novel. She was in! Her first book was published in the US in 1984.
Leigh has now written more than 80 romantic novels published by Harlequin Enterprises, Sourcebooks, Montlake Romance, and Writers Digest Books. More than 35 million copies of her books are in print in 25 languages and 120 countries. “I have a very broad experience in the field,” she said. “I have a unique position in teaching because I have written both contemporary romance and historical fiction, and I’ve self-published and worked with numerous publishers.”
Over the last 20 years, Leigh has also published five self-help books about writing romantic novels to share her insights with writers the world over. “The detail in this book is astonishing,” Edie wrote in a review of “On Writing Romance.” “This is a must-have book if you are interested at all in being a successful writer.”
Over the past few decades, Leigh estimates that she has taught over 900 students through her Gotham Writers class. She knows at least 50 of her students have gone on to have successful careers as published authors. Some have kept in touch with her to get her advice and let her know how they’re doing. Others have gone on to win writing contests or prestigious awards, including a RITA from the Romance Writers of America.
“I like to tell people that teaching writing is like being a grandmother,” she said. “You don’t have to do any of the hard work, but you get to brag about the baby. The author is the one who does the work. I’m just proud to have had a hand in that.”
“Hands down, the most valuable learning experience I could have hoped for as an aspiring writer.” — Lara Mitchell, a Romance Writing student
The testimonials for Leigh’s Romance Writing Class are positively bursting with enthusiasm and gratitude. “I can’t imagine a more supportive instructor and smarter fellow writers to encourage me every step of the way,” praised Lisa Christensen, an advertising writing director and Gotham Writers student.
“I found it very stimulating having such a small class,” wrote Linda Lane, a pharmacist who said she has kept in close contact with her Romance Writing classmates. “A real bond was formed between us and the instructor that I will not soon forget.”
Leigh’s positive and passionate support is the backbone of the writing course. “No writing is wasted,” she maintained. “All writing is good practice.”
As a teenager, I scribbled out rough drafts with no direction and no formal training. The results were, as one friend said, book-like, but I needed more careful readers to explain what I was missing. Eventually, I grew as a writer by seeking online communities where people shared my enthusiasm for storytelling and could offer detailed analysis of my work.
If you want to tighten up your writing, you can learn from your fellow writers by taking a course at Gotham Writers Workshop. People come from all corners of the globe to benefit from these beginner-friendly writing resources.
Whether you want to focus on dialogue writing or novel writing, Gotham Writers has a variety of online courses geared toward writers of all ages and backgrounds. The Romance Writing course, taught by Leigh Michaels, is an inspirational stepping stone to a career in romantic fiction, and novice writers can also get general writing tips in the supportive class. It’s a good place to flex your creative muscles and see what readers think of your romantic stories.
“You cannot put a price on the knowledge and constructive feedback I have gained through this class,” wrote Amy Jenkins, a writer who took Leigh’s class. “This is the best online format I have experienced.”