Writing is often a very individual pursuit. But to improve their writing skills, many people enroll in some sort of writing program, be it a degree program, a certificate program or an enrichment program. These programs can be educational and fun and can even help you network with other writers. Here are some ways to find the best writing programs.
- Create your own definition of "best." "The best writing program" is kind of an abstract term. Really what you want to do is find the best program for you, personally. This means taking into consideration the kind of writing you want to do, your experience level, how much time you can (or want to) commit to a program, and even how much money you can afford to invest in a writing program. You also may need to consider whether you can actually attend an on-site program, or would prefer to enroll in a distance learning program.
Once you have those practical matters in mind, you still face many considerations. Do you want to be in a big program or find a small class where you get one-on-one help? Do you want a program that can lead you to internships or "industry" connections, or are you just looking for a program that lets you learn and write for your own pleasure? Take into consideration your personal preferences before you search for your optimum program.
- Let the search begin. Once you know what you're looking for, go ahead and look. You may know where some writing programs exist -- your local college, different websites friends have recommended, workshops you've seen advertised in writing magazines. If you're not sure where to begin, any of those resources (local colleges, online, friends who write, and writing magazines like Writer or Writer's Digest) are good places to begin searching for programs. Once you have a collection of names, connect by phone, email or catalog request and see if each program has the elements you need and want in a writing program.
- Check the reputation. As you work your way down to a manageable list of programs which fit your goals and needs (there are so many writing programs out there), you can still do some more narrowing. Look at the programs that fit your requirements and then compare their reputations. Are some connected to reputable schools? Are some run by published writers who have been teaching classes for years? If you search writer websites and the Better Business Bureau, or ask around informally, does this program attract a lot of complaints? If the content, price, and other factors of various writing programs are all to your liking, the reputation of the programs may determine which program you choose. If you're seeking a degree to get a job writing someday, or if you're looking to make business contacts, reputation is especially important. Ultimately, though, it's most important because you don't want to be spending money and time on a class that turns out to be badly or dishonestly run. So check around and make sure the program you like is unblemished and enjoys a sterling reputation.
- Ask direct questions. Once you have a program that meets your needs and goals, and once you have determined that the program is well-run and reputable, feel free to ask some more specific questions to the program administrators directly if any questions remain in your mind. Maybe you want to speak to the professor who will be instructing you. That could be possible. Maybe you want to contact past alumni. Maybe you'd like to hear from the department chair about the success rate of people who have graduated from the program and gone on into the world of publishing, screenwriting, advertising, journalism or whatever your field of interest might be. Don't be afraid to ask questions before signing on the dotted line.
Most writers I know have benefited from taking part in a writing program. Good teachers, interesting classmates, and a broadening of horizons can definitely help a person become better at writing. If you are looking to take part in some sort of writing program, judge for yourself what that "best possible" program should include, then search for it, check it out and, when you're ready, jump in!