As an author, I fully believe there’s always room to learn and grow. I graduated from my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program a year ago, but I’m still finding ways to further my education. I’ve attended conferences, workshops, and courses, and the Story Academy with editor Bethany Hensel was my favorite writing investment since graduation.
For eight weeks, Bethany taught live classes twice a week, covering a wide range of topics that brought a fresh perspective to writing and provided me with actionable tips and techniques as I continue my journey.
Since I had a fantastic experience in the Story Academy, I wanted to share my favorite things about the course and some takeaways.
The Golden Live Format
One of my favorite things about the Story Academy was its live format. Each week, on Wednesday and Sunday, Bethany held live classes. The majority of them ran for an hour and a half to two hours. I always looked forward to each lesson because they were all packed with amazing information, writing exercises, and conversations.
The live format allowed me to interact with Bethany and the other students. From having open conversations to sharing our work from the writing exercises, I felt seen and heard. It was the best experience getting to actively participate because I’ve always been a student who learns best through applying information and talking with others. So, this format worked perfectly for me.
The Small Group Awesomeness
Next, I enjoyed how the course had a very small group of writers. This allowed for each of us to share ideas, contribute to conversations, and ask questions. Since there weren’t many of us, we all got individual attention and received support from our peers and Bethany.
Learning alongside other writers with shared goals and experiences made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Writing novels and being part of the publishing industry have their highs and lows, but this course reminded me many authors are in the same boat. Everyone was so kind, encouraging, and respectful. Bethany truly created a safe space for us to participate and share anything on our minds.
Also, the small-group structure allowed me to get to know other talented writers, some of which I’m now connected with on social media. By the end of the course, we knew each other so well and grew into stronger writers. I can’t thank Bethany enough for organizing a course that gave us the chance to interact twice a week while furthering our education.
Fresh Perspectives on Writing a Novel
Another favorite part of the Story Academy was Bethany’s fresh perspectives on writing a novel. She covered several important topics, from character development and voice to stakes and beyond. Better yet, she taught all of these topics with such a unique approach. Through doing this, Bethany allowed me to think about story elements in ways I never have before, deepening my understanding and bringing about lightbulb moments.
Sometimes, hearing something explained from a different angle is all it takes for a concept to click. The lesson on voice in particular really enhanced my understanding of what voice is and how to strengthen it in my manuscripts. It was evident Bethany put a ton of thought into each topic, and I enjoyed every lesson.
The Natural Flow
Along with covering each topic in a fresh way, Bethany presented the lessons in a logical order. From the first lesson, each concept discussed naturally flowed to the ones that followed. The course was structured in a cumulative way, allowing the topics to build off each other as the eight weeks unfolded.
I truly loved this approach because each lesson wasn’t treated as an individual class. Bethany took a thoughtful approach to ordering the lessons and showing how all the moving parts of a story affect one another. Now, when I’m working on my manuscripts, I’m much more aware of how all the story elements work together.
Favorite Takeaways from the Story Academy
I have pages and pages of notes from the Story Academy. Everything I learned will be extremely valuable as I continue working on my current manuscripts and many more to come.
I wanted to share some of my favorite takeaways from the Story Academy. I could write forever about all the things I learned, but these are ten that really stuck with me.
1. Ask yourself why you’re writing the story, and make sure it’s for the right reasons.
2. It’s not about how the world views your character, it’s about how your character views the world.
3. Know what keeps your character up at night in a bad way and their birthday candle wish.
4. Character and plot must be braided together.
5. Stories aren’t about input, they’re about output.
6. Your character’s compass includes their surface pain, deep pain, beliefs, and values.
7. Specificity leads to relatability.
8. There must be causation between scenes.
9. POV, prose, and pacing are woven together with atmosphere, tone, and momentum.
10. Voice is made up of a distinct quality, a caricature element, and the storyteller swirl.
So, that was my experience in the Story Academy. I can’t recommend Bethany’s course enough, and I highly recommend working with her in whatever way suits your writing goals. She has a heart of gold and truly loves helping other writers.
Thank you, Bethany, for organizing the Story Academy and for being part of my author journey. I can’t wait to apply all I learned, and when I polish my manuscripts even more and eventually get an agent, I’ll be sure to thank you for being one of the writing angels who helped make my dream come true.
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