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Tips on getting accepted into my Creative Writing class at BYU

I teach a Creative Writing class at my Alma Mater, Brigham Young University each year. It’s always winter semester, one evening per week. It should generally be Thursday at 5:10pm but not necessarily. The class name is English 318R/321R

My class is split into two sections

1. Workshop class: ENGL 318R Sec 002 (15 seats, by application only)
In this class, in addition to the lectures, you will be split into writing groups and will critique writing samples from the students in the class. I will also read and critique your writing. Because of the time commitment for me, I have to limit this group to 15 people. You must complete the application to have a chance at getting into this section.

2. Lecture class: ENGL 321R Sec 002 (65 seats)
In order to allow more students to take the class, there is a section for students who will only attend the lectures. Many students in this section form their own writing groups to critique each other’s writing, but I will not be able to read and critique for these students.

Students who want to attend the lectures only should sign up for 321R Sec 002 when registration opens. That is also the class for students who want to audit.

Students who want to attend the lectures and complete the full workshop class should see the information on how to apply here.

Applications are due by mid-December, so you will be notified whether you were accepted after that date. If you need an ENGL 318 credit this semester you should, in addition to applying, sign up for English 321R and be prepared to drop that class if your application is accepted.

Many people ask me if there’s a trick to getting accepted into this class. I’ve asked my assistant Karen to judge the applications, so she’s going to answer that question.

Karen here. There are a few tricks to getting accepted, but mostly they’re just common sense. Because I have deadlines to meet in December (working on Oathbringer), I am going to be especially strict about the following requirements:

1. Fill out the application and follow the directions EXACTLY. That means that you should submit it before the cutoff date, and name your files exactly as requested in the application. If you don’t, I will reject your application without looking at it.

2. The writing sample should be the first chapter of your novel, and fit the wordcounts listed (2,000 words minimum, 10,000 words maximum). If it’s two short, I won’t be able to get a good sense of your writing skill. If it’s too long, I will just stop in the middle and reject your application for not following the rules. It’s best if you find a good stopping point within the wordcount limits.

Your first chapter is the hook of your novel. It may be the only thing that an editor or reader looks at. Make it something that will make me want more at the end of it.

After reading each writing sample, I’ll write myself a one sentence summary and give it a Good, Maybe, or No score.

3. I won’t look at the short answer questions before judging the writing samples. I generally end up with more than 15 ‘Good’ stories, and that’s when I take the short answers into account. A senior who has taken the lecture class before, has written three complete novels and listens to Writing Excuses is more likely to get accepted than a freshman who has not completed any novels or attended the lecture.

4. The essay will either confirm my previous impressions, or turn me off entirely. It’s all well and good to say that you feel your calling in life is to be an author, and that you’re committed to making a career of it, but if you haven’t put in the work of actually sitting down and completing a novel or two, then you’re not ready to get the full benefit of the workshop portion of this class.

5. Remember that if you are not accepted into the class, it does not mean that I’m rejecting you as a person or as an author. I only have 15 slots. There have been authors who applied one year, got rejected, but took the lecture class anyway, then applied the next year and were accepted because they had a few more pluses on their application, and more experience writing. I hope that you will take the lecture class no matter what your application status is, and that if your schedule permits, you apply again another year.

Good luck and good writing!

|   Castellano