A Wet Ink Explainer

Editor's note: In this post, Jessica Comola explains what happens in our online Wet Ink classes for youth. Though the topics and approach may be different in adult classes, this is still a good preview for those curious about the Wet Ink format. Check out upcoming online classes for adults here, and youth here.

Lighthouse’s Wet Ink classes are asynchronous, which allows writers to complete the work on their own schedule from week to week. I set due dates on Sundays so that writers can complete things at roughly the same pace, but these are loose deadlines and I'll provide feedback on anything a writer turns in, even if it's late. 

I also encourage writers to comment on each other's stories throughout the week, and there's a "discussion" board where they can ask each other questions, too. One of the nice things about the Wet Ink platform is that writers can have ongoing conversations across the whole four weeks. Some writers participate a lot; others are a bit quieter. However much young writers want to participate is fine with me—one of my main goals in these classes is offering young writers a sense of community that they can choose to be a part of to whatever degree feels comfortable.

In terms of content, I typically create 2-3 writing lessons each week. The lessons are short pages of text and images intended to teach writers about various elements of the writing process and model various styles/techniques of writing.

So, as an example, one lesson for the fairy tale class might be about character creation and how to write interesting villains. I give them an example of a short fairy tale with a complex, well-developed villain so they can see how published authors create this type of memorable character. 

At the end of the lesson, I post a writing prompt where students can create their own memorable, interesting, and well-developed villainous character. I write questions for them to think about, like "what is your villain's backstory?" or "were they always 'evil' or did something happen to them that turned them this way?" Posing questions tends to spark imaginative thinking and add complexity and depth to whatever students are writing about. 

Then, students write and post their character sketch or story draft. I write back to them, offering encouraging comments as well as constructive critique. My feedback tends to focus on two things: 1) what the writer is doing well so they can identify and keep practicing writerly strengths that they already possess, and 2) areas of the writing that could be deepened or explored in more detail, or next steps for the development of the story. And, as I mentioned above, I also encourage them to comment on each other's stories with any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, etc.--so the goal is for writers to get multiple perspectives on their work.

In terms of writing skill sets and outcomes, we focus on a few things (in no particular order): 

  • Reading about and trying out fundamental writing elements (plot, character, setting, etc.) so they can practice narrative basics.
  • Learning about writing style; reading models of, and getting feedback on, what makes for "interesting" writing (writing that is detailed and descriptive, writing that evokes emotion, writing that is unique, so writers can start to think about what their personal writing "voice" sounds like).
  • Receiving support/encouragement from a community of fellow writers (instructor and peers), learning from instructor/peer feedback, and learning how to give feedback to other people. 

And there are also broader, interconnected skill sets in practice related to the above materials: reading new authors, encountering new writing styles, expanding your understanding of what writing can be, extrapolating information from what you read and applying it to your own writing, self-reflecting on your writing process and ideas, applying feedback (gaining critical distance from your work so you can improve it), breaking the writing process down into smaller components to explore in greater depth, thinking about your writing from a variety of perspectives, and so forth.

Jessica Comola is the author of Everything We Met Changed Form and Followed the Rest (Horse Less Press, 2016) and the chapbook What Kind of Howly Divine (Horse Less, 2014). Her writing has appeared most recently in jubilat, Entropy, and Tenderloin. She is currently completing her PhD in creative writing at the University of Denver.

She's teaching Online Fairy Tale Workshop for ages 2-12 beginning November. Also coming up through Wet.Ink at Lighthouse is Online Create Your Own Zine for Teens. Email [email protected] with questions about either class.