FAQ

Arrow questions are answered by our Customer Service guru, Dana Miller.

Course Information—General

It’s funny, when people ask this question, it’s invariably followed with:

“I know it varies person to person, but…”

As if there’s an answer beyond that.

And really, truly, there isn’t. Because everyone writes and reads at a slightly different pace. Everyone absorbs information at their own rate. And everyone has varying amounts of time to devote to class, which probably changes a bit week to week.

Plus, the time requirements are different for 10-week classes like Fiction I or Screenwriting I than they are for a 6-week class like Creative Writing 101. In-person varies from online. And in the 10-week camp, Level I vs. Level II makes a difference, too.

But, we hate giving non-answers to questions, so I always tell folks what they’re going to have to accomplish in a week, and let them figure it out from there.

So let’s do that.

In-person, NY classes:

Here’s what’ll be on your weekly plate:

  • Three hours in class
  • Short homework assignment (chiefly in ‘101’ and Level I classes)
  • Reading/critiquing the work of 3-4 of your classmates (10-week classes only; more pages in Level II than Level I)
  • Your own writing

Online classes:

There’s no real-time meeting of the online classes, but this is what’s on the agenda:

  • Reading several screens’ worth of written lecture
  • Being part of an unfolding discussion on the Blackboard regarding that lecture topic
  • Short homework assignment (optional in Level II)
  • Reading/critiquing the work of 3-4 of your classmates (10-week classes only; more pages in Level II than Level I)
  • Your own writing

From the looks of it, the online classes require less of your time. Maybe. But maybe not. Depending on how you learn, you might read the lectures more than once. And writing up cogent feedback on your fellow students’ work takes time that giving feedback off-the-cuff in class doesn’t’. Does that all equal the same three hours that you’d spend if you were in class in NYC? I bet you know the answer…it…wait for it…varies person to person.

If I had to put numbers down on paper, I’d say (roughly, sorta, kinda, don’t quote me):

  • live ‘101’ classes - three hours in the room and another hour-or-so outside of class
  • live 10-week classes – three hours in the room and maybe another two-to-three outside of class (depending on where you are with your personal writing)
  • online ‘101’ classes – an hour or two total
  • online 10-week classes – three-to-five hours a week (again, depending on your own writing)

What happens if you can’t give the class that much time every week? That happens. We know our students are busy people and there are going to be weeks when class can’t be a priority. We just hope you’ll give it your all for the weeks you’re with us so you have the best experience you can possibly have. And if you want to talk through your options to find the best format or best time to take class, give a holler.

Course Information—General

I’ve worked at Gotham Writers for 20 years (miraculous, since I’m a wee lass of 29) and this is by far the easiest question to answer.

We don’t have one.

Now I know it sounds a bit like I’m selling snake oil when I say that. But absolute truth: our teachers are the best you’re going to find. Anywhere.

They go through a very serious vetting process because we know that we’re only as good as what happens in the classroom, and because we’re deeply invested in every student having a wonderful Gotham experience. And we’re internally small enough to check in on them regularly, addressing any concerns that come up, nipping even the tiniest problem in the bud.

So, what do we look for?

A unique, alchemic combination of teaching experience and writing success. Because there are tremendous writers who can’t teach worth a whit, and stellar instructors who can’t write to save their hides.

I mean, when you sign up for a writing class, you want someone at front of the room who’s faced the blank screen or page, experienced what you’ll experience, asked the questions you’ll ask, torn their hair out over word choice or character motivation, just like you will, and come out the other side published, produced, acknowledged.

But you also want someone who understands that teaching is an art all its own.

Being a fine teacher means being able to deliver inspiring lectures and come up with muscle-stretching exercises. It means managing time and keeping things moving, It means helping newer writers articulate exactly what they mean to say to a fellow writer about their work when they might not quite have the craft-vocabulary to do that. And, perhaps more than anything else, it’s about conveying passion, for story and character, for the written word and the writer’s life.

It’s not easy to find unicorns such as these. But we have about 120 of them on our faculty at any given time. And we couldn’t be prouder of that.

So who’s our best teacher? The teacher teaching the class you’ll get to most often over the six or 10 weeks of class.


Dana Miller is Gotham’s Dean of Students and Director of One-on-One services.

Course Information—General

Well…maybe.

If you’ve taken a class like our Level I class before – where an instructor taught the basics like structure and character and description, using lectures and writing exercises and maybe some peer critique – then going right into Level II should be fine. We’ll want to have a chat to hear what that class was like, make sure it’s a match, but chances are you’d be good to go.

Thing is, a lot of folks feel like they should be able to leapfrog over Level I. Either because they’ve written stories before or because they ‘write all the time at work’ or because they went to college or are accomplished writers of another stripe. Or they think Level I is remedial or ‘babyish’ in some way. And nothing could be further from the truth.

Our Level I classes are substantive explorations of the inner-workings and underpinnings of what makes a story a story. And by breaking fiction (or screenwriting or songwriting or memoir or anything else we offer) into its component parts, you end up with a toolbox and a blueprint you can use to build YOUR story and build it well.

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t unclog a drain or make mushroom risotto without instructions and maybe a YouTube video. And just because you can make a mean chocolate layer cake doesn’t mean you can make a mushroom risotto that’ll get you on the Next Food Network Star.

Our Level I classes ARE those instructions. They are that video. And we’ve had published authors and professors and PhD’s and tv writers who started with Level I when investigating what it would be like to write something new.

Plus, learning the art of the critique is an education in itself, and Level I hones those skills so they’re sharp as can be for Level II, where critiquing your fellow students' work is the Tootsie Roll center of the whole experience.

So if you genuinely feel that Level II is the best first step for you, give us a call and we can talk it through. But don’t underestimate the brightside of beginning at the beginning.

Course Information—General

This is always a tough one to answer because it can mean so many things.

It could mean that someone wants to write better stories/poems/scripts – in which case, we are bursting with classes to help. Depending on what kind of story you want to tell, any of our dozen or more Level I classes will fit the bill.

But more often than not, when someone says they want to ‘write better’, it means one of three things.

  • They want to be more confident any time they put pen to paper or finger to keyboard
  • They feel like they missed out on some key points in English class and are sure everyone else knows how to use commas and what the difference is between ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ is and they don’t.
  • They want to write better at work.

Good news! We can help, no matter what your I-want-to-write-better-message is.

To build writer-confidence, I suggest Creative Writing 101. Maybe you don’t know how to start, or you’ve tried but don’t like what you ended up with. Or maybe you want to start, but are shy about jumping in. Whatever the case, that’s the class to take. It’s a mix of general but substantive lectures and imagination-sparking writing exercises that don’t need to be shared with anyone but your instructor. You’ll slowly wade into the writing process. And what you learn will help in just about any scenario where you need to get words or thoughts on the page.

If it’s the mechanics of writing you’re after, take Grammar: The Basics. It gets into the nitty gritty of all the stuff you learned in school…and have promptly forgotten over the years. Subjects! Verbs! Adjectives and adverbs! Tenses, prepositions, punctuation of every stripe! You’ll get it all, and all of it will be presented in a fun, creative way, with interesting exercises and examples to make the kind of dry material anything but.

As for writing better at work, our Business Writing class teaches good practices – being clear, concise, specific, well-organized, efficient. But we have a special sauce. While for many, professional equals formal and stiff, we think the key to good business writing is to write like you. And that’s what we teach. Writing like a human being at work. Of course, you can’t email your boss or your clients like you’re writing to your college roommate. But colorful word choice or a phrase that’s quintessentially YOU or a bit of storytelling is more likely to connect you with your audience, while sounding robotic and cold is more distancing. Our class gives permission to loosen up…just enough.

So give us a call and let us unpack what you mean by “I want to write better.” We’re excited to help!

Course Information—General

There ARE a lot of choices, aren’t there?

I like to think of our nonfiction choices existing along a spectrum depending on how far (or near) the writer is from the material she or he is writing.

On one end, Article Writing. Learning how to write articles for newspapers, magazines, or websites, print or digital.

Say you have a compelling story to tell. It’s not about you or anyone you know, or about something you did or experienced. But you think it’s interesting, and you think others will find it pretty interesting, too. You want to learn how to present ‘just the facts, ma’am’, but how to relate those facts with a storyteller’s flair.

We’re not talking front-page news here, but rather the story behind the story. Not “Hurricane Harvey Hits Texas” but how caravans of students from sororities and fraternities who had started at U of Texas/Austin just weeks before traveled to Houston to hand out water and offer a kind word to those who Harvey had flooded out of their homes. Article Writing I will break it all down for you, and help you report that story.

But what if YOU were one of those students, and wanted to tell the world what it was like to hand out that water and offer that kind word? Well, that’s the other end: Memoir Writing. The how to’s of writing first-person true stories carved out of the larger story of your life.

And in the middle? Essay & Opinion. Learning how to write about those do-gooding caravans of kids and opining on what you think that means about this generation of young people. So, not your story, but not neutral, either.

Of course, if you know you want to tell true stories, but you’re not sure what shade of true you want to pursue, take Creative Nonfiction 101 and you’ll get the whole Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat of choices. A bit on article, memoir, and essay, but also profiles, travel pieces, and reviews in a tidy little 6-week exploration.

There are so many ways to go when it comes to creative nonfiction. And figuring out what’s right for you can be its own super-confusing narrative. Call us! We’re always happy to help. True story.

What experience do I need to take your classes?

Course Information—General

You can take most of our courses with no previous study or experience. Aside from our Level II and III courses, all courses are entry-level, designed to start you at square-one.

Do your courses have levels?

Course Information—General

The majority of our courses are entry-level (labeled as Level I), but we also offer advanced courses in many genres. Level II courses are for students who have taken an entry-level course with Gotham or an equivalent class elsewhere. Level III courses are for students who have completed one or more Level II courses.

How long do your courses last?

Course Information—General

Our courses come in the following formats:

10-week Workshops – These classes use a combination of lectures, exercises, and workshopping (critiquing of student projects). In New York City, they meet for three hours per week; Online, each session begins at the same time each week, and unfolds gradually all week long. Available in Level I, II, and III.

6-week Classes – These classes let students explore a variety of forms and concepts in a low-pressure manner, through a combination of lectures and exercises. In New York City, they meet for three hours per week (two hours for Business Writing); Online, each session begins at the same time each week, and unfolds gradually all week long. All Level I.

Selling Seminars – These courses emphasize the business side of writing. The New York City versions take place over two three-hour sessions. The Online versions take place over four weeks. All Level I.

Intensives – In NYC, these are seven-hour crash courses, taking place all in one-day. The Online versions take place over three weeks. All Level I.

What's the difference between courses titled as I or 101 (as in Fiction I or Creative Writing 101)?

Course Information—General

They are both entry-level courses, which you can take with no prior study or experience.

101 courses run for six weeks. They are great if you're just starting out or coming back to writing after a hiatus. They are low-pressure environments, where you don't have to commit to single type of writing and you are not expected to present projects for critique.

The I courses run for 10 weeks. They focus on a specific type of writing, and you will be given at least two opportunities to submit your work to the class for critique.

If you're not sure what kind of writing you want to focus on and/or if you're not quite ready for the pressure of submitting work for group critique, then take a 101 course. If you are sure what kind of writing you want to focus on and are eager to present your work for group critique, then take a I course.

What if I'm not sure what kind of writing I want to learn about?

Course Information—General

That's fine. Many students want to write, but they aren't sure where to begin.

One option is to take a Level 101 course; these courses do not focus on a single type of writing, but rather let you explore a variety of types of writing.

Another option is to take a cross-genre course, which you will find in our Essentials category. These courses, such as Character or Dialogue or The Editor's Eye, focus on craft elements that relate to all types of writing.

If you're near (or can make it to) New York City, you might try a One-day Intensive, which lets you explore a type of writing or craft element in a single day.

Do you offer courses that teach writing skills for the workplace?

Course Information—General

Yes, we offer these two options:

Business Writing – to explore the fundamental principles of communication in the workplace.

Grammar! – to explore the fundamentals of grammar.

These courses can also be customized for a particular company and presented onsite at that company’s headquarters.

How much work can I submit for critique?

Course Information—General

It varies, depending on the course.

The 10-week courses are the ones most focused on the critique, or "workshop," process. The amount you can submit in these courses depends on the type of writing and the level.

Level I

In Level I courses, you get two chances to submit projects for critique. In prose writing classes (Fiction, Memoir, Article, etc.), you are typically allowed to submit up to 15 pages each time, the length of a short piece or a chapter. In Screenwriting and TV Writing, you typically submit an outline for your first submission, then submit a revised outline and/or up to 10 pages of script on the second submission. In Poetry and Songwriting courses, you are typically allowed to submit one poem or one song per submission. Other courses (Stand-Up Comedy, Playwriting, etc.) have similar allowances.

Level II

In Level II courses, you get at least two chances to submit projects for critique; some of these courses allow three submissions. (See the course descriptions for info on this.) The page allowances are slightly longer in Level II than in Level I.

Level III

Most Level III courses allow for longer submissions than other courses. For prose genres, that's usually up to 150 pages total. (Submissions are shorter for Fiction III, which focuses on short stories.) For dramatic genres, a full script and then a resubmission of up to half the script.

It is necessary to have page limits in these courses so the teacher and students are not overloaded with material to read. Also, the writers and critiquers are better able to focus on the material if the number of pages is not too large. But…

Gotham has One-on-One arrangements that allow students to get feedback on as many pages as they desire.

How heavy is the workload?

Course Information—General

It depends on the course.

The heaviest workload is in the 10-week Workshop courses. You have at least two opportunities to present a project or part of a project for critique. This might be a project that you have begun prior to the class start date, or it may be something that you begin once the class is underway. Also, you are required to read and critique the work of your fellow students, typically 2-4 projects per week. Also, most of these courses involve a brief homework assignment each week, and perhaps a little outside reading.

In addition to the work on your projects, you can expect to spend 3-4 hours per week on those other matters.

Courses that last fewer than 10 weeks have a significantly lighter workload. And for the One-day Intensives, there is no work done outside the actual class.

Do I have to read other people's work?

Course Information—General

The 10-week Workshops require you to read and critique the work of your fellow students, typically 2-4 projects per week. A key benefit of these courses is that you get feedback from your teacher and a variety of students. But it's not fair to expect feedback on your work if you aren't giving it in kind to other students.

Any course that is less than 10 weeks in duration is not a workshop (critique) course, and therefore does not require you to read and critique the work of your fellow students.

How is work critiqued in your classes?

Course Information—General

The critique process varies depending on the course.

All of Gotham's 10-week courses are "workshop" courses, which means you turn in projects to be critiqued by the teacher and fellow students. The critiquing is done according to the Gotham Booth method, which means every student must critique the work of other students, and every student must give both positive and critical comments, ensuring students get balanced feedback. The teacher will also give balanced feedback. The writer must listen silently to the feedback, but is allowed to ask a few questions at the end.

Gotham courses that run shorter than 10 weeks are not "workshop" classes. Students will always get feedback from the teacher on exercises, and there may or may not be some informal feedback from the students.

Will my work be treated respectfully?

Course Information—General

Absolutely. Gotham teachers treat all student work with respect, and insist that every student do the same. Furthermore, Gotham teachers make sure that all students get a balance of positive and critical feedback. We want students to get honest criticism, but we don't want anyone to feel attacked or discouraged.

Who are your teachers?

Course Information—General

Gotham teachers are all experienced writers who are also effective teachers. The best writers are not always the best teachers, but Gotham employs people who excel at both writing and teaching. You may enjoy learning about our Faculty.

Can I find what teacher is teaching a specific class?

Course Information—General

Yes, teachers are listed alongside individual classes.

How do I choose the right teacher?

Course Information—General

We recommend you choose the course and timing/location that is most right for your needs, rather than worrying about which teacher is the best fit. You are welcome to look at the bios of our teachers, but the bios alone won't tell you which teacher is most right for you. Our teachers are carefully screened and supervised, and we pride ourselves on the consistent teaching excellence of our teachers.

Is it possible to work privately with your teachers?

Course Information—General

Yes, we offer various types of One-on-One services.

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