A.M. Homes, winner of this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction with her novel, May We Be Forgiven, completed her Masters in Fine Arts at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop; Joe Dunthorpe (Submarine, Wild Abandon) won the Society of Authors' Encore award and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia; Anne Enright, Booker prize winner and author of The Gathering is another ex-graduate of the University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Course; S. J. Watson wrote a novel, which later became his best selling novel Before I Go to Sleep, during the six months of 2009 on the Faber Academy's inaugural Writing a Novel course.
I think you get the picture. Of course, it’s unrealistic to think that by taking a course you will automatically arrive at a point of genius, or that it’s impossible to write a book without taking a course because there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates this can be done.
Yet being able to write a sentence and having a story to tell still doesn’t guarantee you the ability to write a good book that others will want to read. There is the craft aspect to writing. So here are six good reasons to commit yourself to taking a creative writing course.
1. You’ll receive a professional critique of your work from someone who is interested in seeing you make progress. Your tutor will have professional qualifications, been in the business of writing longer than you and have a wealth of experience. You’ll hear what’s working and most importantly, where you need to improve.
2. You meet and make friends with other writers. You have the opportunity to connect with people who will give you feedback on your writing long after the course is over. You can make friends for life.
3. A good writing course is a safe place to start showing your writing to others and gain confidence in your abilities. It is hard to put your work out into the public arena, but if you’re serious about your writing, it’s a step you have to take at some point. Most courses include peer critiques and you learn what aspects to cover when giving feedback.
4. Meeting course deadlines for assignment submission dates is a great way to develop what’s called the ‘writerly habit’. You have to write. You can’t put it off (well, yes, you can - but you paid for the course and you want to write, don’t you?) so you push yourself and get that story finished.
5. You have the opportunity to try out other forms of writing as many courses cover more than just fiction. There are often sections on life writing (biography/autobiography), poetry and some offer the chance to try your hand at play or screenwriting. I know several writers who discovered hitherto unknown abilities in areas they would never have attempted otherwise, and which they’ve continued to develop after their courses were over.
6. All those assignments and exercises you’ve done are now a resource for your future writing. After your course is finished, you can pick up and rework those stories, taking on board your tutor’s critiques and expanding them beyond the assignment word counts – which by the way is one of the quickest ways to hone your editing skills. You’d be surprised at how writing a short story of 1,000 words will eliminate any tendency towards verbosity.
I know attending a creative writing course at university – like those mentioned at the beginning of this post - is something that most people, for reasons of time, money, location and other life commitments aren’t able to consider. But there are any many local colleges which run excellent courses, and there are online correspondence courses which you can fit into your life.
Taking a creative writing course doesn’t guarantee you success either, but what it does do, apart from the advantages listed above, is send your subconscious the message that you’re taking this writing business seriously.
My thanks to everyone who took advantage of the free promotion and downloaded my ebook Gold Dragon Haiku from Amazon, especially the members of Google+ Support a Writer community who really did support my efforts. Thank you Alana, Adrianna, Frank, Peter and everyone else who tweeted and gave support. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that your work is being read. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
I’m still waiting for my second beta reader to get back to me, which is fine as I’m not yet ready to start again. I’m enjoying editing last year’s nano effort. It’s interesting to come back to a piece of writing after seven months. Sometimes I’m pleased and I think, wow, did I really write that? And then again I come across another section and blame that one on the nano.
I received an offer from the generous Adrianna Joleigh to place a link on her website to my blog. Out of the conversation which followed an idea was hatched and I’m really pleased to announce (wow, that sounded official) the launching of a new service, hosted on Adrianna’s website, to anybody who wishes to use it:
Teagan K’s Writing Surgery.
You may well wonder what is a writing surgery? Well, the goal is to offer help and guidance by providing a place where you can ask questions – of any kind – about your own writing or writing in general and I will try to answer and help you out. If I’m unable to sort your problem, I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
However, I regret this doesn’t include editing or critiquing. As a writer and blogger myself, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to read and give critiques on others’ work.
I promise to try and answer your questions as soon as I can. Please be patient.
So, thank you again, Adrianna, and writers, send in your questions to:
The Open University is one of the greatest online educational institutions and runs several brilliant online Creative Writing courses. There are online forums, the opportunity for face to face tutorials, and tutors who are available for phone/email contact throughout the course.
This is an interesting article featuring some of the writers mentioned above:
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This is a great post, Teagan. I've often wished I had taken a creative writing course when I was younger. I don't have the health, circumstances or energy now. But I agree with what you say about the advantages of taking one for those who can.ReplyDelete
It's generous of you to offer your time to do a 'surgery' and I'll watch it with interest. Might even think up a question or two for you.
All the best with your writing.
Thank you for your encouragement, Christine. Re: the surgery - we see how it goes! Watch this space!ReplyDelete
I've been thinking about this for quite a while. I believe you've finally convinced me. :DReplyDelete
Hi, Vashti, I would ask, what have you got to lose? Actors and singers use voice coaches, art students study their subject - you're already a writer, you're just honing your skills!ReplyDelete