WHY ASPIRING WRITERS SHOULD TAKE A CREATIVE WRITING COURSE.
A.M. Homes, winner of this year’s Women’s Prize for
Fiction withher 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 thesix 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.
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
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
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:
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.