Monday, 9 January 2012

Back to school?



I love a good writing course. I’ve been on quite a few in the last few years including two run by Spread the Word and taken by the brilliant Maggie Gee, two Cornerstones residential ones with the brilliant Lee Weatherly, and a bunch of others here and there, not always with such brilliant tuition.

The trouble is that after a while, I started to realise that the same topics were coming round again and again; plot and characterisation, dialogue, endings, and, almost always, how to pitch to agents and publishers.

It started to feel as though I was covering ground that I was already familiar with, and although I was no expert in any of it, I didn't need to hear the same advice all over again.

So I stopped looking out for them.

But I'm starting to wish there was something out there for me. A course for when you have a certain level of experience,  are maybe even already published, just to help brush up on skills and keep your writing as sharp as it can be.

In many professions, career development courses are a job requirement. My husband is a criminal lawyer and must undertake twelve hours of training every year in order to be allowed to continue doing his job. Doctors, nurses, teachers, librarians....they and many many others all have to take training courses to help them stay on top of the professional world they move in. I wish there was something similar for writers, too.

I don't want to do asomething as intensive as an MA or a PhD. An Arvon course isn't something I could do until my children are a bit older.


I’d just like to take the occasional course that was tailored to my own level of experience.

What do you think, Strictly readers? Do such courses already exist?

13 comments:

Helen Black said...

Caroline, I've been thinking the same thing.

And yes, I know it might seem like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, but I dunno, I feel like I need something...
HB x

JO said...

I think this is where a really good writers' group or buddy system comes into its own.

And have you read the article on Writers Salons in the latest Mslexia - something like would bring writers together and you might meet a someone who could share work with.

Neil said...

I agree with this...it's the same on the internet, there seems to be much more advice available about how to get published than there is about how to write, even though you would think that the latter would be a prerequisite of the former.
And what writing advice is available mostly seems to be the same old stuff - show and tell, point of view etc etc, stuff you could find in any how-to book.
The best site that goes into real, useful detail about craft that I have found is by the writer Emma Darwin (whose books I have admittedly not read)
http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/
She does one-off classes as well I believe, and if they're as thoughful as the site they would be well worth looking out for.

Caroline Green said...

Funnily enough, I am in a writing group....with Emma!!! And yes, it IS brilliant. But critiquing and so on isn;t really what I want. I think I'm after a bit of direct instruction in a learning environment. It's a tricky one...

Chris Stovell said...

I did a wonderful two year Creative Writing Diploma with the OU. It stretched me in fields I already enjoyed, like writing poetry, and made me try new projects like script-writing. The bad news is the OU seems to have stopped offering that particular course. I'm only mentioning it in case there's anything similar about, but for me a two year intensive course was ideal. Good luck.

Caroline Green said...

Ah that sounds brilliant too, Chris. I'd love to pick up some techniques for other forms of writing, especially script writing...shame it doesn't exist anymore!

Susie Nott-Bower said...

I so, so agree with this, and it's a topic very much on my mind at the moment. I'm wondering whether to sign up for a Writing Your Novel course locally - simply because I want to focus my mind back on the basics for the next one. My reservations are just as you say - that it'll just be a recitation of the 'rules' and stuff that I'm already familiar with. The only other thing I can think of is mentoring with an established writer who can be with you on a personal basis. A writing friend has recently begun this and is drawing huge benefits from it. Just the sense of support and understanding is worth its weight in gold.
Susiex

Kathleen Jones said...

I've tutored creative writing at university level including the OU course Chris talked about. As an experienced, well published writer I too feel the need of something sharper and more tailored to our needs. I've been thinking of it for a while. After all, famous musicians and dancers still do classes almost every day of their lives. What we need is a MasterClass to hone our skills, critique our work and challenge us. It mustn't be a flatterfest - professional self-development absolutely. I think it's something we have to provide for each other?

Gillian McDade said...

I've never done a writing course and I feel as if I'm missing out. I'd love a PhD, something intensive and academic but writing related.

Debs Riccio said...

Spookily I've been surfing OU courses and wondering how/if I'd be able to get a professional Mentor without having to take out a 2nd mortgage. I feel it's about time I started getting taken seriously... I do mean business, I just need something/someone encouraging to help me through the process.

Kathleen Jones said...

Could we help each other? Let's face it, as professional authors we have a certain level of skill. I'm a life-writer and poet who would love a bit of mentoring from a novelist to improve my fiction skills, and I would be very happy to mentor anyone who wanted to hone their memoir/biography/poetry techniques. (already do a bit of this). How about a writers' SwapShop?

Caroline Green said...

Kathleen, I already have something along those lines but it would be great if this discussion prompted other people to get together!

Geraldine Ryan said...

What I would like, as a womag writer, is a course on how to keep up the creativity. It doesn't necessarily have to be a course for writers, but to get an inspirational teacher who could tap into my tired and weary brain and pull out some new ways of thinking would be the answer to my post-Christmas prayers!