I’m sure most writers, when they start out, get themselves onto a course. I certainly did. In fact when I first swapped over from writing as an employee to writing as a freelancer, I joined the Writers Bureau in Manchester, a correspondence course advertised in magazines and newspapers (you’ve probably seen the ads). What appealed to me about that was that (a) it was cheap (b) it offered to refund those fees if you didn’t earn them back through your writing, and (c) it was flexible about time taken and involved no face to face, all of which was perfect for me with babies at home. It was basic but brilliant and it got me set up as a freelance non-fiction writer earning money. (In fact I ended up becoming a tutor for them myself!)
As the kids got older and my attention turned to fiction, I joined some evening classes, and then critique groups, and eventually signed up for week long courses through Arvon and Moniack the like.
It’s been a while since I’ve done anything like that, but just recently I felt the need for input – maybe a result of being locked down – and so this year I’ve done tons of courses, all virtual of course.
What was surprising back in the day, and what surprised me again this time round, is that you never get from the course the thing you were expecting, but you always get something else, something new and unexpected, but it’s always something helpful.
There is a saying, isn’t there, that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well I absolutely disagree with that. There is always something new to learn, or a different way to see something old, and so, my suggestion to you this month is; if you’re struggling, or feeling stagnant, why not sign up to a course?
Maybe the one positive thing about Covid (if you will excuse my looking for rainbows) is that many things are now accessible which were out of range before. You can listen to someone in Devon, or the USA, or wherever, you can actively participate in a course without getting out of bed. Of course some things are lost in the process – I missed the chance to chat with other course members over tea breaks for instance, but I still feel there was a great benefit in not having to travel to join in. And the courses are so much cheaper!
Don’t miss out – we’re all going to be back to the ‘real thing’ soon so why not sign up to something before it’s too late?
Here are a few places to look:
Moniack Mhor is going back to ‘real’ tutoring in August, but they still have some online courses.
Arvon however are sticking with online for the time being. See their offerings here.
If a week is too long, Blue Pencil Agency offer some great individual sessions as do the Writers and Artists yearbook
But there is so much more to choose from out there, so have a dig around and see what you can find, then sign up! What have you got to lose?
My Words and Pictures interview this month is with Linda Strachan, who writes in a shed on the East Coast of Scotland, which she has, perhaps wistfully, called ‘Tuscany’.
I’ve also been writing a series of writing prompts for Words and Pictures and these are now finished. If you want some ideas about characterisation, dialogue, setting or narrative modes, have a look at them, and if you sign up for my newsletter before the end of June, then I’m offering free feedback on the prompt of your choice.
If you decide not to follow my advice and sign up for an online course, then this month’s how to write book is the next best thing. I don’t think there is a more in-depth how to write book, covering everything from writing software to structure to writing life to revising. So much packed away. It isn’t padded out with writing exercises, which I personally think is a good thing, and although it does demonstrate points through examples, they are examples David has created specifically for the book, so he doesn’t reference books you might not have read, which is one of my bugbears.