If this is your first visit, a very warm welcome to you. This website will be offering writing prompts and exercises, articles on different aspects of writing, links to competitions and other websites, book recommendations and feature articles.
This month I’m addressing writing courses – and what to expect from them.
In a couple of weeks’ time I shall be attending a one-day workshop in London on writing historical fiction, being run by a leading international publisher. I’ve been on half-day, weekend and week-long writing courses before, run by colleges or individuals, so this is new territory for me and I’m not too sure what to expect. It’s not the most expensive but it’s certainly not a cheap day, lunch not included!
I’m definitely hoping to learn something – quite a lot, in fact – that I didn’t know before. This might come from the morning workshop, from the guest speaker or from the panel Q and A session. But just as easily, new insights, knowledge and writing wisdom could come from talking to other participants as well as the guest speakers and organisers.
I was asked to nominate the author whose workshop I would like to attend in the morning. The choice was between ancient, medieval and contemporary historical authors. My genre is definitely ancient – my novel is set in 63AD. The author on this
one-day course specialises in military Roman history. So although that’s definitely not my area, I’m hoping he’ll be able to give me some hints and tips on
(a) incorporating research,
(b) how to make my characters’ dialogue sound authentic and
(c) how to establish ancient attitudes and customs that today come across as barbaric and uncivilised.
I can honestly say that I have learned something from every course I have been on. I still use an excellent zig-zag technique for plotting all my stories that was taught on a residential course where most of the participants, me included, went down with food-poisoning! We all had to take a turn at cooking the evening meal. No more to be said!
On a similar course, the opening scene of a different novel was, very kindly, torn to shreds. But the author took time to explain all her comments and I later re-wrote it, understanding every last point she had made.
So, two things to bear in mind:
(1) If you sign up for a course offering individual feedback, whether from agents, editors, guest authors or fellow scribes, be prepared to receive it. Don’t argue. Take notes. Then make up your mind later, when the dust and your heart-beat have settled.
(2) Have a realistic idea of what you want to get out of the course. You are not going to be delivered an agent on a plate (although that image definitely has possibilities….), nor are you going to be given W. Somerset Maugham’s apocryphal Three Rules of Writing.
But if you are anything like me, any time away from “life”, just talking about writing with those who have succeeded and those who are on their way, will be sociable, enjoyable and motivating. You will, I am sure, also learn something.
I shall report back next month as to how realistic my expectations were.