What I learnt on a 10 week writing course
I’ve just finished a ten week writing course at The Writers Room in Brighton.
I signed up as a Christmas present to myself. For ages I’d been looking longingly at Arvon Courses, retreats, masterclasses etc, but at this point in time, I needed something local, something that I could fit in around my job and family. The fact it was being run by two authors, Araminta Hall and Lizzie Enfield, whose work I had already read and admired or seen speaking at events, was a factor. The idea of sitting in a wooden shed at the bottom of a garden with a cosy woodburner, eating cake, clinched it.
Personally, I wanted to go because I have been working on the same idea for a long time now and could no longer see where I’m going with it. I’m used to working by myself and generating ideas and thinking about angles (I’ve been freelance for over a decade) but I had showed hardly anyone at all this particular story. I had been writing in a vacuum and whilst my friends are clamouring to read it, it was other writers I needed to talk to.
As soon as we started, I knew I’d picked the right course. It was small. It was not in any way intimidating. I hadn’t really thought about whether we were going to be asked to actually write stuff on the spot to a prompt so when they asked us to, I doubted whether I could. Writing from the viewpoint of an object in the room, or making up dialogue from something we’d done that day, doing an exercise about show versus tell, was actually quite freeing rather than frightening. I was impressed that the tutors did the exercises too – I thought it might just be the class. Another thing that was good was that they didn’t doggedly stick to a rigid programme; if we were all asking questions about structure or dialogue, the following week’s class would address that. Over the ten weeks, we covered research, dialogue, plot versus structure, show don’t tell, characterisation, openings, and lots more.
The feedback I received on my WIP was invaluable. They immediately picked up on the way I was using plot devices and that the beginning was totally in the wrong place. They taught me the value of withholding information, and that if you know something isn’t right and are hoping the reader won’t notice, that they will. They helped me with the (dreaded) synopsis. We took it in turns to circulate extracts of what we were working on and received feedback from the group which was really useful. Above all, I think it was so helpful being able to talk to other people who ‘got it.’
What I have come out with is some new friends. The rest of the group were lovely and we have already been out socially and have lots of plans for more. I have a much clearer direction of where I am going. I have learnt the importance of carving out time.
The course is suitable for all types of writers – novelists, non-fiction writers, short story writers, bloggers, people who have just always wanted to write and are starting out to those who are already immersed in something but would like to learn more.