Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Benefits of Writing Courses

September is the month when many people turn a dream to a reality by following through on their resolution to write. It is also the start-up month for many writing courses.

I've been involved in running writing courses for several years. I have seen at first hand the benefits of facilitation by a published writer who knows the highs and lows of the business. It allows for group sharing, learning to own your work and find your writing voice. While writers have to write - and usually alone - the process can be an introvertic and lonely occupation and as humans we thrive when we've contact with like minded people. So writing courses can be beneficial when, as well as being used for information, they also act as motivation to get down and write.

The majority of writers who approach me are interested in writing fiction - mainly short stories and novels. The aspect that most amazes me is how talented they are, the freshness of their ideas, the characters they've come up with and their settings.

The problem occurs when they run out of steam, confidence and time. They wonder why it's taking so long to finish their story. They read the papers, browse the book shops, and see writers interviewed who are writing a book a year.

Most are popular writers - ie writers whose books are widely translated and sell in the millions. They can usually command large advances and have high profile marketing packages to ensure sales. They are rare. But their publishers know a novel with their name on the cover will sell well. Because they are proven successes, they are provided with the best of editorial back-up, and do not necessarily need to polish or proof their manuscript before submission. An aside here: we are writers, not editors. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.

New writers hoping to break into the current market place have a better chance of publication if they present as perfect a manuscript as possible. Like everything else, the publishing business is hit by the recession and publishers and editors are overworked and understaffed.

My advice to someone embarking on the heady and exciting task of writing fiction is two-fold:

  • Like any other skill, the more you write, the better your writing will become. Writing regularly, persevering through those times of creative emptiness pays dividends.
  • Take your time, realise from the beginning that you may need to carry out several re-writes. Do not leave your story out of your hands until it is as good as you can make it.

Good luck and good writing

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