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28 Apr 2014

Writing Courses

Despite already doing a creative writing at uni for part of my degree I've signed up for a free course on FutureLearn.  Surely I've learnt loads already from university? Maybe but I'm always going to end up reading books or taking part in free courses in creative writing because it's helped me in the past developing ideas and characters and I know they'll always continue to do so.

I've known people who completely refuse to learn more about writing fiction or whatever they're interested in.  That's fine because everyone has different writing styles and you want to be able to develop your own way of writing rather than trying to write like somebody else which is what it can feel like with creative writing books or courses. You feel like you have to write in a certain way or write certain things that you don't really want to.

But for me, personally, I have times where I want to learn more.  I need to know what I'm getting into.  I think if I had never studied creative writing or bought any books I probably would have been writing the same awful stories I was writing as a teenager.  And they were honestly AWFUL.  I tried copying a couple of writing styles of my favourite authors at the time but I know now in hindsight it would have never been enough to help me improve.

My creative writing course was more than telling me how to write.  We were introduced to different styles and asked to complete writing tasks using different styles but it wasn't to force a particular way of writing on us.  It was opening us up to various styles and helping us figure out what we personally enjoyed as readers and the style we were comfortable with.  I ended up enjoying studying experimental writing when I thought it was terrible at first but it turned out that it was really fun to write!

The course introduced us to different styles so when we came to creating our own projects we had inspiration and knowledge of what we wanted from our own writing.  Yes, I had to trudge through writing poetry that I really loathed doing but it only showed me that I am probably never going to write poems or feel inspired to develop my poor ability to write one.  When the time came my creative writing tutors weren't going to force me to write poems.  It was my choice.  It was up to me to look back on the writing I enjoyed doing to help me find my comfort zone, whether it was completely new or similar to a style of writing I was entertained by personally.  Everything was only a task to help you figure out what you wanted or liked to write.  None of us on the course ended up the same.  In the group I hung out with we were a mix of poets, novelists, and scriptwriters.  We varied in genres from romance to sci-fi.  We either wrote for adults or young people.

It was also amazing how inspiring the course was.  The tasks you're set can sometimes lead to that SNI or that character sketch you have to write could end up becoming your next MC.  I ended up keeping all my final year writing projects because they might have been something I want to develop in the future.  And then this year I decided to use one project because it was perfect for a writing competition.

Another bonus was when you got that positive feedback from your peers or suggestions that made that character or idea you're struggling with suddenly click into place.  Peer feedback was so important, especially when most of us wrote different genres.  By the third year we were used to getting help from each other and listening to each others ideas.  Classes stopped feeling like seminars and started to feel like a group of friends getting together and casually commenting on everyone's work, pointing out what worked, what could work, or what wasn't working. 

I'd recommend anyone to at least try out a course whether it's at uni, a writing retreat or a one-off course, free or charged.  I do think as a writer you end up having to learn something anyway, whether it's wanting to know more about your chosen genre or market.  I'd happily sign up to courses, even if I had about twenty books published.  There's always something to improve on or learn.

How do you feel about writing courses? Have you ever signed up for one? :)


  1. I agree with you that we should never stop learning, either from our own mistakes, or from others. Whether it's from writing courses, craft books, or picking up ideas from other novels, there's always room to grow and improve. I've never signed up for a writing course, largely because of time and/or money, but I'm intrigued by these free Open University courses you've mentioned a few times now (including here).

    Thanks for sharing, Robin, and all the best with this course. I hope it's all it promises to be for you. :)

  2. I have taken freebies online before and it is whatever you want to get out of it for the most part. You have to want to do the work and pay attention.