Thoughts on Courses

A Course is a Course of Course

I have a confession to make. Up until this year, I’ve had a kind of snobbish attitude to writing courses. Actually, a completely snobbish attitude. I had this oh-so-firm belief that any organisations offering writing courses were only trying to capitalise on the current trend of every man and his dog wanting to be an author, because writing is an art, a talent, and therefore can’t be taught. And through the query trenches I trudged, holding steadfastly to that belief.

And I got nibbles and bites, and nibbles and bites, but none of those nibbles or bites have yet turned into a contract. So I had to ask myself the question, ‘why?’ My fellow writers out there will know that 8 full requests is no mean feat, so I figured I wasn’t an atrocious writer, but something, something elusive, was still holding my manuscript back from getting over the line. When we receive our rejections, even on fulls, it’s rarer than rare that we receive any feedback as to why. So how was I going to find out what was missing from my MS? I’d already had a professional MS appraisal, my beta readers were cheering from the sidelines, so what was missing?

Where else could I turn? I swallowed my pride, and my prejudices and enrolled in some writing courses!!!!

So what have I learned this year now that I have a few courses under my belt?

  1. A lot of people who undertake writing courses are probably never going to actually write their story. On one course there was a student who’d been planning and researching their novel for 10 years and still hadn’t put pen to paper, doing courses so they could find that spark to get them started. At first I thought this was terribly sad, and it fed into my notion that course providers are simply out to make money. But then I thought, if these people are happy doing these courses, isn’t that what matters? I do cake decorating courses simply because I enjoy them. I’m not planning on turning it into a business. So how is this any different?
  2. If you’re goal is to become a published writer, then I think the best time to do a writing course is once you’ve already written something. I think if I’d done these courses before writing The Point, I might have ended up like so many of my fellow students, learning about the craft without actually practising the craft. But in each of the courses I’ve done, I’ve been able to pinpoint, to the paragraph at times, exactly where that tip, or this piece of advice, or that technique can be applied and that made the courses very real and very practical to me.
  3. My current WIP is definitely stronger for having done the courses I’ve done this year. What I know now about how to pitch my novel, about how to approach plot hurdles, about engaging all senses to enrich my prose, about the professional, business side of being a writer, will only help me be a better writer. I believe/hope this is evident as I edit This Shadow Life.
  4. Even if a course doesn’t deliver the content you expect it to, (and this has happened a couple of times), there is always something you can learn, something you can take away and apply to your writing.
  5. Writing courses aren’t cheap and they don’t always deliver what you expect. I’ve done some courses that weren’t at all what I thought they’d be and certainly not what I was hoping them to be, but as soon as I’ve realised that, I’ve said to myself “if you come away from this 6 hours with only one idea or new perspective, then you’re a step ahead of where you were when you started.” So I’ve made sure I’ve got something, something specific I can apply to my own work, no matter how small, from every course I’ve done.

So, am I glad I’ve done these writing courses this year? Yes. I am no longer a course snob.

Do I wish I’d done them earlier? No. I don’t think I would have got the same lessons out of them if I’d done them earlier.

Would I recommend writing courses to aspiring writers? If you’re already well into your writing journey – yes. If you choose the right courses from the right providers – yes. If you’re just starting out and looking for the spark to start – probably not. Write first, course later.

And you? Have you ever done a writing course? Was it helpful? Would you ever consider doing a writing course as professional development? Or just for fun?

S 🙂

I may have used some terms or abbreviations unfamiliar to non-writers, so I’ve put a glossary over here…

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4 responses to “Thoughts on Courses

  1. Yes! Oh my gosh, my writing classes totally turned my writing around. It was just a few people especially, but I learned so much! *truncated gushing* I learned how to edit for one. And I stopped being afraid of description. And I finally wrote a novel length novel! Before this, my longest “novel” was 42k and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I was missing.

    It was so great to read about your experience! ^_^

    • Hi Krystal, a the tiniest hint or tweak we pick up from a course can make such a huge difference to our writing. Show not tell was one I’ve had to learn. Glad you’re no longer afraid of description 🙂
      S

  2. I am so glad that there are people out there who actually want to write! I want to read! I find writing is rather like that tiresome thesis or essay you have to finish to get that course passed! Probably just as well we are not all writers really.
    Go Sandie!

    • True Gail. Makes me think of the adage, “Everyone has a book in them”. Now I know just what it takes to write a book, I strongly disagree with that saying. I think everyone has a ‘story’ in them, yes, but not a ‘book’. S

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