Posts Tagged ‘courses’

A few weeks ago I told you that I registered for a number of writing courses, to bring me back into a more structured way of thinking about writing.

I have completed the first one, which focussed on plot, and it was both extremely interesting and slightly perturbing.

I try to take in all the rules and suggestions but sometimes I struggle to see writing as an academic exercise.  I wonder why we have so many rules in place for our work, creating artificial barriers and sections, when many of the most successful and prolific writers we read never once went to a lecture on narrative structure!

Still, it makes me think a little more about what a publisher is looking for, and there is definitely a structure which is considered less ‘risky’.

My first novel does not fit this, or at least it doesn’t cleanly fit it.  I debate the benefit of trying to force my story into a new structure simply to meet some short-hand standard, and I don’t know that I want to edit with that standard in mind.

However, for future works this is a good way to manage the planning and plotting process.

The benefit of rules in writing is that they provide the foundations on which to hang the clothes of your story. There is a controlling element that can be utilised to pull you back into line or show you where there is room for growth.

Rules are the corsetry of your story.

Some writers are confident and skilled enough go be free but at this point, with the writing market as it is and the unwillingness of agents to take on first time writers, rules make sense to get past the first hurdle and at least be read.

Interestingly though, the rules I am learning now are not those I was taught before – in a relatively short space of time the focus of writing has changed.  I am not sure if that is partly to do with the audience – my first course was via a UK university, the current courses are via a US university – or if the writing market really has changed so much in a few years.

I have been told that agents are moving out of fiction into non-fiction, read that unknown authors are too high risk for significant numbers to be taken on, and that the amount people can expect to earn from their writing is diminishing.  It would not surprise me at all to learn that agents look for a specific structure in the work they receive because they have to limit their own risk.

I wonder if it’s true that a reader will be dissatisfied if the rules aren’t followed, as is the message.  I need to read with the rules in mind, see how they affect my experience of a story.

Mostly though, I need to understand them fully because unless I do, I won’t know whether to risk breaking them!

Happy writing,





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Sorry I didn’t get a chance to post on Thursday as usual, my writing day went a bit wonky and I ran out of time.

In the last few months, I’ve been thinking about doing some more studying. Well, as if by timing magic, I recent saw a newspaper article that led directly to a number of on-line university courses.  The best bit is not only are they completely on-line, they are also entirely free!

I am favouring a particular course, on human nutrition (there’s always a chance I’ll write a character who needs to know this stuff, and meanwhile it might curb my cake-eating tendencies).  I looked at an astronomy one but when it said you needed to solve basic equations, and then gave an example that looked like gobbledegook I decided it wasn’t for me.  And off tangent, isn’t gobbledegook a perfect word!

I don’t know if all writers are the same, but the more I know, the wider my writing framework becomes: I use parts of almost everything I learn in one way or another.  This might not be explicit but even in my current NaNo story I am incorporating Old English into place names.  Luckily with this story the main character names have meanings that work perfectly, even though they were just names picked for a coursework exercise.  One I didn’t even know was a proper name (it is, a spelling variation of a Sanskrit word)!

And that’s a nice segue into my NaNo update for yesterday, which was day 15.  I had a bit of a fail, because I didn’t quite get to 25,000 words (I got to 24,138) but I’m pleased I got that far because it wasn’t a great day for writing.

I am really happy with this progress: I’m already nearing last years total word count and that was pretty hard-going!  This many words, in a sustained and coherent story, in 15 days is an amazing achievement for me.

I have decided, therefore, to ignore all the forum posts where people say that they reached 50,000 words in ten or eleven days.  It’s a meaningless fact when I have no idea about the quality of their work, or whether they have many, and long, chapter titles, or if they have an emotional attachment to their stories.

In short, I cannot judge my own progress by looking at theirs.

So over the next 15 days, I want to carry on unravelling the story I am telling, and feeling excited about each decision that takes my characters a step closer to their destinies.

And after all, isn’t that what becoming a writer is all about?

Happy writing



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