Swanwick Eve

Tomorrow I’m off to my very first residential writing event in Swanwick, Derbyshire (see link here).

I’m really very excited. My college course was only once a week for a couple of hours and there was the online writing course that I went on in April. While both informative and interesting, and despite the fact that I learnt a great deal from both these endeavours, the writers school in Swanwick will be a wonderful opportunity to immerse myself in the writing world for a whole week.

I’ve connected with a few people on Facebook already, so it’ll be nice to meet up with some of these people when I arrive. I’ve also been in touch with an author with whom I have a one to one session arranged. He has already given very positive feedback on a piece which I sent him earlier, so I’ll be thrilled to get his advice on how to get published.

There’s a pretty hefty schedule arranged for us throughout the week, judging by the programme which arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. However, my goal is not to fill my week entirely by listening to others talk. I also want to get some serious writing done.

As regular readers will know, I am a sufferer of Procrastination from time to time. How thoughtful, then, that the organisers have arranged for the whole of Tuesday to be a “Procrastination-Free Day”. Perfect!

So, look out for perhaps an update during the week, and definitely a selection of post-writing school reflective thoughts around the 18th/19th August.

Right folks! I’m off to pack my pens and notebooks. See you next week…

Exeter Writing Retreat

One of the most wonderful things I have gained by joining the Urban Writers’ website (http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk/) is a community of fellow writers, all experiencing the same problems and insecurities as me.

This is very important, since writers by their very nature, tend to be rather solitary. When I sit down to write, I must have no distractions. No TV or music and, especially, no chatter. Almost any noise (including hungry cat meows) is enough to put me off my pen strokes.

However, it’s surprising how easy it is to become distracted by all sorts of things. One can quickly gain experience in the Black Art of Procrastination, suddenly getting an urge to grab the hoover and do a bit of tidying round the house. And I am not a tidy person, trust me. All this home-making lark does not come naturally to me.

So, imagine my excitement when I spotted a retreat in Exeter where I could escape the house for a day. I packed my laptop, my fountain pen, spare cartidges, my notebooks and off I went. (Click here for more info.)

The weather was gorgeous when I got there. It was easily the sunniest day of the year so far. I found my way around the city, parked up and went to the venue to meet my fellow writers.

There were five of us altogether, including the lady who runs these things. We kicked off at around 10.30 and I left around 5pm. We had a half hour or so for a lunch break where we discussed our projects. One lady turned up all excited as she had just had her story accepted for publication. We were all thrilled for her.

In that time, I managed to create 3 characters for my novel and write an entire 3000-word short story, albeit a first draft. In short, I managed to accomplish more in that day, than I had done previously in perhaps two weeks.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to be able to drive down to Exeter every month. It’s a fair old distance from my place and therefore quite a long drive.

However, they do offer online retreats too, which I may well partake of in the near future. I look forward to catching up with my new-found writing friends.

Online Creative Writing Courses

There’s rather a lot going on in my life at the moment.

My partner and I have just moved house, so a lot of my possessions (including most of my books) are still in boxes and strewn in various locations about the new home.

There’s also been a change to my full-time job. I have moved departments so I’m working with a different bunch of people on a different project.

Far more relevant to my blog, however, is the small fact that my college course in Creative Writing will shortly be coming to an end, and I do feel a little sad about it if I’m honest.

There will be a gap in my life on Wednesday evenings when I would usually be driving to college to sit and discuss the finer points of writing. I shall miss our lively little bunch with all the variety of personalities and their contributions to the topics we have covered.

I have learnt a great deal during the short 10-week course, and I feel it would be a travesty to allow all that learning to go to waste.

So, the other day I decided to have a look at some of the courses on offer online to see if there was anything suitable. There is quite a bewildering selection available.

There are a number of freebies, even from reputable establishments such as the Open University. The OU has a free study arena named OpenLearn which offers modules to be studied in isolation rather than as part of a larger course. Unfortunately, nothing there really took my fancy but have a browse and see what you think: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/culture/literature-and-creative-writing/creative-writing.

I have done a course from Writing Bliss before (see my previous post here) but I really want to go for something different, and preferably with some feedback, or at least some kind of interaction, rather than going it alone.

It seems this kind of service will have to paid for. (Who was I kidding that I’d get that kind of thing for free?!)

After a few days of perusing, I was down to a choice of two: The Writing Forge (http://writingforge.co.uk/moduleoutlines.asp) and the UK Writers’ College (http://www.ukwriterscollege.co.uk/shop.html). Then, out of the blue, my partner pointed me in the direction of the “Get Writing! Online Bootcamp” (http://www.urbanwritersretreat.co.uk/get-writing-online-bootcamp/) so I’ve decided to give that one a go.

According to the site it consist of small daily writing tasks, access to a private forum of fellow writers, access to online retreats (not sure yet how they’re going to work) and larger weekly exercises. By the end of the course, apparently, I should have completed a whole short story, which sounds great.

So, I’ve paid my dues and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve decided to spend my Easter break reviewing some of my old material which I haven’t looked at in months. Standby for some posts about the joys of editing your own work…!

Writers School Booked!

I have finally taken the plunge and booked my very first writing retreat at Swanwick in Derbyshire (http://www.swanwickwritersschool.co.uk/index.asp).

There are courses every day for the week-long event, but my intention is not to cram my days with listening to everyone else. I want to learn, of course, but my main reason for going is to get away from my normal routine, to a place where I won’t be distracted by kitchen chores or pestered by a well-meaning but overly affectionate cat.

Basically, I want some ‘Me’ time.

A question to all you budding writers out there: Do you struggle to make time for writing? Does life interfere with your desire to get on and write?

I’m really looking forward to my week of writing. By then, I’m hoping to have three short stories completed and ready to publish on the Kindle. Watch this space!

Creative Writing Nightclass – Free Writing

After some thought and deliberation, I joined a creative writing course in January at a local college.

A brave move, some would say, to be going back to college after all these years to learn something new, but I am loving it.

There are eleven students enrolled on the course, both men and women and from all walks of life. It’s what you might call “a good mix”.

The tutor is a writer, naturally, and each week we cover a different topic associated with writing.

I’d like to convey some of my learning, if I may, onto you, Dear Readers. So, off we go…

In our first week, the main lesson I learnt was about the practice of free writing, and the importance of learning this craft by practice.

Stephen King said in his book On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Good advice, I think; but easier said than done.

Both as a result of reading those words, and of the first night of my course, I am now in the habit of writing almost every single day. If I climb into bed at night without having written at least a few lines in my journal, I feel there’s something missing from my day.

Also on that first night, our tutor introduced us to the discipline of Free Writing. Every week now, we spend a few moments in silence at the beginning to centre the mind and relax a little. Then, after a prompt of some kind, we are encouraged to write. Not a great deal, just for about ten to fifteen minutes. Just to allow the creative juices to flow, as they say.

It certainly seems to have unlocked something inside of me, and long may it continue!

Online Writing Prompts

I enrolled on an online writing course a little while ago via a website called www.writingbliss.com.

The course is called Daily Writes and cost me $5 (about £3). You receive an email every day for 31 days which sets you different writing tasks. It’s proved very useful in a number of ways.

Firstly, and most importantly, it has got me into the habit of writing on a regular basis. Previously, I would just pick up my pen and paper when I felt like it. The problem with this strategy is that there would never be a good time when I just ‘felt like it’.

Admittedly, I haven’t written every day. I do still have quite a demanding full-time job, after all. However, I am beginning to discipline myself. I have created some time, most evenings, when I sit down with my journal and my pen and I complete the next activity. At the weekends, I might do 2 or 3 activities in a day, or I may do none, if I’m particularly busy.

Secondly, I’ve found it’s given me some much-needed focus. Often, I would just sit there, pen in hand, and not have to clue where to start. The prompts are invaluable and well thought out. I have written small poems for example, something which I was never attracted to when I started. There is an activity where you are encouraged to write a classified personal ad for yourself too which is great fun.

Thirdly, there’s a wide variety of tasks within the course. This is helping me to discover my natural writing style and what forms of writing I enjoy or dislike. I guess I always just presumed I’d be a novelist but I hadn’t properly considered the alternatives. Now, I may give them some more thought.

Finally, it has given me the confidence to know that I am definitely becoming a writer! I still allow my partner to read most of my work so far, and I hang on his every word when he gives me his constructive criticism. His most recent compliment is that I ‘have prodigious talent’. Wow.

I should point out that I haven’t yet reached the end of the course. I’m currently on day 22. However, a few days of hard work should see me get it finished off. I’m looking forward to the sense of achievement.

Incidentally, if you feel that receiving an email every day seems like a bit too much for you, there are plenty of other courses available on the site. Feel free to browse and see what suits you.

I am truly enjoying my journey so much. I sincerely hope you guys are too!