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…!

Goodreads.com

Calling all Social Networkers! If you like reading, this is for you…

I was directed towards this wonderful little site a few months ago by my partner. Basically, it’s like Facebook for people who are active readers.

Simply create yourself a profile, add a few of your favourite books, and away you go. You can share your reading preferences with friends, rate the books you read and even add full-scale reviews.

You can join groups, take quizzes, and there’s even a creative writing section where authors leave their stories.

Enjoy!

http://www.goodreads.com/

 

Creating a Plot

Something else we’ve covered in the Creative Writing class is plot structure.

I guess a good question to be asking ourselves as we write is: what happens next?

So far, this has tended to be my biggest problem. I love starting a new story and introducing the main character. For a while, the words will flow effortlessly and I begin to feel very proud of myself for my creation.

Then, I come to a stop.

Where do I go now? I ask myself. Where can I take the story next? How can I keep the reader involved?

I’ve learnt that it helps to write a brief plan for short stories. To do this,  I separate the piece into three acts, like a play.

The first act concentrates on setting the scene; I will introduce the main characters and some background, telling the reader what has brought them to the current situation. I will also leave a couple of subtle clues as to what happens in act two.

The second act will involve more of the conflict in the story. It will have some action or drama. I love to write in the first person, so this part of the story will often include some internal dialogue of the protagonist.

Obviously, the third act will conclude the story. There will be the moment where things ‘come to a head’. There may be an argument, for example, which forces our protagonist into a corner where they feel vulnerable. Sometimes there is a practical solution to a problem, as well as an emotional resolution.

Gradually, the plan becomes a list of activities or key scenes. Often, a small amount of research may be necessary. I’m writing a ghost story at the moment, for example, which requires some knowledge of Victorian burial customs. My general history knowledge is appalling (as my mother would be very glad to tell you) therefore I have had to call on the 21st century Oracle, the World Wide Web for small details to add weight to my story.

The planning can take a couple of days or several weeks, depending on how much I apply myself to the task. Then, once I’m happy, I then begin to write.

Writing Competition Entry

I have great ideas and I can imagine them in my head. I am even good at putting pen to paper and making a captivating start to a story.

My problem lies in continuing the plot and seeing it through until the end. Often I get an idea and I struggle to get even a plan onto paper before it vanishes out of my head.

Is it possible the problem is my memory? It is true that now I am 40, some less tactful friends have made comments about early onset dementia.

Perhaps my mind is in chaos? My demanding job can be stressful at times and this does not help.

What I crave is time to unwind and relax prior to a writing session. A quiet place in my head is all I need. A room of one’s own, so to speak.

 

(This is my entry to win an online writing bootcamp from Urban Writers’ Retreat – http://tinyurl.com/bootcomp.)

Building a Character

Characters are essential to every story.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times have you heard the phrase ‘wooden characters’ when someone referred to a book they didn’t like? Personally, I can think of several books I’ve read to which I could attribute that phrase.

I have a top tip for all you budding writers out there: get yourself a character template. They are available from various sources. Try Google for starters and see how you get on.

The format is not really important. The key thing is to give you, the writer, a method of recording details about your character.

You’ll need to know basic things like name, age and appearance, of course. But you’ll create a much more realistic person if you think about the deeper aspects of their personality.

For example, your John Doe may well be a tall, dark and handsome eligible bachelor, but does he have a dark side? How does he deal with conflict in a relationship? Is he argumentative by nature? Does he have demons from his past that haunt him?

You may well choose to model a character on a real person you already know. If so, make sure you change the name to something completely different. Some people would be flattered if they appeared in your novel; others might take it in an entirely different light. No one needs a libel case when they’re trying to publish their debut novel!

Have fun creating!

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!