I’ve started buying The Guardian on a Saturday again and for the most part actually finding the time to read it (though usually it does take me a few days – hence my only buying one paper a week). Interestingly, before Eleanor was born, when I was reading it regularly, I used to go straight for the Family section, whereas now I go straight for the Review section. I’ve been enjoying their Books Season and have discovered some new writers and books (notably The Night Circus, which I’m hoping to review next week, and whose cover art and binding I talked about last week in A renaissance in cover art?)
I’ve been catching glimpses a lot recently of adverts for writing masterclasses (though, it turns out, they’re actually offering other subjects too, such as film and gardening) and wondering a bit about them. I wondered in particular at the fact that I saw more appeal or possibilities in them, purely because they are run by the Guardian. It’s not like I don’t ever see adverts for writing courses of one kind or another. They always seem a tad ridiculous. Why pay to sit and listen to someone reeling off writing cliché after cliché – Show Don’t Tell, make your characters live, just write – when what you could and should be doing is, well, just writing. Most of the classes seem to be around £400 (though there are also some degree-level courses, which cost thousands of pounds.
When I saw them, my first thought was definitely ‘Yeesh! How much?’ I’ve probably spent at least a couple of hundred on creative writing text books of one kind of another, most of which have been read once and not acted upon. Would there really be any benefit in doling out a good few hundred pounds – ones that could be used to get a new cooker, or a new netbook – for someone to tell me what I know already? Wouldn’t it be better to just take the money and go and hole up in a hotel somewhere (probably somewhere with an interesting view) and write for a whole day or whole weekend? Or even, not spend any money at all, and just bloody get on with it?
In Saturday’s edition of the paper they gave away a supplement called ‘How to write fiction’. This is a 40-page standalone booklet with advice, tips, anecdotes and even exercises from a range of authors who will be leading some of the masterclasses available. It’s an interesting read (I’m only about half-way through at the time of writing) and I think I will have a go at some of the exercises. There are sections on Getting started, Character, Point of view, Voice, Dialogue, Description, Plot, Revising and rewriting , Publication and Self-publication. The ones I’ve read include some good advice and the exercises at the end of each section seem to make sense. I didn’t really get the section on Voice, written by Meg Rosoff, but that might well be more down to me than what she says – perhaps I don’t actually understand voice after all. If you didn’t buy the paper yesterday, you can get a Kindle version and there should be an iBook version available soon.
Reading this booklet has, I think, given me a bit of a kick up the backside to get a bit more serious – again – about my writing. I’ve been writing bits and pieces here and there – lots of scenes or snatches of dialogues scribbled in notebooks all over the place, that at some point should probably be transferred onto a computer. Which is good and better than writing nothing at all, of course. But I could really do with sitting down properly for an hour at a time or so and going for it – as in actually writing, and not planning what to write. I wouldn’t mind going on one of the courses, because I think I’d probably get a few useful titbits, but I wouldn’t pay £400 to do so – which is why I’ve entered their competition to win a place on one of the courses, instead.
[This is a Sunday Reading post – though perhaps it should be re-titled ‘Sunday Writing’ today.]
What about you? Would you pay for a writing course? Have you been on any? Would you be more or less inclined to one run by The Guardian? Do you find it difficult to just sit down and write, without procrastinating (incidentally, the Getting started section in the booklet is quite persuasive in this area)?