Creative Writing Courses
One of the questions I am sometimes asked is if I feel it’s advisable to take creative writing courses? For me, the answer is both yes and no as every writer will have their own unique journey. However, by delving into my own experiences of courses, I hope to explore the answer in greater detail.
I can still remember the day, over ten years ago, when I decided that I was going to ‘become a writer’ and take my writing seriously. (I had dabbled over the years but never really known quite where to start). I went to a library with my laptop, chose a desk in a quiet-ish area and, feeling a bit self-conscious, began to type a story about… I can’t remember what. Nonetheless, it felt good to have taken the first step towards my dream.
As an avid reader, I must have had an awareness of plot, characters, pace and dialogue but I wasn’t perhaps quite aware enough when it came to my own first attempts at writing. I persevered and wrote a (not good) book. I thought it was a romantic comedy, but thinking about it now, it was probably a mixture of ideas and genres. What it did do, however, was show me that I like to delve into the darker side of stories. I began writing another, more crime-based book.
Slowly, I began to immerse myself into the writing world. Cost and time are natural considerations when thinking about creative writing courses, so it is great that there may be opportunities for volunteers at events and that some authors kindly offer to mentor online. I also attended events at libraries, bookstores and literary festivals. I enrolled on various writing workshops. Keen to learn more, I signed up for an online writing course which covered different aspects of non-fiction and fiction writing, and I also began entering writing competitions. I loved the thrill of anticipation and possibility. It was also good editing practice by sticking to the word count, competition rules and themes. I received a huge boost in confidence when I came second in a First Chapter competition for a magazine. As a result, I was contacted by an editor who offered to read the whole book. Disappointingly, she said that I still needed to hone my craft (she was right) and was kind enough to give incredibly useful feedback.
After this, I joined a weekly, local creative writing group. (It had never been possible before as my different working patterns as a long-haul flight attendant had made it hard to commit to a regular class). It was there that I summoned up the courage to read my work out loud. I also wrote short stories and poems which I hadn’t had much experience of. (Apart from a not-very-good poem I wrote when I was roughly ten years old about a poppy and recited it on a radio station in Rome).
I kept learning and began writing another book. However, several agents rejected this novel after submission. So, with the kind support of family help with childcare, I attended a six month, part-time Writing a Novel course. I learned in greater depth about pace, planning, the passage of time, conflict, setting and point of view, among many other important subjects. As a result, when it was my turn to submit 3,000 words for group feedback (a nerve-wracking but incredibly valuable hour where thirteen fellow students and our tutor would offer their thoughts) I decided to switch my work-in-progress from third person to first. I handed in a sample of both and it was a unanimous decision that the main character came alive when written in the first person. This gave me the much-needed confidence to push ahead and finish the novel which ended up being published.
Therefore, one of the greatest benefits of creative writing courses, I believe, is the feedback and support throughout the ups and downs. Fresh eyes are invaluable. Six years later, our course still meets up at the beginning of each month to share and critique our latest work.
Our tutor used to say to us:
And this, I also believe, however one chooses to do so, is the one of the best pieces of advice.
Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. She is also the author of the international bestseller The Perfect Girlfriend.
Her newest book, The Last Wife, is out July 7, 2020 by Graydon House
About the Book: Marie Langham is distraught when her childhood friend, Nina, is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Before Nina passes away, she asks Marie to look out for her family—her son, daughter, and husband, Stuart. Marie would do anything for Nina, so of course she agrees.
Following Nina’s death, Marie gradually finds herself drawn into her friend’s life—her family, her large house in the countryside. But when Camilla, a mutual friend from their old art-college days, suddenly reappears, Marie begins to suspect that she has a hidden agenda. Then, Marie discovers that Nina had long suppressed secrets about a holiday in Ibiza the women took ten years previously, when Marie’s then-boyfriend went missing after a tragic accident and was later found dead.
Marie used to envy Nina’s beautiful life, but now the cards are up in the air and she begins to realize that nothing is what it seemed. As long-buried secrets start surfacing, Marie must figure out what’s true and who she can trust before the consequences of Nina’s dark secrets destroy her.