1. vexx
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    vexx New Member

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    Novel Writing Courses (Distance or London)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by vexx, Mar 22, 2012.

    Hi,

    I'm thinking of doing a distance learning Novel writing course to help with my novel. I know exactly what the story will be about, the setting, the general plot, characters and their backgrounds-issues with the world (dystopian science-fiction, have the world created) but cannot actually start writing (have only wrote a draft ending), so I think a course will help! I'm moving to London so any courses in London would be good also

    Any thoughts on doing one of these

    Writer's Digest: Focus on the Novel (will probably do Scene Fundamentals after if it is good)
    http://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/workshops/course-descriptions/focus-on-the-novel/

    London School of Journalism: Novel Writing course
    http://www.lsj.org/web/novel.php

    In conjunction with a London course like http://www.writingcourses.org.uk/courses/intermediate.php to just help with writing and some workshops at the London school of Journalism itself, maybe even an evening class.

    I really want to get this novel done, I'm really looking forward to it and will have heaps of time as I'm moving to model in London so things will be slow when I get there.

    Cheers

    vexx
     
  2. Whirlwind
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    Whirlwind Member

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    IMO:

    I know that courses help with things like confidence, setting targets, understanding concepts like "show don't tell" and so on....but beyond that and a social life / networking with other writers I am not sure they are worth it. For me you a) get your head around story structure, b) outline, c) write scenes, d) refine.

    In terms of hard content, what are they going to teach you that you won't find in the literature?:

    Kal Bashir's 2000+ stage Hero's Journey And Transformation Through A New World / State
    Syd Field's Screenplay
    Robert McKee's Story
    Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters
    Joseph Campbell's Hero With A Thousand Faces
    Christopher Vogler's Writer's Journey
    Blake Snyder's Save The Cat
    John Truby's Anatomy of a Story

    A better way to do it if you need guidance is to find a personal tutor who will help structure out your story, set you deadlines etc.
     
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  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    some good points from whirlwind... i agree with all of them... i also have to wonder why you think you need to take a formal course...
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not aware of the ones you have asked about as I am about 700 miles North of London.

    I'm hoping to do courses with the Open University from September. My experiences with them have always been very positive. A lot of their counsellors, personal tutors are part-time so have real jobs as well and it gives them a great balance and perspective on a subject.

    Plus Bill Greenwell is part of the team for the course. I love his work.
     
  5. vexx
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    vexx New Member

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    Thanks for the reply but I know myself and I DEFINITELY need a class at this point. Major writer's block and never been able to write a novel, so many years I've wanted to, so trying to on my own ain't gonna work I'm afraid. NEED some structure and finding out elements of writing I wouldn't otherwise find out myself. And I don't like the idea of personal tutoring - never been for me.

    So hopefully someone can shed some light on courses :)
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    personal tutor isn't a private tutor sorry - they are the one who you have the phone number of, will run the local night classes, and mark the assignments. My last one was in Cornwall lol! and I'm in North Scotland.

    They are basically the human face that the great unwashed get to meet.
     
  7. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Open University A215 Creative Writing...all the way. Ninety pounds a month, tho'. Gets you off your backside and maybe halfway through you'll have your feet and ready to fly, but it gets you in the environment, community, talking the talk. Web and couple of tutorials.

    Only crit would be little staid, knitting needle, by the end...but by comparison to here, competitive arena. (here's just perfect, just reeling after the first two stories in the humour submissions were both about poo, pfff:))) What are you looking for? Just the novel? Or firing off short stories all that. Remember Bridport deadline is May and that's five thousand quid!!!

    atb.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I did the Open University short course on creative writing, and was impressed, although I dropped out when my son attempted suicide (I could probably have deferred but my mind was elsewhere).

    The two major things that I think the course did were:
    1. It got me out of my comfort zone, having to write about topics the course set instead of the same old ones I always chose for myself; and
    2. It gave me detailed professional (and peer) feedback on my writing.
    In combination, I reckon they were worth the money.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sorry to hear about your son digtig.

    I've never been disappointed with the money I've spent with the Open University and I've done everything from astronomy, particle physics, law, psychology, history, geology, neuroscience - figured I might as well do something useful for a change :)

    Learning even if you discover you don't like doing it that way is never wasted.

    I'm hoping i'll gain a better grasp of commas if not from the course itself but someone else taking it.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks; he's better now, though he still has issues.
    Nor have I, and I've done stuff from computing through philosophy to Mandarin Chinese. But the new funding arrangements and consequent price increases have put it put of my reach now. I suppose could nominate the one course that I've not yet used towards a degree as counting towards another named degree, and so get in under the transition arrangements, but basically it looks as if the party is over. If you want the degree qualification I would still wholeheartedly recommend the OU, but for "personal development" I think it is now priced out of the market.
     
  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm sorry Digitig.

    I think if you've always had that itch then OU is first stop. The hard part is step two, structuring your activity if you want to get your writing out there, finding audience, spreadsheets to show what's gone where and a support community somewhere for feedback and support. that's why I logged on here to take a look. It's all small steps in savvy. I've made a couple of beginner twit mistakes already.

    Radio script seems a fantastic way to go...if it's good enough you're on radio 4 and away! But the web, I dunno, smart sites cater for every taste.


    <reading your update. Mine was the last cheapy year. So it's out of reach now? That is a shame.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm waiting to see what the Scottish Government offers by way of course fees with the OU.

    I'm taking a scriptwriting course at the Art Centre near me I hope - they still haven't sent me details and it is only a month away.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have no idea what any of this means. I can't even parse any of it.
     
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only crit would be little staid, knitting needle, by the end...but by comparison to here, competitive arena. - The course was a little old fashioned but not as old fashioned as this site can be (here's just perfect, just reeling after the first two stories in the humour submissions were both about poo, pfff)) - the site is really fine but the first two stories in the humour submissions were both about poo What are you looking for? Just the novel? Or firing off short stories all that. Are you wanting to write a novel or short stories ? Remember Bridport deadline is May and that's five thousand quid!!! short story competition.


    To answer the question I write Nano, flash, short, novella and novel length stories.
     
  15. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    Vexx,

    Let me just offer you my experience and you can take from it what you will. For years I had cultivated an identity as a writer, both to myself and others, without getting a good deal of real writing down. I felt boxed in in my late 20s and went into an MFA program in creative writing thinking that it would light a fire under my ass and that I would leave there with a completed manuscript....

    I won't say that the entire experience was a waste, far from it, but trust me on this: it is far better to spend the time and money on a course or a program when you are actively writing rather than trying to get inspired BY the course. It actually will just make you more anxious about your blockage. The cure for that block is not a course but to sit down and write ever day. Forget your novel for a few months and just write everyday and see what comes out.

    The students who got the most out of the workshops and the classes were the ones who showed up with active practices and had real work to submit already and were tweaking it.

    The thing is when it's your turn to submit...you still have to write something and submit it and it will now be read and judged by the group. Walking in without a daily practice is not recommended.

    I have a daily practice now and wouldn't trade that for ten graduate degrees...most of the people I went to school with don't write anymore and don't have published novels either...and I went to a pretty decent MFA program.
     
  16. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Point John,
    OU

    But some of the people are at the very bottom.. Real simple exercises set you up.

    5 smells you love
    5 tastes
    5 sounds

    then take three of them to make a paragraph.

    Finish with little story incorporating ideas from the last stage.


    Tutor groups of 15 with your own blog facility and a student web cafe for the show-offs, ahem.

    6 pieces over 9 months: 800-2000 words, fiction, life-writing, poetry, submission piece...

    Is very difficult for somebody to just get on with it. I think I read you right? I was one of those snarling 25 year old's once:)
     
  17. John Shade
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    John Shade New Member

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    ...in which you're paying someone to impose deadlines on you...and that's fine.

    Like I said, I am NOT suggesting that Vexxx skip the class. I just was adding my experience with writing program's and classes. And in my experience...I didn't leave with my process nailed down and I didn't leave with a novel. I just had some deadlines imposed on me, was exposed to competition...and met some nice people....many of whom don't write anymore a few years on...the ones who do...were already writing everyday before the program.

    For me, it was when I dropped the identity of being a writer and just sat down and wrote everyday...no matter what came out, that things started to really flow. If writing is nothing but pain, blockage and self-flaggelation and imaginings of future glory...then I wouldn't want to bother and until I wrote through the identity piece of it, most of it was mental suffering mixed with an occasionally fleeced ego for a job well done.

    Writing is work now...but there's joy in it. I didn't find that joy in the writing program.
     
  18. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thas nice writing John.

    Truth be told I found the process frustrating. Bursting in all bright eyed and full of ideas right on the edge looking for pals to wrestle words with and met with cat, rabbit appreciation and fairytales. I'm surely not the first mind to want to subvert a little and as ever felt a little excluded. But hey I'm still standing and waffling away part two, huh, anticipating that Mark Twain reference I picked up about chopping wood. He gives you three years.

    Currently working on fanbase of four.
     
  19. vexx
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    vexx New Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone, sorry for the delayed response, have just moved to London and been organising everything. Now I'm ready on starting to write again (fuck this writer's block :( ) Oo and glad to know that Open Uni is actually really good here, may try out a course there while I have free time, get bored too easily, so learning something interesting or the creative writing course itself could be a good idea.

    Ok RE: John, shouldn't be so opposed to the idea of self-teaching with literature I guess, but I'll probably invest in one writing course to try it out anyway so maybe start with literature myself first..

    Let me ask: what's the best book/resource for learning how to write a novel in a structured way like some of these novel writing courses (particularly like the Writer's Digest "Focus on the Novel" course)? I do have the basic plot of the novel, outlined the storyline and the setting/characters, just can't work out how to approach it page-by-page -- challenging! Definitely need some guidance..
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The OU uses "Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings", edited by Linda Anderson, for its level 2 course. I think it's very good on the page-by-page stuff. Most of the structure stuff is aimed at the short story, which is simpler than structuring a novel (writing a short story isn't simpler -- it has its own challenges) but might give you some help. The complexity of structuring an entire novel is presumably a level 3 matter :0
     

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