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Thursday, 5 April 2012

Writing Courses - What I Hope to Find

The very first writing course I followed was a correspondence type many years ago. The subject was non-fiction, and the promise was a full refund if the fee was not recouped by sales during the course. There was a good deal of positive feedback latterly, and the tutor seemed confident that I'd be published, but there was no success with magazines at the time. Gathering and returning all the course materials as demanded, I received a refund - but I kept writing. Should I have felt guilty about the refund, given that I covered the fee in sales fairly soon afterwards?
By David Blackwell 

The most recent course has been for short story writing for more literary and competition type work, with the aim of ending up with a story of publishable standard. Again, I completed all the assignments and received a good deal of useful feedback, although the main piece of work is not quite up to standard as yet. It's a 'work in progress'.

Reviewing the outcome and range of emotions during the course, I've compiled a list of ten things which I  would hope for in a writing course.

 1  In the blurb, a clear statement of the aims for achievement by the end.

 2  Again in the blurb, a comment about the optimum level of prior experience. Is it suitable 
          for beginners, for example, or writers just starting to be successful, or those already 
          well on their way?

 3  Unambiguous info about the expected length of the course, and any restrictions on the
          time allowed.

 4  Statement about what feedback the student can expect during the course, e.g.  from tutor 
          and other students, and whether each student will be asked to give feedback to others.
by Frankie Kangas

 5  Advice on how to give considered and constructive feedback. (Says
          she after a bit of a battering - though in the latest course this advice 
          was certainly given clearly.)

 6  Opportunities to study successful work and pieces which are considered 
          great writing.

 7  Ongoing feedback which picks up problems and gives pointers towards addressing them.
          Personally, I feel that occasional specifics are very helpful, e.g. when an issue with
          dialogue is flagged up, an example of what would be better (even if just one line).

 8  At the end of the course, a summary of how far the tutor feels the student has progressed
          (not "Don't give up the day job" though.)

 9  Suggestions for further study, individualised for the student if time/fee permits.

10 Finally, if there is work of reasonable standard, suggestions as to where it might be
          submitted when polished, so the student can research those opportunities.

Thanks for reading this. I'd be very interested to hear whether anyone who's currently on a course, or who has recently completed one, agrees with these points or has any to add.