Here's the text of my ten tips for completing an online writing course. The piece was published on the blog of The Writers' Bureau on June 7th, 2019. I had just successfully completed the Bureau's online course, The Art of Writing Poetry, during which quite a portfolio of poems developed, including some set forms as I wrote in the previous post on this blog. My later submissions earned A+ grades, and this spurred me on to try to get my work published - an ongoing uphill task, but as with the course itself, I won't give up.
Some of the points may seem obvious, but surprisingly not all are followed by all students. I've studied through online and postal courses quite a number of times now, almost all writing-related (and all completed) and one for drawing (dumped), but I know what it's like to become disheartened. So here is the piece:
June 7th, 2019When you’ve looked at the writing courses on offer and made the commitment, a strategy can be helpful to ensure you’ll get the maximum benefit.
I’ve recently completed the poetry course with The Writers’ Bureau, and found planning helpful in keeping up the momentum. Here are ten suggestions to remain on track from selection to completion. There is so much enjoyment and satisfaction to come!
1 When choosing your course, whether purely for interest or with an aim to be published, read
everything the website can tell you about it. Don’t be put off by a suggested timescale. (I
completed mine with very few weeks to spare.)
2 Pounce on the course materials. Read the introduction and details of the first assignment carefully.
Flicking through the next few modules may whet the appetite.
3 Plan your writing rate and submission goals. For example, a target number of hours per week, to
include reading the course material as well as writing. If there are, say, twelve assignments over
two years, your goal might be to submit every six to seven weeks. But if you can’t keep to this,
never be tempted into ‘that’ll do’. Make it The Best!
4 Keep a notebook with you always, including at night, and jot down ideas, snatches of
conversation (one spawned a prize-winning short story for me!), themes, or issues that upset,
annoy or inspire you.
5 On settling to work, check the notebook. If there’s no light bulb moment, think about an event and
ask ‘what if?’. Start a rough draft and try not to edit as you go along. I found it best to have both
something starting from scratch and one piece in mid-edit.
6 Keep a log of your work; it’s very motivating to see it piling up. For each assignment I kept a
folder with a copy of the submission, the feedback, and the resulting edited version. Keep a note
of submission contents and grades – this will hopefully show progress and be motivating.
7 Examine feedback carefully; if points are repeated, that needs sorting. You may not agree with
every point but each will have a reason. Bask in positive comments.
8 If it’s a struggle, or there’s a troublesome issue, ask the tutor for advice. It can be hard to be
objective about our own work.
9 Expect variable enthusiasm levels! Typical is a burst of creativity followed by a slowdown, then
an increase in energy as you get into the second half of the course. Update friends/family on
progress – that helps avoid temptation to ‘take a break’.
10 If you hope for publication, make notes about target markets as you go. If the course is mainly for
enjoyment, why not build up a catalogue of the work to take pride of place on the bookshelf?
Wishing everyone a fulfilling, successful – and completed – writing course!