I have just finished an online creative writing course. It wasn’t one of the most expensive but I wouldn’t say it was cheap. It was taught by a published author (whose work I had read and enjoyed) and had been created in conjunction with a British university well respected for its creative writing degrees. I applied for the course for two reasons: 1) to improve my writing; and 2) to get me back to writing my novel which had fallen by the wayside during my second pregnancy.
I was aware of the recent discussions on the merits of creative writing courses but wanted to gain impartial feedback on my work and wanted to put into practice some of the basics that I had read about in books on writing. The course outline assured me that both of these would be possible so I thought I’d give it a go and judge for myself.
I have to say that this course exceeded my expectations in many ways. I was pushed to try new styles, to write when I wasn’t feeling like it, to put myself in the head of unlikeable characters and to write about things I wasn’t always that interested in. In doing so I learned a lot about myself and my writing. I also learned a lot about how people read – the same pieces could be interpreted in so many different ways by members of the group. The other new aspect for me was giving feedback. We had been merrily doing this in the writing group I’ve set up in the village and it had been going well, but in the course I had to imagine I was the only editor of a fellow student’s short story. We were encouraged to help the other writer turn their story into the story it was trying to be. I was delighted when, as a result of the (I felt) rather vague feedback I had given, the revised story came back stronger and better than the initial draft I had seen.
I was fortunate in that the other students on the course, in the main, did provide feedback. By the end of the 12 weeks a core of us felt like we had got to know each other well. Private messages were being exchanged, we offered to help each other with research needed for story ideas and during the last two weeks we sent each other drafts of our final assignment before submitting it to the tutor. Some of us even met up in person. Now the course is over we have a Facebook Group so that we can continue to exchange our work and provide each other with support. For me, this “meeting” of other writers was well worth the fee I paid for the course.
As for the feedback from the tutor, my feelings were mixed on this. For the most part the feedback was extremely helpful, sometimes very insightful. Occasionally however I felt that the tutor was maybe a bit too busy to really provide the level I had been expecting and I had thought there would be a bit more guidance on where to go with my writing next – but maybe I was expecting too much.
Overall, it has been an extremely positive experience and one I would certainly recommend. What about you? Would you do a creative writing course or do you think the same experience can be obtained without the need to pay out the money?