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  • how to get started
    by JASE1985 at 14:50 on 29 June 2007
    Hello there,

    I am a 21 year old man and would love to become a writer. At the moment I am in a boring day job at the minute, and wondering how to get going. I would love to eventually set myself up as a freelance writer, doing a range of projects.
    I have been considering taking a course, to learn a broad range of forms. However, I would like to know whether anyone has any recommendations? There seems to be some debate over whether Writers Beauru is any good or not? Is there another course? Or does anyone firmly believe that courses are not needed, and that buying books and self teaching id the answer?

    Please help!

  • Re: how to get started
    by julietoc at 16:32 on 29 June 2007
    Hi Jase, the key is to read and read and read, and write and write and write. Some writers suggest you write something everyday even if it is just navel gazing stuff you'd never show.

    In terms of courses, i have yet to take the plunge, but i do think my writing has reached a point where i would benefit from a course, particularly in novels.

    I guess what i'm saying is, courses can be excellent, and others on this site may be able to recommend some in beginning creative writing, but maybe you need to work out what sort of help you need first, by trying out your writing on sites like this and getting feedback from other members.

    hope this is some help, but there's no shortcut that i can find, you have to learn by doing and getting honest feedback, which family and friends are often too nice to give.

    Good luck with it.

  • Re: how to get started
    by Dee at 19:02 on 29 June 2007
    Not everyone agrees, but I think the Writersí Bureau is great for a novice writer. You get to try all the different aspects of writing Ė fiction, writing for radio or TV, non-fiction - with expert help.

    Juliet makes a very good point too. Read as much as you possibly can, and try to identify why a piece of writing works or doesnít work for you. Analyse what you're reading and then apply that to what you write.

    Donít expect to get it right first time. there is a lot to learn and it takes a lot of practice but, if you really really want to be a writer, youíll not be able to stop.

    Finally, think about joining the beginners group and post some of your writing on there. Read whatís already uploaded and see if you can give some feedback as a reader.

    Good luck

  • Re: how to get started
    by nr at 22:15 on 29 June 2007
    Birkbeck College (University of London) runs a two year Creative Writing certificate course. It costs £500 per year which I know is a lot but I've found it good so you might consider that if you can afford it. You attend once session a week and you have a choice of two or three evenings in the week.

    Naomi R


    You'll need to be writing already so that you have some stuff to show them when you're interviewed.
  • Re: how to get started
    by ZK at 13:15 on 30 June 2007
    Or does anyone firmly believe that courses are not needed, and that buying books and self teaching id the answer?

    Hi Jase,
    I'm with the others, READ as much stuff as you can so that you're exposed to lots of different approaches. There is an argument that says you will benefit more from courses once you're actually started writing, so I'd suggest starting right now, while you're hot with the idea. And I'm sure a combination of how-to books and courses will work more effectively than any single approach. I've seen good and bad reports of Writers' Bureau courses but as Dee says, their main strength is that they're wide ranging. If you would prefer a face to face course, check out your local council for short evening/day courses which will mean you're with other writers. Also check in your local library to see if there's a writers' circle near you.

    Part of starting to start is getting into the mental 'groove'. Once you've done that, actually allowed yourself to put pen to paper as it were, you'll be away, and if it's something you really want to do, you won't be able to stop!

    Good luck.

  • Re: how to get started
    by EmmaD at 13:49 on 30 June 2007
    Jason, I'd agree with the others that the most important thing is reading absolutely non-stop, and also trying to explore beyond the edges of what you usually like reading. Other forms too: poetry, short fiction, plays, non-fiction.

    The other most important thing is to write regularly. A writer is someone who writes, after all. It's as necessary as going for a walk every day. Lots of writers are diary keepers, but even more (all?) keep a notebook. I gave up listening to music while travelling, and eavesdrop shamelessly. Jot down things you hear on the bus, ideas you have, any words or phrases that suddenly arrive in your head and have a resonance or intriguingness about them. Write a few lines describing the quarrel in the pub or the view from the office or the bloke opposite you on the tube, or a sudden memory of something from when you were young... If you've got ten minutes and a cup of coffee jot down the journey from home to work in terms of the smells, or the textures, or the noises, or just the colours with no form. If you've got twenty minutes and a sandwich imagine what that bloke did when he got off the tube. Imagine him trying to do it, put a problem in his way, and decide how he'd deal with it. You've got the beginnings of short story there.

    I think courses can be great, though they're not in the least essential, but I'd always suggest getting as far as you can on your own first, and go for a course when you sense that you need help to get up the next step: that way you're better placed to decide what kind of course will suit you, and to make the most of it when you're there. Also, possibly to be able to discard what turns out not to be useful on the course, because there's always something.

    There are loads of books to get you started, (and there are some truly terrible ones, plus lots which just aren't appropriate for you at this stage) though again, it helps to be alert to what suits you and what doesn't: one of my favourites is The Creative Writing Coursebook, which is edited by Julia Bell (who's now running Birbeck's CW dept, I think) and Paul Magrs.

    And stick around on WW, of course.

    Best of luck with it.

  • Re: how to get started
    by JASE1985 at 14:13 on 30 June 2007
    Some really fantastic advice there. Thanks alot, I appreciate it.
  • Re: how to get started
    by Account Closed at 15:40 on 30 June 2007
    Hello Jason, and welcome.

    I'd second what everyone else said about courses - I waited until I had the first draft of a novel before I started my MA course - I think I got a lot more out of it then those who were writing as they went along. It might be similar for course on freelance and article writing, althugh having had no experience, I'm not certain of this. There are always lots of good books on the matter - try your library, and make sure you get the latest editions because a lot of info on industry norms goes out of date very quickly.

    I think it might be better to start small, and start by working around your current job. Maybe see if there is a staff newsletter you can contribute to, a local magazine that wants features written etc - then you can add these credits to a writing CV (if only to build up your confidence) and then work your way onwards and upwards to more full time work.

    ALternativley, if you are rich, you could jack in your job and lock yourself in your room for a year or so, coming out only for food and visists to the library. I'd like to do this, but I'm not rich.

    Welcome again

    Lady B
  • Re: how to get started
    by Dee at 15:55 on 30 June 2007
    God, yes! Whatever you do, donít give up the day job unless you have enough stashed away to support yourself for at least a year.

    Something else I usually recommended is a little book called Writing Down The Bones by Nathalie Goldberg. Itís subtitle Ė Freeing the Writer Within explains it all. Itís a must, I think, for people who are staring at a blank piece of paper, wondering where the words come from.

  • Re: how to get started
    by Account Closed at 19:45 on 30 June 2007
    Thanks for that Dee. I've been spending lots of my time staring at a blank computer screen - and I've never come across that book before. And yes, although I made the comment flippantly, I think it is worth pointing out that most writers never do give up the day job - I'm certainly not expecting to, although of course if it ever happened, I wouldn't complain.

    Lady B
  • Re: how to get started
    by EmmaD at 20:51 on 30 June 2007
    Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer is a classic book in the same territory as Goldberg's. Hugely recommended.

  • Re: how to get started
    by JASE1985 at 08:29 on 02 July 2007
    No Lady B I am not rich either, that's that option out of the window!

    Thanks for the other advice though.