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  • Courses...
    by jawad at 01:11 on 19 November 2013
    I am wondering if anyone has attended any interesting fiction-writing courses they could tell me about in London or further afield. I have heard of a few (the Faber Academy being one, obviously the UEA courses, warwick university...) My criteria are:

    - One on one regular mentoring/coaching and feedback on my writing from published authors.

    - A course that has a good reputation and for which you need some level of writing skill to apply.

    - A course that is longterm, not just a few weeks or a few days.

    - It doesn't matter how much it costs

    Basically, I feel like I want the drama school of fiction writing. Where you get broken and then put back together again. Disciplined, made to explain plots and characters and their relevance to the whole story. Even a writing mentoring scheme would do...

    Any recommendations?
  • Re: Courses...
    by EmmaD at 09:38 on 19 November 2013
    Jawad, it sounds as if maybe you're thinking of an MA?

    If you just want to focus on a book-length project, City have that option, and the MPhil at Glamorgan (which I did) is very well-established and is excellent. There does seem to be a trend towards this kind of course, tho' I don't know any details of others.

    But I do think that even if you think that you just want to focus on your fiction, there's a vast amount to be gained from a course which gets you working in and thinking about other forms: I'm endlessly grateful for having been there at Glamorgan when the poets were being workshopped. For a more general MA If you're looking round London, Goldsmiths is excellent, and I hear good things of City. Lancaster, like Warwick, has a very good rep. I know too many people who were miserable at UEA, and/or stopped writing altogether, ever to recommend it, though presumably it suits others.

    City Lit have very good shorter courses at all levels, if you're not ready to commit to an MA, and a good reference from that would be an asset in trying to get on an MA. Alternatively, Birkbeck has an excellent Diploma, which is not as long as their (also excellent) MA, but also very good.

    You could have a look at Jill Dawson's Gold Dust, which is a one-to-one coaching/mentoring scheme which is pretty expensive but has terrific, experienced writer-teachers on their books: lots of the writers there also teach on MAs and elsewhere.

    Most of the editorial agencis - TLC, Writers Worskhop come to mind - would be a channel to a mentor, although it's always more expensive when you do it through them.

    If you are thinking specifically of a more mentor-like arrangment, in a less established setup, Sara Maitland has written a very good book for both mentees and mentors, about how it should work - it's calle The Write Guide: Mentoring.

    Edited by EmmaD at 10:15:00 on 19 November 2013

    Edited by EmmaD at 10:16:00 on 19 November 2013
  • Re: Courses...
    by Terry Edge at 11:59 on 19 November 2013

    Further to Emma's excellent advice, and bearing this in mind -

    Basically, I feel like I want the drama school of fiction writing. Where you get broken and then put back together again. Disciplined, made to explain plots and characters and their relevance to the whole story. Even a writing mentoring scheme would do...
    - I'm not sure you'd get this from a mentoring scheme. Most mentoring in the UK is done by writers without any specific training in mentoring. Which is fine for basic feed-back, passing on of technical skills, etc. But here you appear to be talking about personal development. Which is exactly the kind of thing I'm interested in. But it requires different skills if it's to be undertaken effectively and safely.

    In my case, after getting fed up with the publishing industry (sales committees carrying more clout than editors, etc), I decided to start fresh. I wanted something demanding, that would really test me. I already knew what was available in the UK, and hadn't really seen anything that appealed. We tend towards the Arvon model here - nice place in the country, team meals, chats with authors, etc, etc, which is okay when you're starting out; but we're not so good at the more intensive stuff.

    To cut a long story short, I discovered the 6-week full-time courses that take place in the US: the two Clarions and the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I went for Odyssey because it has an editor with you all the way through, whereas Clarion has a different editor/writer each week. These courses tend to focus on Speculative Fiction, however, which may not suit you. Spec Fic is very well served with excellent courses that will really test you - in the States at least. There are shorter courses like Viable Paradise, for example, which use the Milford Method (as do Clarion/Odyssey): intense critiquing basically.

    The best course I ever did - which would have filled your requirements exactly - was the masterclass run by Kristin Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith in Oregon. 15 days in which you produce about 40K words of fiction, attend 30 odd craft classes, every night go through 'the game', which is based around the actual commissioning/publishing/financial life we all say we want. Great fun and utterly knackering in a good way. However, given how exhausting it also was for Kris and Dean, they don't do the masterclass anymore. But they still run some very good workshops, both online and in person. I'm probably going to an Anthology Workshop there in February. Check out http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=50 for more details, and drop me a line if you want to know more about anything I've mentioned here.
  • Re: Courses...
    by Anna Reynolds at 12:00 on 19 November 2013
    I think the Adventures in Fiction one is supposed to be good:


    any other recommendations?
  • Re: Courses...
    by EmmaD at 16:39 on 19 November 2013
    I'd agree with Terry that the mentoring thing is very different, in terms of developing you as a writer, from doing a course. And although it's lovely to have tons of close-up attention for you, personally, you gain vast amounts from - as it were - being involved in your course-mates' writing, interests, questions, problems.

    The thing is, your own work-in-progress will never actually lead you to learn all the things that you could learn, and will be the better for having learnt. A mentor-type teacher might set you some exercises for the specific issues that your WIP has thrown up, but mostly mentoring is about supporting you, setting goals, that kind of thing.

    One of the things I notice whenever I'm teaching a group, online or face-to-face, is just how often people hear me and - say - John discussing some issue that's come up in his work. We're talking about his novel, or his poem, but then or later it's Judy who says, "Goodness, I'd never thought of that but it's THE answer to my Chapter Three", or "I've realised that I need to think about the rhythm of my descriptive passages, like a poet" or whatever.

    It's a terrible cliché, but in a good class, most of the teaching happens by no one actually teaching: the students learn a wider range of stuff from each other, while I just stand back and watch, (and invariably learn lots myself) than they ever would have one-to-one with a tutor.

    Edited by EmmaD at 16:40:00 on 19 November 2013
  • Re: Courses...
    by funnyvalentine at 09:09 on 20 November 2013
    Yes - basically just here to agree with what's been said so far.

    I had written a lot before I did an MA, but the teaching and interaction with the other students was invaluable and helped not just my writing but reading too - which was wonderful.

    It sounds like this might be what you're after.
  • Re: Courses...
    by EmmaD at 13:00 on 24 November 2013
    I blogged about choosing a writing course a while ago, which might prompt some thoughts:

  • Re: Courses...
    by Elmo at 18:34 on 26 November 2013
    Hi Jawad,

    I know you're looking for an established course - but this new one might be of interest to you? We are established writers and tutors, at least! And we are very strict!
    We've been running a popular Craft Your Novel course locally for several years now, and have now devised an online version for 2014. It's a year long course, combining teaching with individual book coaching, and runs from January to December - the goal of the programme is to have a full manuscript by the end of the year...

    Might be right for you?! The website is:-


    All the best, Jane
  • Re: Courses...
    by jawad at 17:58 on 09 December 2013
    Thanks so much for all these replies, they have been incredibly helpful - more helpful than I could have inspected. I am going to apply to a few and see which I get.

    You all totally understood exactly what I was after.