Rough over the Smooth

creative_writingI’m aware that I’m lacking something some other authors have – training in the creative writing field.  From the point where I came home from ‘graduation’ clutching my CSE/O-Level certificates (oops, showing my age there!), I have always been on my own when it comes to writing and what I know about it.

So you could say that, as an author, I’m self-taught.  Okay, I learned the usual stuff any other kid has to learn at school from ABC onwards, and while I was always okay at spelling, aced the ‘How Many Words Can You Make Out Of ——‘ type quizzes, I was never brilliant.  But, despite that, deep inside me was a burning desire to write.  In fact, not write, but transform the ideas constantly flowering in my head – give them a life beyond the fleeting one my mind provided.   Writing was just the way to get them out, record them, turn them into stories, and ultimately books.

But I didn’t really have the skill, not then.  Some might say not now either.  I say :p to that.  Yes, it crossed my mind to take a creative writing course – on several occasions, in fact.  There were various reasons why I didn’t, from financial to time, to even finding a course in the first place.  So I never did.  I had to learn the long way round.  And it took years.

One of the best tools I eventually found, one that made it far easier to get over myself and start actually thinking about what I was writing, was YouWriteOn.com.  Anyone who knows me will probably roll their eyes at that.  I’m always harping on about it, precisely because I found it so valuable.  Through the community there, the opportunity of reading other developing writers’ work and having my own work read, I started seeing what works, what doesn’t in a piece of fiction.  I learned the rules, tips and tricks which must seem obvious to those who have done a writing course, but were to me a revelation.

So I’ve been thinking (again) lately about maybe attending a writing course myself.  The Open University runs one, and the local college.  But while pondering the idea, I was aware of some hesitation beyond the usual financial/time constraints which have stopped me in the past. It took me a while to figure it out.

I like the way I write.  It may not have the ‘structured’, traditional style I’d have if I completed a writing course, but it has a distinct style. My style.

What was going on for me in considering a course was a fear that I might lose that distinctiveness in the smoothing-out process it would give me.  Would my books shine brighter for becoming more typical of the rest of the book world?  There’s something to be said for that.  Style’s fine, until it gets in the way of the story, and, to be frank, I’m so close to my books, I can’t tell if mine does or not.  Or would it lose something – become dull, without those raw edges?  The style I have gives my books a unique texture (or so I like to tell myself).  I don’t want to lose it.  But I don’t want to put readers off because that style doesn’t appeal to them.  It’s a head-scratcher.

I accept that I would learn a lot from a Creative Writing Course, but I don’t want to become a factory product, churning out books that could have been written by any number of people.  Is that the cost of seeking success?  Or would style, uniqueness and individuality survive being run through an off-the peg course?

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2 thoughts on “Rough over the Smooth

  1. Several of my friends are professional writers. None of us ever did any courses. We’ve ‘hosted’ them – but never attended one. You learn to write by writing. A course would give you the writing equivalent of a ‘how to paint by numbers’ course.
    (And I always wanted to say to the people who attended (and paid a lot of money for the privilege), ‘Why are you here listening to me when you could be at home writing?’)
    I know a couple of people who attended Arvon courses and they LOVED them. One went three times! But they’ve still never sold anything.

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    • One thing I would say to emerging writers is – Do not sit at your computer with a list of bullet-points pasted to the wall in front of you. You are not writing a thesis, you are writing a novel.
      Go with it.

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