Obviously, we can learn the rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. We can also be told how to present a manuscript (double spacing, wide margins etc) and make sure we include a self-addressed envelope. But can anyone tell us how to grab an idea and turn into in a story?
I think it is possible to teach someone to write a competent short story. Most people can grasp the basic rules, such as:
- Keep the number of characters to a minimum
- Keep the time frame short
- Use just one ‘scene’
- The main character must resolve some sort conflict (internal or external)
But to rise above the ‘competent’ and produce a tale that really sparkles (and will attract the attention of editors and competition judges) requires some sort of talent or creative leaning. It may be a hidden talent that we don’t know we possess until it is honed by the production of several stories, each a little better than the last – so practice is just as important as anything that can be taught.
So, is it worth going on a creative writing course? The answer is most definitely yes!
The benefits of courses often far outweighs the number of ‘writing rules’ that might be taught. Being with like-minded people, even if only for half a day, will fill you with enthusiasm, give you the opportunity to meet new friends and make you more determined to continue down the rocky writing road.
But unfortunately writing courses tend to be expensive – unless you can find a subsidised one taking place in a library or similar place. However, all is not lost because it is possible to win your way on to a course with the following competitions:
- The Arvon Postcard Competition is offering a first prize of a one week Arvon course. Send in a piece of flash fiction or poetry that describes your favourite writing place (seems like a big prize for few words!) Closing date 21 May 2011.
- The Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is running three competitions, two of which offer a free week at the 2011 Summer School as their first prize. The first is a short story on the theme ‘New Beginnings’ and the second is 1,000 words of a children’s story. Closing date is 30 April 2011.
- Leaf books is running a travel writing competition with a first prize of a beginners’ travel writing course (in London). Send a 300 word piece of travel writing before the closing date 30 April 2011.
- Nature of Wales is offering a place on the nature writing course at Tŷ Newydd as the second prize in their competition (first prize is £500 cash). They require a thousand word article on a subject of topical environmental or wildlife interest in Wales. Closing date 31 March 2011.