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Choosing a creative writing course: a how to guide

Are you struggling to decide whether to pay for a creative writing course? In the past, I have been in the same situation. It is a problem that is only going to get worse as technology allows the number of online and remote courses to expand. At first glance, they all seem fantastic, with a multitude of fantastic outcomes. As a result, it can be difficult to know how to choose a creative writing course, especially as they all seem so beneficial! To help, I have put together some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you fork over your money.

6 things to consider when choosing a creative writing course

Time

How much time do you have for the creative writing course?This isn’t just about the amount of money you want to shell out (although I will cover it). You should also consider the value of your time, and the impact that the course will have on the rest of your life. There is little point starting a course that you then have to drop out of because of other commitments.

The true cost of any writing course will be a delay in the pace of the writing you are currently doing. You should be prepared to put a project on hold for the amount of time it takes to finish the course. It may be possible to write all the course assignments as well as your existing work, but it’s more likely you’ll end up short-changing one or two of them.

I’ve spoken about effective time management before. As a writer, time is the most precious commodity you have. Writing is not a quick hobby. It can take months to get a piece of work written – and that’s before the rewrites. You might have family or work commitments, or you might have other hobbies and demands on your time. Maximize your time by maximizing your productivity.

Don’t try and fit it all in. You’re only human!

Far better to do one thing well than two things poorly.

Price

How much does the creative writing course costThe monetary cost of any creative writing course is another factor you need to consider. You really shouldn’t be going into debt for a writing course. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, so save the money up rather than sticking it on a credit card. This might sound like me telling you how to spend your money, but it comes from experience.

Value for money

I wish it was as easy as cost/outcome=value. On every course and every bit of training I’ve ever done, everyone comes away with a different outcome. Some people love the subject matter and think they have learned a lot, while others will not have engaged with the presenter and feel the whole thing a waste of money.

One way to prevent entering this lottery of value is to choose the course wisely. By knowing what the course offers and what the outcome will likely be, you will have a better idea of whether you will find it useful.

A quick note on debt – My masters course was great. But I relied on the loan far too much to finance it. I ignored levels of savings, pushing to join the course as soon as posssible and taking on a lot of debt in the meantime. Although I graaduated, in order to survive those 18 months I had to take part time jobs and cut out a lot of trips and visits that I would have liked. Balancing everything was a struggle, and was a distraction that I could have done without. Don’t fall into the same trap I did!)

 

The subject matter

Each creative writing course vary in the outcomes they offer. Some will claim to show you how to ‘break into the industry’, ‘write what TV companies want’ or ‘sell that script’. Others will concentrate on the craft, helping you create characters that work, or strong, sellable storylines.

Before you start looking at all the options available I recommend you sit down and start with the person who is most important in all this – you.

What about your writing do you need to improve? Have a look at your latest feedback feedback from writing competitions or beta readers and see if a common theme emerges. Alternatively ask someone you trust to look over your most recent work and give you one or two things they think you should improve on. Challenge them to think big, ignoring (for the moment) spelling and grammatical mistakes. This will let you see where you could do with a top up.

Now, with a bit more specificity on the area of your work that you need to improve, start looking for writing courses again.

It will now be easier to discount the courses you don’t need and find the training that better addresses your areas for improvement.

The presenter

who is presenting the creative writing courseWho is delivering the course? A little like social media experts, writing experts appear almost daily. Some come from a long and distinguished career, spanning stage, screen and everything in between. Some have read a book about writing and fancy making a quick dollar off hopeful but naïve people. Of course, you want to make sure that you are being taught by the former, rather than the later. Especially if you’re giving them a significant amount of your income.

But it’s not just the length of career that’s important. Someone might not have had Broadway success, and they might be starting out in the trade. You might never have heard of them before. However, they might have really strong links to a local theatre, or a local theatre group. This might let you get a good idea about what local theatres are looking for in terms of writing, or it might just allow you to start a relationship with people who you need to know.

Feedback

We are living in an increasingly review based age. Most of us are unwilling to buy a TV, a vacuum cleaner or even a kindle book if we can’t find a positive review of it first. So, if you’re still unsure about the course you have in mind, try and find some reviews of the course, the tutor or the institution offering it. If you can’t find them, ask the presenter for some references from people who have taken the creative writing course before you.

I’m not adverse to a little feedback myself. Post a comment below, connect with me on Facebook or twitter, or send me an email on my contact page.

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