1. On the first day of your course you will be handed the key to a secret door. It opens on to a candlelit corridor, which leads to the Library of Writerly Wisdom. Here, you will find a wise old wordsmith. When she beckons to you, lean in close and she will whisper in your ear The Secret of Writing. From that moment on you will be able to write scintillating stories with no effort at all.
2. That doesn’t happen. But that won’t stop your friends and relatives from sidling up to you and asking for The Secret. Clearly, at this point, it would be very immature to pass them a slip of parchment covered in hieroglyphics.So obviously I’ve only done that five or six times. Eight at the most.
3. Writing courses might not give you magic formulas, but you do get support, constructive criticism and advice.
4. It’s the criticism that is priceless.
5. Writing courses are great places to make lovely friends who enjoy the same things you do and never say stupid things like ‘I haven’t read a book since school’ or ‘Who’s Meg Rosoff?’
6. You learn as much from reading other people’s work as from writing your own.
7. Sometimes someone in your critique group won’t like your writing / understand what you’re trying to do / be able to read your words without making vomiting noises. This is all good preparation for the real world where similar things happen.
8. You’re going to have to do writing. Up until I arrived I’d been hoping that the teachers on my course would be able to peer directly into the misty depths of my imagination so I wouldn’t have to actually put pen to paper and then we could all agree that I definitely had the potential to write something. One day. That scenario was blown out of the water when my tutor’s first words were, ‘Let’s start with a quick writing exercise.’ What now? Here? In front of people? Didn’t he know I had a lengthy preparatory process involving three cups of tea, saying a prayer to JK Rowling and making passive aggressive comments until my family left the house? Fortunately, writing courses, and their deadlines, are brilliant at increasing productivity.
9. You’re going to have to show people your writing. I know. The first time it feels like you’re stripped naked while everyone sits around discussing whether you could stand to lose a bit from the saggy middle. But it does get easier and remember number four.
10. Everyone I’ve ever met who attended a writing course agrees that it was more than worth the money.*
*Please note that I mix with super-sophisticated individuals who all attended recognised courses with qualified tutors, and not the kind where they guarantee you publication and ask you to send your pin number and a map of where to find the spare back door key.
Candy Harper is the fourth of five sisters, which means she still eats with one arm shielding her plate. There are enough children’s books in her house to build a fort, but she absolutely hasn’t ever skived off work to do that.
Candy’s first book The Disappeared is a dystopian thriller set in a school where the teachers are kept in cages for their own safety. Her latest book, Have A Little Faith is about 14 year old Faith, who is in big trouble because her head of year seems to think that she is always blowing stuff up and giving supply-teachers radical haircuts. Whereas, as Faith points out, it was actually just that one time. Faith’s diary charts her blood feud with her teacher, her attempts to ignore the immaturity of old people, and her quest to find herself a boyfriend who knows how to have a good cheese fight.