Wednesday 13 February 2019

How to Make the Most out of a Writing Course or Workshop

Guest post by Becca Parkinson from Comma Press

Writing courses and workshops can be a fantastic springboard to advance your writing, whether you’re stuck in a rut or looking to experiment with a new form but looking for further guidance. Here are some top tips compiled from feedback we’ve received from some of our writing course alumni:

Use deadlines to your advantage – If you’re an infamous procrastinator, there’s nothing like a deadline that isn’t self-imposed to motivate you. A group deadline can often force you to write when you’re struggling and will push you to focus your mind on writing. Often writers don’t allocate enough time to their craft, but participating in a long-term course can help change your lifestyle to create time and space for writing, and allow it to become more important to spend time on. A deadline can also help you dive back in after a long pause, get back on the horse etc.

Take confidence from feedback – For many, a class environment can be nurturing and supportive and can gently encourage your work-in-progress. As we know, constructive criticism is key to improvement, whether it’s from your peers or a knowledgeable tutor. Let it give you the confidence to develop your ideas and narratives further. Sharing your work with others can be scary, but it will be hugely productive for your writing.

Get to know your peers – A number of people who attend our courses do it to make friends and meet their local peers who also have a passion for writing; often they can be people who become vital during and when the course is over, to bounce ideas and drafts off, help you edit your stories and make you aware of writing opportunities such as competitions, call-outs and further learning. 

Discover new authors and stories – A syllabus and/or reading list is a great tool to push you out of your comfort zone. Reading new authors, styles and genres can be like hitting refresh on your writing and help you find a new and improved voice. Also going back to basics and learning about different types and structures of various forms will open up an entire playground of writing techniques to you.  

Comma Press runs six-month courses which specialise in the short story genre, and are delivered by a knowledgeable and esteemed writer. Over six workshops, you'll become familiar with short story narrative structures, and be able to apply them to your own work. Structured, peer-driven feedback and personalised tuition will contribute to your completion of three short stories. We make our courses as accessible as possible: they span the UK and take place routinely throughout the year; you don't actually need any previous experience - just enthusiasm for short story writing.

There is a course taking place in Leicester which begins in April 2019, led by Dr Rebecca Burns: Rebecca Burns is short story writer and novelist. Her work has been published in over thirty online and print journals, and she has won or been placed in many competitions including the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition, 2013 (winner and runner-up in 2014), Black Pear Press Short Story Competition (2014, winner) and Chipping Norton Short Story Award (2016, shortlisted). 

Her debut collection of short stories, Catching the Barrmundi, was published by Odyssey Books in 2012 and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award, the UK's only prize for short story collections. Her second collection, The Settling Earth (2014), was also longlisted for the Edge Hill. Her third collection, Artefacts and Other Stories, was published in 2017. Her novel The Bishop's Girl appeared in 2016 and her second novel, Beyond the Bay, was published in September this year. 

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