Advanced Creative Writing Course

Although I have been a bit quiet lately in there, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked, but I have been writing…although as usual, I am stuck at Chapter 3.

Yesterday I started the next level of my writing course, the Advanced one. Not that I think that I have the advanced skills already but the format is slightly different. It’s more about getting actual feedback for your writing and less about been “lectured” at, although there will be a teaching element to it.

Everyone at the course will have a chance to be “workshopped” twice. This means that twice, you have to come to class with at least 2,000 words (or about 12 mins reading time) of something you have written has part of your project. Ideally, something that isn’t working so you get can feedback from the tutors and peers that will actually be useful.

I am off next week so I won’t get to see how it works and then I am next up…I am a little nervous about this. Not that I fear I won’t have time to write anything, I already have enough material for my current project but mostly because everybody else in the class seems to be working on “serious” novels and I am going for pop/trash novel style. How will I be able to talk about freaking werewolves and vampires after others will have told semi-historical biography about their ancestors! Gulp! I feel a little silly already.

My project, if I dare sharing it, is an urban fantasy story. I can’t really call it a novel yet as I am not sure if I have enough material to write a full fledge novel. Maybe a short story or a novella? It will have romance (of course)…I like a good dose of sexual tension, although unlike some of the writers I see around the Kindle “playlist”, I am not automatically keen on raunchy sex scenes. No I am not a prude, I just prefer a kick ass fight scene. It will have action (see previous comment), it will have werewolves and some other supernatural races and it will be based in London. Write what you know, right? I would find it quite difficult at this stage to base my story somewhere I don’t know well (or at all). I could invent a new town I suppose but I have enough obstacles as we speak.

The plan is to write it using both my male and female lead POV….that’s the plan anyway.

I still need to work at my structure as I am not entirely sure what I want to happen, the how or the when…Yeah, tall order. I do have some nice set up scenes though…well, at least I think so…for now.

On another note…I have started to read Stephen King’s “On Writing”…it’s a mishmash of writing tips and autobiography…I am actually enjoying it more than I thought I would.

 

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The one about Reading

I have just completed my first creative writing course – if you are in search for something not too long and engaging, I recommend The Original Writing Course by Maggie Hamand (in London only).

It’s short (6 weeks) and it’s not too expensive and the group is small enough (12-15) that you get your opportunities to contribute regularly. Anyway, this post is not really about the course  but more about a couple things that got highlighted for me.

I have discovered two important things on that course:

1. Everybody thinks their writing sucks,

2. Although I am avid reader, I am a lazy one!

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About point #1: it’s pretty much the first thing that Maggie tells you and she tells you that if she put a jar in the middle of the table at each of the classes and made people put a £1 every time they said that, she could retire easily already. Now, somehow, this is kind of reassuring. Then she makes you write a little exercise and read it out loud to the rest of the class…The first time you have to do that, you are petrified…by the end of the course, you volunteer happily to read what you have written as the feedback from both teacher and peers is invaluable and always supportive. No one will tell you that you suck (except maybe that little voice in your head)…they will point out what they like and what they may have done. It’s all very fulfilling and civilised. But I digress (I do that a lot, sorry).

This post is meant to be about point #2: I am a lazy reader.

In a previous post, I explained that I grew up and was educated in France. What I didn’t say was that I chose to do a literary orientated Baccalaureat (O’Level type). This means that whilst in high school, the focus of my classes was on Literature (and Languages). In France, unfortunately that meant French literature only…I studied Philosophy (Voltaire, Rousseau, Descartes, Sartre) and the French classics (Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant, Hugo, Baudelaire, Raimbault) and for most part, I have enjoyed it – although I have hated the part where you have to say what the author was trying to say and I really, really didn’t like Flaubert (sorry Mrs M). What I didn’t get to study and I feel is missing somehow in the curriculum are classics and popular authors from other countries – although I did have to do a Kafka (brrr….) when I was in 5th grade (that’s 2nd year of secondary school in France, so I was 13-14). I never read Jane Austen, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Du Maurier, etc.

I could have done that of my own accord I give you that…but this is where I admit that I became a lazy reader…and also I think, I resisted so much the principle of being forced to read certain books at school and having to dissect them so they stopped being fun, that anything that I didn’t see as pure entertainment, I shied away from…and now here I am, nearly 40 years of age, I feel I am an under achieved reader and that maybe it will make me a poorer writer. So here is another thing for my 2014 bucket list: I must read a book from one of those authors listed above per month. That shouldn’t be too hard considering the amount of commuting I do every day, as long as I get it on the Kindle, I’ll be fine.

Now I need to decide which classic I need to start with…any suggestions (fyi: poetry is out, I really, really don’t have the mind for it)? I have a little over a month to decide and a couple books to finish until then.

The one about the love of books

I was given my very first book for my 10th birthday by a family friend. Until then, I had only read books that I had to for school and sometimes I even pretended I had without really doing it. I was more interested in climbing up trees than reading. That book, I remember it well. It was from a French children collection called “La Bibliotheque Rose” (The Pink Library” which specialised in authors for children up to 12 years old. The book was part of a series by a former French actress turned children books’ author, Cecile Aubry. The book title was “Poly en Tunisie” (Poly in Tunisia) and revolved around a little pony detective…yes, I know weird but it is for children. I wasn’t really keen on reading it but after my nan’s friend asked me for the second time if I had read it, I felt obliged…and POW! The floodgate had been open. I devoured that book quicker than I ever thought possible. From then on, I couldn’t stop…my mother had a collection of Nancy Drew novels (she was called Alice Roy in French) which I went through at a crazy speed. My nan was chuffed and it became a thing. Every trimester, when my school report came in and I had good marks but more importantly good comments, my nan would take me to the book store and I could pick one book to add to my Alice collection. By the time I was 15, I had pretty much completed the collection (or so I thought). I come from a small village in France so the book store had a pretty limited stock.

With my teenage years came my first attempts at writing my own stories. Strangely enough, although I enjoyed reading detective stories, I seem to only write romance stories. Nothing to write home about though…although I would have to read them again when I get the chance. I did write some poems too…although I have never liked poetry, so I don’t know why I felt inclined to write some.

Then I became a young adult. My taste in books expanded to include fantasy and sci-fi but not much else. I particularly disliked non fiction. With the start of my working life, I stopped writing. I didn’t have the time or the energy anymore…I didn’t pick up a pen to write anything until much later. By that stage, I had moved to the UK and become fluent in English. My passion for books hasn’t faltered and now that I can read book in English, I rarely read in French anymore (I find French writers too pompous and the last thing I want to do is read a translation). In fact, I practised and perfected my English not by taking classes here in London but by reading YA books alongside a notebook and a small dictionary. My first book in English took a couple of months to read for I had to stop and check words every other word. My second book went faster and so on until I could read a whole book without checking words in the dictionary. It was an awesome way to improve my English and it has served me well as most people wouldn’t guess now that I only became fluent in my late twenties.

Since then I have read dozens of books in English, including a few which I had read in French as a teenager (The Lord of the Rings is one of them).

Now if you know life in London, one thing that most people lack here is space and unfortunately, as I actually hate libraries (not the space itself but the fact that I have to give the books back!), I ended up with piles of books everywhere with no place to put them. It was even more noticeable when I had to move flats and realised that I had more boxes with books than clothes…I just couldn’t keep them all…so I donated them to the local library (just because I don’t like using them, doesn’t mean I am against what they represent). I was starting to build my stock again which I would probably have to give again when the world’s greatest invention came within my reach…All hail the Kindle!

People who haven’t tried one and who like books often say to me “oh but I love the feel of a book, I just couldn’t” and to them I reply, you can still have books, just maybe those that really matter to you. I have kept my LOTR collection and my Harry Potter books, but for anything that is not as important to me, Kindle has saved me…it has also allowed me to read authors that I probably would never have tried because of the cost of books. When a book cost £8 a pop and you can read 2 a week (especially in the Fantasy section where everything seem to be a saga!) it can become quite costly and you become more picky about what you buy…when you can download a book for £0.77, you are more willing to try someone untested. And I love that I can also use the Kindle App on my iPad or my Android phone for free. All the books I have bought are there in the Cloud and all I have to do if I want to read one is download it to the device…and it will sync all devices to the same page so even if I started to read the book on the Kindle and then ran out of juice (it happens to me regularly. As the Kindle doesn’t need to be recharged for a few weeks, when it does, I am never near a plug!). Can you tell that I really, really, really love Kindle? 🙂 I am constantly downloading new books, some I haven’t even had time to read yet but it doesn’t matter because they will there, ready for me whenever I am without me having to remember that I am about to finish one.

Since that day I read this children book to please my Nan’s friend, I have never looked back. This was probably the most meaningful present I ever got. I tried to do the same for my younger sister and young cousins and disappointingly they never got into it…I am hoping that I can get my nephew and niece hooked when they are old enough.

And now, I am learning the techniques so maybe one day, it will be my name on the cover…