Writing Courses: The Complete Writing Course (Intermediate) – London

Power of WordsIt’s been a while since I posted something here. Not that I haven’t thought about it but life has gotten in the way a little bit…doesn’t it always?

That is not to say that I haven’t been working on my writing skills. Last I posted, I was about to start my Intermediate Writing Class with The Complete Creative Writing course people. Another 6 weeks course where you delve a little deeper in the areas you touched on with the Beginners Class. For this course, we mostly dealt with authors Naomi Wood (who got her second book published whilst teaching us, to great acclaim too) and Howard Cunnell. I like both their teaching styles very much, although they are very different from each other. Course founder, Maggie Hamand took care of one of the sessions (on Plots, as it is her favourite area). I can only recommend giving this a try as it is so important to be able to get feedback on your efforts. In combination to the course, I am reading Larry Brook‘s Story Engineering (which I have mentioned previously). I find this book really easy to read and it goes into really interesting and important details on “how to” do things, without preaching too much. In class, although we get 3 hours, you don’t get to go into too much details but what you get is the opportunity to do exercises and that most important of all: feedback. Of course, you get what you put in. If you don’t do the homework or volunteer to read your efforts, then you get less out of it.

I am grateful that I have such a great group of people (most of them whom I have met at the Beginners Course, but not all) werewolf-realas feedback is always done generously and constructively. We are all in the same boat, right? I have to confess though, that sometimes I do feel a little tentative as most of the other writers (I shall call them that) are much more poetic and deep in their writing. I feel really silly when I have to read an extract where I have werewolves or witches chasing each other. I seem to be the only one in my group interested in Fantasy. They all seem to go into more meaningful and deep type of writing…Gah! I have been too bored senseless by French literature when I was a student to try that myself.

For the course, we had to commit to a writing project – each person had their own one – and mine was to write 1500 words per week, pick one project out of all the started ones I had and have a short story ready for the end of the course. This Saturday is the last class and so far I have met all my targets but one: I haven’t got a finished first draft. For 2 reasons:

1. I kept re-writing the same first 3 chapters, discovering by Chapter 3 that I didn’t like how my story started…

2. Because I am reading Story Engineering and there is a strong emphasis on planning, I decided not to write v.5 of my story before I actually had an outline, if only a brief one

So Saturday I am going in there without a completed story (well that’s not entirely true – I have actually managed to write a really short, short story) but I am ok with that. I can look at the tutor in the eye and said “I made that decision knowingly and not because I procrastinated”. That’s not to say I didn’t procrastinate a bit…Well, you can’t give up the bad habits this easily. I do, however, have a notebook full of ideas, plot points, back story, characterization, etc. My Google Drive is also full of characters, settings and scenes notes. Once I have figured out what it is that I want my heroine (at least I know that bit) to do, then I should be able to write a first draft in no time…at least that’s what Larry promises.

Let’s see how this will work out for me.

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The one about Writing Tools

I am following a couple writing blogs here and also via Google+ and one of the recent subject of conversation was: what do you use to write?

I thought I’d share what I use and like with my writing ideas, I am a little scattered here as I use several different tools:

I have a plethora of notebooks and always make sure I have at least one in my bag in case I get an idea on the bus or I have five minutes whilst waiting for a friend. I use my notebook in several ways: I jot down ideas, I write whole scenes or synopsis for a new story and I stick pictures in for inspirations. I find that if I have a picture or drawing to refer to when I want to describe something, it helps me a lot. Of course I make small changes here and there as it doesn’t always match my overall idea of what a character or a setting looks like.

Then I also use Google Drive…I have a gazillions files at the moment because every time I have a new idea, I create a new document. I have created some folders for each idea and each has subfolders as such:

  • 00- Goals/Objectives/Deadlines : this is where I keep the synopsis, breakdowns of the story, overall goals etc)
  • 01- Characters : I keep a master sheet with all the character and their overall role, Major character sheets and minor/recurring characters sheets
  • 02- Maps/Settings: it’s all about the world my characters live in, what are the rules: physical, religion, social, politics etc…
  • 03- Scenes : when I create a scene for that particular story, it goes there ; and finally
  • 04- Research: any link, photos, bits of information that I use to help with my story goes there

When I create a scene that doesn’t fit any of my existing stories, I plop it in a folder called “Randoms” in the hope that at some point I’ll be able to use them somewhere.

For the moment, I am able to keep track because not of my stories go really far. I have this problem of starting strong and then I fizzle out because I have no idea what my characters want and then a new idea forms and I start again. I know, I know, I have to pick one and really run with it and see where it goes but what can I say? I am fickle and it is what I need to work on.

I have, however, seen loads of comments about using writing software. The top choice seems to be Scrivener but all the reviews seem to hint that it’s better on a Mac (and I can’t afford one of those) and I am not ready to spend $40 on a software that I am not sure I am going to need. Also, my laptop is currently on its last leg (still on Windows Vista) and it’s so slow that I usually spend at least half an hour cursing at it when I power it up…I know I have to buy a new one and I think getting a paying software before I upgrade would be silly.
I have in the last few days read about a free software (I like the sound of that, thank you very much) which is Windows specific and designed by a computer programmer who is also a writer. It’s called yWriter and I have downloaded it at the weekend. It’s still early days and I think it takes a little time to get used to but if you have a big story and lots of scenes to track or characters etc, I think that a good cheap alternative before you decide you are really serious about it and want to invest in something more flashy. A friend of mine also use Snowflake but if you don’t want to fork out $40 for Scrivener, then I guess the $100 for Snowflake won’t hit the mark either – by the way, apologies for putting all the prices in dollars, it appears that the software are only available from American sites.

So what about you?