Should You Do a Writing Course?

First, let’s tackle the question that is uppermost in many aspiring writers’ minds: “Do I need to do a writing course to sell my writing?”

No. Absolutely not.

I have never done a writing course (the kind with assignments and feedback). Yet I’ve now had published (or have in production) around 56 books for children, half a dozen ghost-written titles, a co-written book on networking and self-promotion, dozens of articles, short stories, and even short poems for kids. Besides that, I’ve written promotional material for businesses and business professionals, speeches, blurbs for posters, educational materials, web site copy and more… the list is long.

How did I do it?

  • I always loved to read. Like most readers, I tend to ‘absorb’ the rhythms of the language, correct grammar and punctuation, and the conventions of many different writing genres – mystery, romance, suspense and so on. (There’s a very good reason for so many people advising you to write what you like to read – you “know” the genre without having to study it!)
  • I started buying “how-to” books on writing and marketing early in my career. You can learn pretty well everything you need to know from these books. The trick is USING what you learn. There are a lot of would-be writers out there who have groaning shelves full of how-to-write books – but who do very little actual writing.
  • I subscribed to industry magazines such as The Writer’s Digest and The Writer. I photocopied and filed the articles in relevant categories. Over time, I built up a considerable collection of ‘how-to’ articles.
  • I attended writing workshops and joined professional associations. I volunteered to be on the Committee of one of these professional associations. In that capacity, I made lots of contacts – editors, agents, and authors.
  • I joined writing support groups. I never actually started one of my own, but that’s not a bad idea if you want to have the support of a critique circle.
  • I WROTE. I experimented with fiction, articles, non-fiction and fiction. I wrote for adults and children. I found out what I liked to write and what I didn’t like to write.
  • I treated writing as a business. I’ve always invested in my writing career – by buying books, attending workshops and conferences (in Australia and overseas), buying good quality equipment and, in recent years, establishing an internet connection.

Should YOU Do A Course?

What was right for me, however, may not be right for you. I had always excelled in English at school. I loved to write stories, from the time I was a child. I knew I had a good grasp on the mechanics of the English language. I was fairly certain that I could “teach myself” to write.

As it happened, I was right. BUT – If I had done a course, and received quality feedback on my work, I may have started getting my work published a bit sooner. A course involving carefully structured lessons and good feedback can show you what you’re doing right and where you’re going wrong early in your career.

As a tutor for several correspondence courses in writing, I have seen countless variations of the following comment: “I thought I knew how to write. But when I kept getting rejection letters, I decided to enrol in a course to see if that would give me any insights into why… I found out there was a lot I didn’t know! Some of the mistakes I was making seem so obvious now!”

So, even though you think you know how to write, you may discover that:

  • Your style of writing is somewhat outdated.
  • You haven’t fully grasped the requirements of the particular genre for which you’re writing.
  • You are making mistakes in grammar and punctuation that you weren’t aware of.

A few simple ‘tricks of the trade’ can take your writing to a whole new level very quickly.

The fact is, many of us can’t “see” what we’re doing wrong – until it’s pointed out to us. And this is the case even if we’ve read advice about that very thing in a writing “how-to” book! If you are not having a lot of luck with your submissions, then a writing course could be just what you need to speed you on your way.

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