Why Bother with Writing Courses by Sophie Claire

Today we are welcoming debut author, Sophie Claire to the blog.

I’ve always enjoyed going to writing courses and that isn’t going to stop now I’m published. Surprised?P1010220 - cropped small

A lot of people are, yet it was at a writing workshop that I came up with the opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, and that’s just one example of how courses have really benefited me and my writing. Here are some others:

They give you the chance to step back from your novel-in-progress and look at it in an analytical way, they make you think about overall structure and themes rather than the nitty gritty of individual scenes. I find that often in these circumstances, new plot ideas and insights about my characters come to me.

Then there are the workshop exercises. When you’re given ten or twenty minutes in which to write something, you jump straight to it – there’s no time to stare out of the window and consider the possibilities. You’re given a task, and you simply put pen to paper and write! There’s something about the urgency of this which fires up my brain and opens up new ideas, leading to breakthrough moments like the opening of my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex.

Her Forget Me Not Ex-1 coverI’d had the back story for two characters, Luc and Natasha, in my head for while – I knew they’d had a passionate affair followed by an accidental pregnancy, shotgun wedding, then a miscarriage and a hasty divorce – but I couldn’t think of a reason to bring them back together again and start the story in the present day. Yet I knew that fundamentally, they were meant for each other. Then I went to a workshop about conflict. It was run by my local writing group and we did several warm-up exercises, then were asked to write a scene in which two people wanted opposite things. The opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex landed in my head and wrote itself: Luc walks into Natasha’s shop desperate for her help; whilst she is horrified and certain that she will never, under any circumstances, become entangled in his life again. It raised so many questions – why hadn’t Luc told his family about the divorce? Why was his father so adamant he wanted to meet Natasha? What would persuade her to go?

I came away from the workshop buzzing, and desperate to get started on the story. It was a lovely feeling, and that re-energising effect is what I love most about writing workshops. They inspire you, they reconnect you with why you started writing in the first place, they spark fresh ideas.

Before I was published, I used to love attending residential writing courses like this one Writers’ Holiday because they gave me a short-term deadline (my long-term deadline was to submit a finished book to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme each year) and motivated me to complete an opening chapter for critique. Getting feedback on a new project was invaluable, and gave me faith to carry on with the idea and finish the book. I also made wonderful friends on courses, including my critique partner whose feedback is priceless, and Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas!

Writing workshops can be useful no matter which stage of your writing career you’re at, and that’s why I’ll grab any opportunity to go to one!

Thanks Sophie! And Forget-me-not Ex is available from Amazon.

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16 thoughts on “Why Bother with Writing Courses by Sophie Claire

    • Sharon, the course in question was run by my local writing group so it wasn’t an expensive one – just goes to show that inspiration can strike anywhere!

  1. I agree, Sophie. As long as you choose well, writing courses and workshops can be very useful. I’m currently writing book number 11 but going on a crime writing course this autumn to help up my suspense level!

  2. Thanks for your lovely post, Sophie. I love a good writing course too and am looking into taking some more soon. I’m so glad that your courses have helped and really found you the break through moment with Her Forget-Me-Not Ex
    Alys xx

  3. Great post, Sophie, it’s been a while since I’ve taken a class like that and it’s reminded me that perhaps it’s about time I did so again. Good luck with your novel, it sounds like a great premise, so I’m off to check it out now 🙂

  4. I’d love to go on a writing course, Sophie. I’ve looked a couple of times before but most courses I’ve looked at have been purely for beginners so it’s finding that balance. I think it’s great to keep learning x

    • Hi Jessica. You do have to choose carefully, but there’s lots out there for more experienced writers. The literature festivals are a good place to start – they often run writing workshops.

  5. Hi Sophie,
    Lovely to hear from you on the blog. I agree, writing courses can make us think about our stories and writing techniques differently, and as you say, allow us to step away from our WIP, which is sometimes the best thing we can do. I think learning is an ongoing process for any writer.
    Congratulations on the publication of your book!
    Helen J Rolfe.

  6. I love writing workshops too. It gives me a change of place to kickstart new ideas. I find them most useful at the start, when the plot is still just a couple of characters and an idea.
    I would LOVE to go to a writer’s retreat – no chores, no day job, just writing for a whole week. Or even a weekend! But they’re out of my budget. One day. One day.

    (Being cheeky, but, if you live in the North, Jane Lovering and I are doing a one day course in York in October (priced at £80)… http://wp.me/p1PUds-Oc. We’ve pitched it for beginners, but will probably adapt it according to who turns up. I tried to make Jane promise not to wear the onesie to this one. I’m not sure she was listening.)

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