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Creative Writing Courses- worth the money?
44

Hubblebubble100 · 08/09/2021 10:46

I am currently working on my second thriller but I am considering doing a writing course eg Faber and Faber or Curtis Brown. From research these two seem the best. They have a good number of authors who have got publishing deals.

Of course I will need to be selected but these courses cost £1800 to £4000. I am thinking of a £1800 one for 3 months but would need a loan off family. As a result, I am scared it will be a waste of money.

The other cheaper courses on offer at Faber and Curtis have no tutor feedback at all and no agent feedback either.

Does anyone have any experience or advice?

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Wilma55 · 08/09/2021 10:51

No experience but there is a free course with the OU (future learn). Dont know if it's any good.

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PeriWrinkles · 08/09/2021 11:09

I'm not a writer but work in a related profession and have done dozens of courses. Very few are worth the money, and those with no tutor support are a total waste of time (unless for your own enjoyment). I now find free resources online and get tailored 1-2-1 help for a few hours when I need it.

If you're patient enough to plough through forums, blogs, youtube etc you are bound to find some useful pointers amongst all the dross.

What you need is constructive feedback and openings with publishers, surely. If this is your second thriller, how did the first one go?

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Zilla1 · 08/09/2021 12:24

It depends what you want to do the course to achieve or improve and why you write, OP, and if there are other ways of achieving the same end?

Is it to improve your writing? In what way?
To secure access to agents and publishers if your work is close to sellable and you don't have these links?
To get feedback?
To be forced to write regularly with the external focus of the schedule?

Good luck.

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Zilla1 · 08/09/2021 12:25

FWIW, the two you mention seem have the best industry links in the UK, except for the UEA creative writing degrees.

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HollowTalk · 08/09/2021 12:30

Any writing course will help you develop your skills. Someone I know has just done the CB course and said it was useful but that at the end they just leave their work with the agency and will be contacted if anyone's interested.

Where are you up to with your writing? What would you want from the course? I found reading a wide variety of How To books was really helpful. I didn't learn anything on my MA except in the workshops or with visiting speakers. It did make me focus on writing for a couple of years.

The other thing I found really useful was analysing books in the genre I wanted to write. I looked at the length of the book, the number of characters, when they were introduced, any twists and where they occurred, the clues gives throughout and the red herrings. I learned an awful lot from doing that - it's a bit like buying a great dress and unpicking it and seeing how it's made.

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HollowTalk · 08/09/2021 12:32

I'm not sure industry links are needed. Anyone can submit a book to an agent - yes, saying you've been on a CB course will make them interested at first, but then they will wonder why CB didn't take you on, if you were so good. It's the first three chapters and the synopsis that gets them really interested.

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Soma · 08/09/2021 15:41

@Hubblebubble100 a friend won a scholarship to a CB course, she said it was really good, and one of their agents read her first three chapters.
I don't think anyone on the course was offered representation. Friend said it was no better than somewhere like City Lit or City University. Have you workshopped your first novel? Have you edited and polished it? If its ready you could submit to agents.

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Hubblebubble100 · 08/09/2021 15:44

I basically want a course that can help me get my writing to a sellable standard.

My first thriller got some positive feedback but did not pique any agent interest as my first 3 chapters were all over the place. I was told there was just too much action.

Faber and CB seem to have the best industry links but would a 3 chapter analysis from an editor costing circa £250 be as good?

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Zilla1 · 08/09/2021 22:30

A poor comparison as if you were analytical then you'd learn about your writing from the edit feedback but perhaps the edit might be more the purchase of a fish and the course being taught how to fish?

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HollowTalk · 08/09/2021 23:03

The problem is that you could get the first three chapters sorted but what about the rest of the book? It's very unlikely that it's only the first three chapters that are the problem. Plenty of people have an agent asked to read the whole manuscript after being interested in the first three chapters, only to find the agent then rejects the whole lot.

Do you feel you have a problem with the actual plot or with your writing itself?

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Hubblebubble100 · 09/09/2021 07:13

@Soma thank you that’s very helpful.

I have had positive feedback about my writing but did wonder whether a course would be the magic wand to elevate your writing completely. But there are other options to explore.

I must admit it is cost that is prohibitive and I suppose that is why I am hesitating. With that in mind I think I will explore low cost and no cost options thoroughly first because I can’t afford to pay such prices for these courses.

When it comes to costs, I am haunted by a writer I met at a writing festival years ago. Turned out he used to write for kids TV and had written for one of my favourite shows, so I was a bit excited meeting him.

Anyway, he had been made redundant and had turned to novel writing. He’d written a novel 6 years ago. During the writing of the novel and in the time after, he had attended every course and writing festival available. I did the maths and worked out he’d spent £15,000.

His novel had still not found an agent or publisher. He’d moved back in with his parents and was now temping but still utterly believed in his novel.

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Squiblet · 11/09/2021 11:57

I have had positive feedback about my writing but did wonder whether a course would be the magic wand to elevate your writing completely. But there are other options to explore.

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand. Lots of really good writers get passed over. It's a lot to do with the fashion in publishing, and what the agent is looking for at that particular moment. It's frustrating, but there it is.

Still, it's great that you want to work on improving your writing. There are lots of avenues, including free online advice. So many good bloggers - Emma Darwin, Jane Friedman, Tanya Gold, Louise Harnby, Lisa Poisso, Jami Gold - and sites like Helping Writers Become Authors or Writers' Digest.

good luck!

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QuestionableMouse · 11/09/2021 12:04

There's enough good free resources out there that you absolutely don't need to pay that much for a course. Twitter is a fabulous way to make contacts and there are various events such as pitch mad that are free to take part in. Save your money.

I'm just about to hand my MA thesis in and honestly, apart from having the qualification, it was a waste of time and money. The uni offered no industry contacts (despite the fact they used that as one of the selling points), there was hardly any feedback outside of the student workshops and that feedback was limited and I don't feel like I've learned anything.

Save your money.

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Zilla1 · 11/09/2021 12:12

@QuestionableMouse I understand you might not want to identify the course especially if the year group you are in is tiny but grateful for a confirmation if you are willing to. Otherwise could I ask if it's UEA or Goldsmiths?

What are your plans for literary success after you graduate?

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QuestionableMouse · 11/09/2021 12:18

Teesside University. Not the one I really wanted to attend but various things happened that meant I needed to stay local. (and had to turn down my place at UEA ☹️)

Went to an open evening and feel like I was seriously mislead on the course!

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IWorkinPublishing · 11/09/2021 12:19

NC for this - I work in trade publishing and the ones that have most impact are the Faber and Curtis Brown ones.

When manuscripts come in for acquisition, the Curtis Brown course still has the most heft as so many alumni have gone onto big things. It's the more commercial of the two, particularly for crime.

They've lowered the entry requirements (it used to be around £4K) but it still has lots of gravitas. Courses like the OU don't have as much impact.

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IWorkinPublishing · 11/09/2021 12:20

To add - the UEA course is very highly respected but tends to produce more literary works.

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Zilla1 · 11/09/2021 13:09

@QuestionableMouse thank you. good luck and I hope you achieve success sooner rather than later.

@IWorkinPublishing thank you. I did see UEA had a 'crime fiction' stream and struggled to imagine the collision between UEA's 'literary fiction' environment and a purely genre course. I'm sure it works well and I know some authors transcend their genre. Pretentious I am, I started to read CJ Sansom after I read a review in the Time that said it was much better than genre fiction.

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Hallomother · 11/09/2021 16:21

I’m about to start a CB course so am happy to report back on how I find it!

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Hubblebubble100 · 11/09/2021 20:22

@Hallomother please do report back! Would love to hear how it goes.

@IWorkinPublishing Thank you for your insight, again really helpful to know how these two courses are perceived in the industry.

@QuestionableMouse Sorry to hear about how your course panned out but really appreciate your honesty here. It certainly helps when making a decision.

@Squiblet Am looking up those names as I type!! Great pointers!

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Wordywordy · 12/09/2021 07:53

Who gave you feedback on your first thriller? Was it the first book you’ve written? Are you a member of any writing groups? What books on the craft have you read and tried to put into practice?

This is good on self-editing: www.amazon.co.uk/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Browne/dp/0060545690?tag=mumsnetforu03-21

This is good:
www.amazon.co.uk/Stein-Writing-Successful-Techniques-Strategies/dp/0312254210?tag=mumsnetforu03-21

Do not borrow money to do a course you can’t afford.

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Cactusandmarshmallows · 13/09/2021 00:45

What are the short CB courses like? I’m thinking of one of the 6 week ones - editing

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Snugglybuggly · 13/09/2021 00:58

There are many free CW courses online

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Trickytroggle2 · 14/09/2021 07:00

@Hubblebubble100 and @Cactusandmarshmallows I've done a short CB course, and really enjoyed it. It was the Starting to Write your Novel one though, so at a different stage in the process to both of you. Each week there were recorded videos on a topic to watch, and then a task to complete which you post onto the forum for your course. So most of the feedback was through peer review, but I found that more enjoyable and helpful than expected - I think there is a lot to be gained by reviewing others work too. It may be you continue as beta readers/cheerleaders for each other after the course, which is also valuable.
There was some tutor feedback - each course has an editor or author who will review a few tasks each week, and they guarantee you will get at least one piece of feedback (but it could be more depending on cohort size/engagement).

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Trickytroggle2 · 14/09/2021 07:07

@Iworkinpublishing
That's interesting - do you mean the longer selective courses rather than shorter courses too?
I'm surprised the courses have any weight at acquisition...I can see mentioning a selective course might on a querying letter to an agent may encourage them to pick up the query quicker, but my (limited!) understanding of the publishing process is that by the time the novel has got to acquisitions it's already generally been through an agent and then an editor, and the acquisitions decision is related to whether the publishing house feel the book will sell, so that decision would be based on the book as a course wouldn't affect a readers decision to buy a book?

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