Can creative writing really be taught?

There are a number of creative writing courses popping up, some at Universities, some even being run by Literary Agents and Publishers and others by authors, including myself on 18 June at Quay Arts Centre, Newport, Isle of Wight, when I will be instructing on How to Write a Crime Novel.  But can creative writing really be taught?

All writers approach their work differently so there is no right or wrong way of doing it. Some plan their novels from start to finish others improvise as they go along.  I tend to do a mixture of both. I have a rough idea of the plot and a few characters sketched out then then I get cracking on the novel and wait for the characters to start talking and moving about, which in turn drives the plot until a shape begins to emerge. On courses you can pass on tips and the technicalities of constructing characters and plot, you can provide guidance, inspiration and motivation. You can give advice on writing dialogue and pass on the tricks of the trade, but the only way to 'learn' writing is to write, and to read. Reading helps you to understand what shapes novels.

I have never attended a creative writing course but my whole career has been spent writing. I have written advertising copy, brochures, web sites, press releases, articles, business books, training material and everything in between!

In doing so I have learned about the nuances of language, how switching the order of two words can change their meaning, the impact of how words look on a page and how they sound when read aloud. I enjoy experimenting with words in my crime novels. And while you can learn technique, no one can create a 'voice' for you, that only comes with practice and experimentation. You also need patience and persistence and the discipline to sit at a desk for hours on end and put words on to a computer screen or on paper.  Then you need the critical ability and ruthlessness to edit  and polish.

Above all though you need to enjoy the art of writing and creating for your own sake, no one else's. If publication comes that may be a bonus for you but it may not be essential to every writer. It is hard to believe but, yes, some people do write for pleasure. I'm looking forward to meeting the delegates on my writing course on 18 June and discussing the writing process with them.

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