Back to school!


06 September 2022
There’s always something new for writers to learn. Here’s advice to help you get the best results

It’s back to school time! And whether you’ve got school students in your family or your own schooldays are long behind you, the beginning of September always has that exciting ‘returning to learning’ feeling.

This is a time of year when we traditionally embark on learning something new – because as writers, there’s always something new to learn. Whether it’s brushing up on the basics or thinking about new skills we’d like to have in our toolbox, the idea of going ‘back to school’ is something all writers can relate to.

But what to study next? For many of us, this needs careful consideration. We all want to get the best value possible for our increasingly squeezed resources, in terms of both money and experience. For instance, is it worth spending on an MA when what you actually want to improve is writing supernatural stories? Would you be happier learning at your own pace, via distance learning, or do you want a more structured classroom regime? Are there specific areas that you’d like to target – for instance, concentrating on particular skills in a targeted workshop or webinar? There are so many options that we need to weigh up carefully how we’re going to allocate our precious resources of time (and money!) in order to get the most benefit from our next learning experience.

With so many options to explore, from webinar to full-time study, here are a few things to bear in mind:

1)    What do you want to learn?

Firstly, and most importantly, consider your learning priorities. If you’re a beginner, or starting to explore your writing, rather than committing to a long course, you might want to consider trying out a couple of short courses or workshops in areas that appeal to you, which would give you a taste and allow you to discover what you most enjoy writing and where your skills lie. If you want to concentrate on a specific area, ie, poetry, look at courses, classes and workshops from poetry specialists. If you’re at a stage where you can afford to dedicate a lot of time, money and energy to full-time study, then it makes sense to research longer courses – intensives from specialist writing organisations, postgraduate university courses etc.

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2)    What’s going to benefit you most?

Target what you invest in according to your specific requirements. If you’re interested in a particular area, ie historical fiction, crime writing, it makes sense to search out learning led by experts in that area – look out for names you trust, and book accordingly. If you want to improve your skills in a particular area, look for courses or classes that enable you to do that, from short story writing to how to craft a submission package.

3)    What’s the best learning experience for you?

Part-time study is more likely to fit into our busy lifestyles than a full-time course. But not everyone has the time or resources to commit to full-time, or even regular part-time study. Distance learning, that you can do at your own pace, is a great choice that can be worked into busy lifestyles. And many of us benefit greatly from one-off, occasional workshops and webinars that don’t require committing to a regular time.

4)    What learning environment would suit you best?

Are you a person who works well in a classroom environment? In a formal set-up with a tutor? In a workshop where the participants are learning from each other as well as the workshop leader? In a more relaxed place, at home or abroad, where there’s a holiday vibe? A designated week like the summer school at Swanwick? Or do you prefer to learn in your own home? Would you prefer a weekly class in your local area, or are you prepared to travel to a major town or city to take part in writing courses or classes with particular appeal for you, or to be able to study with a particular writing teacher? All of these things need to be considered as you research your next writing class or course.

5)    What do you want your learning outcome to be?

Do you want to end up with a complete novel manuscript? The experience of trying a new form or genre? Honing your skills in your particular area of interest? To complete a short story in a weekend? To make industry connections? Being provided with a structure within which to create new work? To rejuvenate your creative spark? All of these, and more, are wonderful reasons to sign up for a class, workshop or course – as long as you’ve done the homework to give you the best chance of getting the result you want.

At Writers Online, we’re big believers that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Writers are individuals and the process of improving your creative skills should reflect that – which is why we not only have an extensive series of Creative Writing Courses for writers who want one-to one tuition, but also a packed programme of online webinars. For lovers of spooky and supernatural specfic, the forthcoming Winter Haunts is our most ambitious offering yet – a virtual conference on 6 November with some of the biggest names in horror. And looking ahead to 2023, watch out for Writing Magazine’s 2023 guide to festivals and courses, with details of writing courses and workshops in the coming year – and hopefully a return of the Writers’ Lunch Club, our occasional Writers Online workshop series that got off to a great start earlier in 2022!

To see the full range of creative writing courses, and book your place, click here

Hoping to book on to a workshop? Here are five ways in which writers can benefit from attending a writing workshop.