Articles, Miscellaneous

Start Writing Fiction: Halfway point

I’m now halfway through the 8-week course Start Writing Fiction that I have undertaken as part of an initiative to gain more insight into the craft behind my writing, and it’s been going quite well!

It’s weird, but on reflection I definitely feel that I’ve penned myself into a corner as a “sci-fi writer” – it’s too much of a comfort zone! Part of the challenge I feel this course is opening me up to is that fiction can be the genesis of even small and seemingly-insignificant situations, and it’s the writer’s job to interpret those as the basic planks of a story to which to attach a convincing plot and dress with their personal cares and beliefs. Thusly, some of the exercises I have undertaken have had me drawing on even fleeting details to create mini-stories and characters.

To me, this is quite refreshing and enlightening, and this revelation alone – that I can indeed stitch a story together that is out of my comfort zone of science fiction, the otherworldly and outlandish where I am cocooned from a sense of reality – means the course has achieved its desired purpose. I’ve been quite surprised to learn that crafting characters is actually quite easy once you have a mantra behind how you do that – are they just names in a situation or is the situation centred about them?

One thing the course has really drilled home is the sense of a “writer’s notebook” being a source and repository of ideas. I still find this notion a little romantic for my liking – sure, I’d love to sit and draw ideas for characters for an afternoon but unfortunately life has a certain regularity that does make this a bit impractical. I will definitely be investing in a brand new notebook after the course concludes however, as I feel that despite my latent reservations, nothing ventured, eh?

Week 5 of the course gets to the real “meat” that I’m interested in – creating vivid and believable characters! I plan to post a couple of the pieces of short fiction I’ve written so far as part of the exercises this coming weekend, so keep an eye!

Actually, an afternoon people-watching isn’t such a bad proposition now I think about it…


FutureLearn: Fiction Course participation

On the behest of my good friend Gary I’ve signed up for FutureLearn’s “Start Writing Fiction” course.

This is an online-based course that aims to help people get writing, with a focus on the central skill of creating characters. This seems a great idea; often in my work I feel my characterisation is my weakest skill. Usually I’m great with concepts but less successful creating characters to experience those concepts (usually I find my own characters to essentially be cardboard cut outs, to be pulped at my whim).

Even as an established writer, I feel it’s great to be able to take opportunities like this to get a better sense for my craft and hopefully learn some new skills so I can write better things in the future! If I can say at the end of this I’ve learned some new ideas for making my writing better and more enjoyable for readers, I’d say it’s a success!

The course is free and estimates to require around 3 hours a week commitment for 8 weeks. I’m of the opinion that anyone with a predilection and passion for writing should at least give it a go; there’s no monetary commitment needed and even the busiest of busy people should be able to find three hours a week to better spend learning something creative!

I’ll hopefully post a couple more posts as the course goes on to highlight my progress! But I’m seriously looking forward to this – it’s a new direction after all!


Starting Uni – What It Means for My Site

So next month I’ll be starting my Open University course studying English Literature and Creative Writing (a slight but I feel important course correction if you forgive the pun!); I wrote previously about how I came about deciding to embark on this endeavour and fair to say I’m both excited and extremely nervous but it’s something I want to put my all into.

Seeing as this website has been a pretty effective vehicle in hosting my writing and being a cart onto which to load my thoughts about writing (and, yes, the eventual, intangible realisation that writing is something I want to do professionally) I figured it would be only fair to say how my studies will affect the output you see here.

While my studies are going to be a priority for my free time, I’m definitely aiming to keep the publication of short stories and project updates as business-as-usual as possible; I’ll try to put up a new short story once a month or thereabouts. I’m also aiming to chronicle my journey through the Open University with monthly posts. (Like my website updates; these’ll probably fall into the category of “academic updates”)

Certainly, disappearing into a bunker for the duration is an option but one I don’t want to pursue. Studying doesn’t mean giving up my hobbies and pursuits; indeed, the former would never have happened without the latter and working on my ‘casual’ writing projects is as important to me as my studies. I’m studying to professionalise my talent and make my work better! Also, I feel maintaining a foothold in my other pursuits is important for giving me a bit of variety – burnout is not something I want to experience!