In the world of writing and publishing, I am learning as I go. It’s interesting and enjoyable and there are lots of people willing to help the newcomer, often out of kindness, or because they’ve ‘been there’, but often also as a way of making a living ( and there’s nothing wrong with that ). There’s a whole industry out there. I’ve done some very good courses and purchased some useful tools – some mentioned below – but, if you have been in this market place for any length of time, most of what I am about to say in this blog won’t be news to you.
Creative writing courses help ( I used to teach one many, many years ago ) and provide a ready-made support group and lots of contacts for the new writer, plus the ‘certificate’ or qualification at the end. Lots of writers come to writing in this way. Most people have heard of the famous UEA course, with its Booker Prize winning alumni, but there are smaller institutions, shorter courses and on-line versions, which can also be useful. For folk who work full-time there are one-day events and classes, some of them very good ( I can recommend the self-publishing Guardian Masterclass I attended one weekend for those in the UK ).
Then there is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the annual writing exercise, which takes place in November, to encourage people to write. Lots of writers begin with this, it’s an inclusive and supportive way of getting folk to write and it provides a structure for making sure you do so. For people who want to write a novel, but don’t think of doing it professionally, this is a good way to start. Then who knows – a lot of people find they like it and can’t stop.
But it’s still up to the individual to write and write and write some more. There are short-cuts and varying degrees of discipline, but what cannot be taught or bought is the actual experience of writing, of improving technique and skill, of gaining a deeper understanding. I had used to be slightly impatient with writers, even well-known writers whose work I admired, publicly focussing on the writerly process. Call it inspiration, discipline or what you will, I thought it a form of navel-gazing. Which it is, I suppose, only now that I write, I find it fascinating. But that’s all I’ll say about that ( readers might, understandably, share my previous attitude ).
I will mention the industry around promoting and selling books.
One can take courses on everything from using targeted advertising on Facebook ( Mark Dawson’s course, as discussed here on Reedsy ) to crowd-funding book-writing ( becoming more common, look at the Crowd-funding web-site or sites like Unbound ). Often people use their success to parlay even more success, in telling others about how they did it. Many products and courses are useful short-cuts, often of the technological variety, like Joel Friedlander’s templates on book design at The Book Designer. There are also the associations which I have mentioned before like Alli and the Author’s Marketing Club.
But there are also on-line sharks, who promise much and deliver little. As a rule of thumb, if the individual pushing a product isn’t prepared to let me see how it works and to provide independent endorsement, I don’t touch it. The best will happily share a little and, if a product is successful, there will be lots of users prepared to say so – that’s the way the web works. There are also folk who offer a product which, once you get a little bit more knowledge, you realise you didn’t really need. It pays to be sceptical as well as positive.
One can spend a lot of money. even at the bona fide, useful end of the market, so I’m very selective. I attend courses when I need what’s on offer and, otherwise, have availed myself of the reams of free advice and guidance available. That’s just common sense and one doesn’t need a course for that ( ? ).