Great courses and resources for writers and free!

I have always been a great advocate of adult education, I gained my own qualifications as an adult. A BA with the OU at 30, an M.Sc at 50. The latter from Birkbeck, where I studied part-time, while also working full time in Adult Education.

Knowledge to me is about ’empowering’ people, we should all have access to life long learning. But with more cuts in adult education eg. Sussex University community education programme, the recession and the high cost of courses in general, this is less likely to be the case.  Writing courses in particular and ‘how to books’ have sadly become an expensive industry!

Youtube fills the gap!  I have often put films on youtube, but somehow I had never thought of  looking for resources for writers on it before. So with the intention of pulling my memoir and two drafts of a novel out of the draw, I dedicated a whole evening to watch a  range of creative writing programmes, choosing the ones that had writing a novel in mind.

Some had irritating background music, in others the presenters had very annoying voices. A few  appeared to feature very inexperienced writers, or they were too ambitious with the content. The ones that follow are  gems.

Some of the best on Youtube for creative writers and all free!

1. Ian McEwan’s – A series and all brilliant,  in terms of presentation, skills and knowledge offered.

I loved the idea that he does a lot of hiking and thinks that the rhythm of walking is like the rhythm of thinking. This film is just one of a series ‘Ideas and Inspiration.’

2. Creative writing master class – from the Scottish Book Trust – part of a series. This one is about characters  – Keith Gray gives each one – a talent and an ambition, a friend, an enemy- someone the protagonist is trying to avoid…he asks us to consider what the character carries in their pockets.

3. Anthony Horowitz this one offers 5  tips.

4. Jacqueline Wilson  quick tips,  a children’s writer, but  the ideas are good for all writers. One of a TV series of authors offerings for 500 words.

5. A plotting lesson – A different approach from a guy (could not find his name on the site) but who gives a really useful visual plan, as to how to organise the stages in the story. Excellent!

6. Mary Carroll Moore – well respected author, rather fast talking American who gives the nitty gritty of how she works,  with useful visual charts and information on structure and story boarding. 

7. Margaret Atwood  talks about her creative process. Interesting view on setting. 

8. K.M Weiland – A preview for her book really, she is younger than the rest an american and if you like her style, gives lots of useful advice about outlines and creative writing in general.

You could spend the rest of your life watching endless youtube writing sites, instead of writing, so be warned!

But why not watch the programmes above with a writing buddie (friend) or even set up a little writing group where watching some of these programmes are part of the writing process?

Writing courses and groups

Obviously going on a good course or finding a well run writing group means you’ll meet like minded people, will be encouraged to keep to tasks in hand, share details for competitions and routes to publication.

Usually drafts of poems. stories or chapters of novels will be read and benefit from constructive criticism. These groups are a matter of ‘horses for courses’ so you will need to check them out, to find the one that suits you best.

Courses – On the negative side, a tutor may be a wonderful writer but not so good at teaching!      Best to check a tutor out on line, get a course outline from the centre and ask around, to see if you can find someone who has attended the course and  can tell you how they got on.

In terms of groups, some seem to set endless exercises and participants don’t seem to move on and finish anything. It depends on what you are looking for, writing is very solitary and if a group serves a social purpose, why not!

Beware however of very competitive groups, or where one or two dominant individuals like the sound of their own voices!

Best ask if you can attend a group once or twice, before you commit yourself!

Not free but good value courses I have attended.

Bridget Whelan at the Friends Centre – a published author who will advise about the route to publication and usually marks at least one assignment.

John McCullough published poet, very personable (teaches Creative Writing for the OU) and poetry locally. Not sure where he will be teaching next!  Maybe New Writing South?

Without his course during my first year in Brighton,  at Sussex Uni. I would never have had the nerve to publish my poetry book. ‘Don’t Throw Away the Daisies’ or submit two or three poems for publication elsewhere.

Wendy Greenhalgh runs courses at Evolution in Brighton.  She is an experienced tutor, young and lively,  so if you like her style – go for it! It is usually possible to sign up for one of her taster days at Evolution Arts.

I love Evolution for all sorts of courses, tasters, short courses etc. It’s  a hidden gem in Brighton and as run as a charity,  so nearly always cheaper than anyone else. (see my other posts on Evolution)

Last but not least,

Wendy Hughes a published writer runs a group in Worthing – contact the Library for details.

Courses in general –  Arvon, these are  expensive,  but as they run on charitable funds they give generous grants. But still be selective with the tutors you choose check them out on line. (I have got a few posts on Arvon but mainly in relation to poetry)

If you use any of this information proves to be useful do give me some feedback.

Thank you.


youtube resources for poets see

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