Lucy and Todd

Letter to an aspiring writer

In Atelier Work, Our Students Vouch for Us on October 4, 2018 at 12:44 pm

I’ve never encountered a book on creative writing that I thought was any good. Full stop. The time you can waste reading such things is much better spent in reading fiction, which you have to do a lot of. And in order to feel good it has to be methodical, to an extent.

 

Pick an author in whom you are interested and read everything he or she wrote, in chronological order. Observe the methods and take notes.

 

Take notes on everything, come to that, and be sure you always have a pen in your hand.

 

Make an effort to read fiction that you would not ordinarily encounter – run around in the library and put your hand out at random.

 

Make an effort to familiarize yourself with non-English fiction – after the French grabbed off the novel from the British, it went through staggering transformations in Germany, Japan, and South America. One needs to know that.

 

Read poetry (for freedom) and drama (for dialogue).

 

Whatever you read that you like, copy it out, by hand, large portions of it. A paragraph that does something for you, a chapter. Much can be learned in this way. I have known writers who copied out whole novels and learned at least one technique that way – of course they had to make the process their own after that.

 

There are three books that come to mind that offer an approach both to reading and writing, from a usefully oblique angle, and these I have used in teaching. They are:

 

The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound

I Wanted to Write a Poem by William Carlos Williams

Six Nonlectures by ee cummings

 

As far as looking for a creative writing program at a college or university goes, I don’t recommend it. Almost all of these are lazily taught and depend on ‘workshops’, which means that you get a lot of useless, uninformed opinion on your work. If, however, you are interested in a particular writer, and you can find out if that writer is teaching somewhere, that may be different, if you can get enough ‘contact time’. At MA level, look not for ‘taught’ MAs but programmes where you write and work with the tutors one-to-one. They’re rare.

 

TMcE

 

 

*******

 

 

WRITER’S RETREATS IN EDINBURGH   

We offer structured writer’s retreats in central Edinburgh, offering peace and solitude in a very pleasant, quiet B & B.

Come and talk to us about an ongoing project. Or use the opportunity exclusively as time and space to work on your own. Editing is really a form of companionship, and we can tailor our editorial input to your particular needs.

Costs will be separately itemized, and will include accommodation, and any editorial meetings you decide you need.

This might best suit a writer who wants peace in which to finish a large project, or a chance to talk over a substantial piece of work in depth, in person.

Contact us at fictionatelier@gmail.com for more information.

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