‘You can’t teach someone to write,’ is a commonly-voiced canard. Actually, you can, and it’s what primary school teachers do. Teaching someone to write fiction, or to write good fiction, is a bit of a tougher proposition. Is it possible to learn how to write fiction? I hope to find out.
Over a year ago I began work on a novel, fizzing with ideas and hope in my heart. It’s still underway, and I’ve committed more than 50,000 words to paper so far. But I’ve begun to feel like someone who wanted to do some woodwork, picked up a hammer and began work on an ornate cabinet. There’s been a lot of hammering, but it doesn’t quite look like a cabinet yet.
The woodwork analogy is deliberate – I do think writing is a craft. As a junior reporter, I learned to write a decent, punchy news story. That training served me well for many years. Now that I’m attempting something different, I’m not too arrogant to appreciate that I could do with sharpening my tools and learning how to design something many times longer than I’ve written before.
A three-day intensive course with the Faber Academy in Bloomsbury whetted my appetite. The fabulous tutors, Sarah Dunant and Gillian Slovo, both acclaimed writers themselves, taught me so much in a short space of time. I decided to take the plunge with a weekly night class, running until the summer.
At the first Tuesday evening this week, I met a roomful of people with widely differing experiences, ambitions and ideas about writing. What we all had in common was that we thought we could use some help. We’ve been set our first exercise, and I’ve decided to experiment with posting my exercises on this blog, so feel free to let me know what you think. They’ll all be on the Fiction page.