I recently completed this 12-week course and I can highly recommend it. Megan is a great teacher and I was always disappointed when it was time to go home! This is the first writing course I've done and I'm really glad I chose it out of all the groups that are available. Megan provides a huge amount of course materials for you to work on during the sessions, and then sends you home with a handy little booklet recapping what you learnt that session, plus ideas for how to apply those points to your own novel. By the end, you have 12 booklets to remind you of everything you’ve done, along with a selection of the worksheets you’ve completed with the group so you can use the same ideas at home when working on your own writing.
Usually I am very private about my writing and don't share my work, but doing this course helped me to realise the benefits of sharing ideas with other writers. Even though you don’t directly discuss your personal work, it's great for building up your confidence in talking about your writing in general, and really opens your eyes to how beneficial it is to discuss things with others. It was a really supportive group and a thoroughly enjoyable 12 weeks. Tea, biscuits and colourful felt-tip pens provided :)
I can't recommend this course enough. Megan is a great teacher and the structure of the 12 weeks really gets into the important part of writing a novel – storytelling. This isn't a course on prescriptive grammar or a set of rigid rules to follow for developing a work – it's a series of exercises, experiments, games, and discussions which explore the full length and breadth of what goes into a novel. By the end of the course we had, as a group, an enormous pile of ideas, plots, characters, and concepts (which we could take home with us!). If you want to write but aren't quite sure where to start, or how to get ideas, this course is for you. If you're already writing and aren't quite sure where to go next, this is also for you. If you've got that one idea you've been playing with for years but never quite got around to writing down – well, I'm 10,000 words into mine.
I signed up for Megan's Novel Writing course having not done anything like this before. I had no idea what to expect and quite honestly on the first lesson almost drove away again through blind panic! I am glad I didn't, because this course has taken me from being a shy, nervous writer behind closed doors to a happier, more confident writer who has actually started submitting things!
Megan carefully planned a well structured week by week course around all the elements of building a novel, and although it's quite fast paced and expectations of you are quite high, you end up absorbing much more than you thought you would and by the end you realise just how much you gain from a mere 12 weeks. This isn't a course on how to write prose or find your voice, it is for people who need a bit of help with the elements of novel building, techniques, what goes where and how to structure the full package of a novel.
The environment is incredibly supportive, relaxed and informal yet the pace and exercises keep it feeling professional and constructive. Megan provides an enormous wealth of materials and activities which are effective because they are structured and fun and she makes it clear what the outcome should be for each one. Megan has a huge bank of knowledge in all things writing and by working with her and the group of students together it makes for an inspiring and brilliantly fun experience.
I would recommend this course for anyone wanting to develop their story building knowledge and to get inspired to write again. I wouldn't recommend it if you think you already have a vast knowledge of plot layering, characterisation etc and just want to write.
I have attended several writing workshops over the years and this one-day workshop was by far the most enjoyable and useful. It was supportive without being prescriptive.
The well-prepared activities balance collaborative, imaginative fun with practical approaches for developing believable characters and solid plots. These activities, with visual and physical elements, help to make the process less abstract and more manageable.
Megan's classroom experience is evident in her supportive, inclusive manner and high expectations. I was absorbed by the activities and only later did I realise quite how much ground we had covered and how many new ideas and strategies I was taking home with me.
On the one-day course, writers are asked to share their current writing projects for group discussion and developmental activities. For me, these exceptionally helpful for unlocking characters and plot from their synopsis and in bringing a fresh and optimistic perspective to the whole project.
I found it to be an inspiring, informative and professionally organised workshop that was also enormous fun. I recommend it heartily to fiction writer who is looking for constructive organisational tips and creative stimulation.
They say everyone has a novel in them. There's just one problem... getting it redrafted, edited, perfected and published. In fact getting the damn thing plotted and written would be a good start. But most people have to face down a variety of demons in their writing, often because they suddenly realise they don't know where it's all going.
It's easy to think you have the plot all figured out, but if it isn't there in enough detail to tell you where each scene is going, what the plot sub-layers are, how everything will come together and when, what each character's point of view is, and all the myriad other fiddly bits you'll need to know, then it isn't really a plot yet, just the idea for one. At this point you might need help in knowing how to focus on each area in turn – what questions to use to cross-examine your ideas.
Megan Kerr uses practices from TEFL training, including meticulous planning, pacy lessons and clear objectives. There are several underlying tenets to her teaching: first off, an expectation of rigour, which makes everything simultaneously harder and easier – harder in the short-term but easier in the writing. You can't plot and write well both at the same time, so the key is in the groundwork. Second is the wonderfully basic assumption that writing novels is perfectly normal.
Much of the class-time we work in groups. The results are frequently hilarious, and the combination of collaboration and speed really prevent anyone being precious about writing. Working as a group also means most of the tasks feel like games, even the ones that don't involve dice. Homework assignments are manageably short so you can fit them into your week.
Many activities help you to visualise ideas and thought processes: how to lay out plots, how to check your tension is in the right places, using forms and questions to see where current holes are and how to plug them. And in all this a slight obsession with felt tip pens is seen as an advantage, not a handicap – here are displacement activities which will positively help.
The processes build up, so this week one of our quick tasks was something that took more like an hour a couple of weeks ago. Each week I feel simultaneously pleased that we're getting a stage further, more skills in the arsenal, and sad that it means we're closer to the end. In that respect it's like a very good book.
Of course in class the exercises are idealised, and transferring those ideas to your own half-thought-out novel can be harder. Think army medic, learning First Aid in a nice, clean operating theatre, but actually performing it on a makeshift bed in a sandy cave in the middle of battle.
For the one-day workshops you are expected to have some work in progress, and part of the day is spent with everyone focussing on each other's novels, making suggestions and applying activities to particular sticking points. For the 12-week course you just need a will to write – most of the practice assignments will use the (frequently extraordinary) ideas cooked up in class. If you have other things you're dying to work on all to the good, but it's not vital.
As you can probably tell, I would really, really recommend Megan's novel-writing tuition. I've always loved frenetic games of Balderdash and Consequences, and the zany haste of the Improvised Musical on Radio4, and so I find Megan's games and the group-orientated nature of the classes great fun. To be doing that sort of thing and learning too, feeling your own writing steadily coming under your control, that is heady stuff.
Jen Pawsey (DI Reviewer)
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