Beefing up your Skills

Are good writers born or made? Discuss in under twenty words. Alternatively, spend your time more productively by doing what you do in all other areas of your life where you want to improve your skills and deepen your knowledge – read a book, take a course, find someone who knows what they are talking about.

On these pages you’ll find some resources that I hope will help you. I can’t promise they’ll definitely make you a better writer, but can say that the people offering the expertise are well worth listening to.

There is a little space here to give you a couple of tips about choosing workshops and courses.

The first is, check out the expertise. Not yours, the teacher’s. If you’re paying, it’s a particularly good idea to see if you can find reviews from others who might have attended the sessions. At the very least, you should satisfy yourself that those running the workshop or course have the right level of teaching and writing expertise you need.

The second? How thick is your skin? In an ideal world, feedback about your writing should be kind and objective and well managed by the course provider. In practice, this might not be the case and you should think about how happy you are with others critiquing your work. If you have the hide of a rhinoceros and can soak up anything, that’s fine. If you feel negative feedback like a burn, perhaps choose a format that doesn’t make you feel so exposed. Don’t be afraid to ask, before booking, how things are organised.


Skills - Books

Self-editing for Writers and Editors - Renni Browne and Dave King

I've used this a lot. Written by two professional editors, it is full of great advice, lots of examples and practical exercises. I find it's one of those books that really benefits you to read again after you've been writing for a while and it makes you go, 'Ah, yes, now I really, really understand what you mean'.

Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors - Bill Bryson

Oh, my goodness. Word nerd love for this book is strong. Bryson describes it as a personal collection, built up over thirty years as a writer and editor in two countries. All shot through with Bryson's humour. Very useful for those tricky words you're not sure you're spelling, or even using, correctly. Or to find out if place names have changed. Or why 'advance planning' is a redundant phrase. Sorry ... I may be dribbling ...

Creative Writing: A Workbook with Readings - Linda Anderson, Derek Neale

This was recommended by a writer friend who found it particularly useful during her Open University studies. It is described as ‘A complete writing course that will jump-start your writing and guide you through your first steps towards publication … it offers a practical and inspiring section on the creative process … an in-depth coverage of the most popular forms of writing, in extended sections on fiction, poetry and life writing … a sensible, up-to-date guide to going public … ‘
The book offers exercises and extracts from contemporary and classic writings to demonstrate a range of techniques and comes from a team of published authors who have also taught successful writing courses at a wide range of institutions, including Lancaster University and the University of East Anglia.