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 and experience of the person doing the teaching. Does it match your particular needs?

I look for someone who has a background in teaching/mentoring writers, and/or has had their own work published. Where possible, I read reviews from others who have attended the course.

The second tip? Be honest with yourself about how thick or thin-skinned you are about your writing.

Ideally, any feedback you receive in a workshop or on a course should be kind, objective and managed sensitively by whoever is in charge. And writers do have to come to terms with people telling them what they think of their work. But, if you currently feel any negative feedback like a burn (we all do at times, believe me), and you’re not ready to share your work with a group, choose a format that makes you feel less exposed.

 

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. When you go back and read it again after you've been writing for a while, you'll realise how much it taught you.

Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors - Bill Bryson

Oh, my goodness. My 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.