We’re all published and practising writers and editors. We understand the demands of the worlds of publishing and screenwriting because we work in those worlds; and we know what you need to do as new writers in order to develop your own writing practice because we were once new writers too.
We are also experienced online teachers, working in universities in the UK and US as well as with recreational writers. We recognise the need for accessible and enjoyable learning for writers not looking for an accredited masters degree, so we developed these courses to match the level of learning with your needs, and at a pace that fits in around your day-to-day life.
An online course is a distinct experience and is not designed to replicate face-to-face learning. We know from our experience of teaching writing that online courses offer many advantages and often a faster progression than face-to-face study.
Our online courses are tightly structured, yet flexible enough for you to fit them around your day-to-day life. The course materials are available 24 hours and past sessions remain open throughout the course, so that you can re-visit podcasts, videos and tutor notes whenever you need. Your work, and others’ responses to it, are archived on the site, so you can look back on your progress. Above all, you get far more individual feedback from your tutor and peers, and the chance to develop your own community of fellow writers. And, of course, you can study wherever you are in the world.
Your tutor devised your entire course. He or she will have created the structure, planned the progression of the topics (the pace of the course), and researched and written the materials needed to guide you from an initial idea to a well-developed piece (whether that’s a short story, the beginning of a novel or an episode of a TV drama). Our tutors’ ability to do this is based on their own extensive practice as writers and producers as well as their experience of university teaching online and face-to-face in the UK, US and Middle East. Tutors are continually revising and developing the learning materials in light of student’s responses – both in forum conversations and in the work they produce.
It’s easy to underestimate the time your tutor needs to read and consider your work in order to give useful feedback. During each session, he or she drops into the forum most days to make sure everyone is progressing well. Your tutor also reads all work posted to the forums, making notes that feed into individual and group discussions. These notes also help your tutor track your progress and developing skills, so they can offer their help, if necessary, either in the forums or through a personal email. So, if you don’t hear from your tutor you can assume you are working to your best, and doing what you need to do to progress through the course and meet the end goal.
We find many of our best writers and screen storytellers emerge from our online teaching, rather than face-to-face teaching. This is because online learning encourages you to develop a regular practice of writing and critiquing, which in turn improves your judgement and self-confidence. Our experience has shown us that this approach works, particularly for people new to writing.
It’s almost impossible to edit your own work when you’re starting out, but by critiquing others, you become able – with time – to turn a sharp lens on your own work and become a much better editor of your own writing. Critiquing others creates self-sufficient practitioners who can switch between their ‘creative’ and ‘editorial’ brains, a vital skill. Put simply, it helps you develop a keen eye for what works, and what does not.
Peer critiquing is a pedagogically sound method. We know that when our students actively engage in critiquing, they learn about their own skills as a writer more quickly and soundly because they’re actively putting those skills into practice. This is why we base our approach around peer critiquing. We’ve perfected this method through the face-to-face and online university writing courses we’ve developed and taught.
The value of critiquing your peers will become increasingly apparent as you work through the sessions, but it includes receiving thoughtful individual feedback to every exercise you do, becoming part of a close-knit group of fellow practitioners you can trust to give honest and insightful critiques, and feeling supported through common writing hurdles, from lack of time to writer’s block.
And while you can’t take your tutor with you after the course, you can take this group of supportive peers. Many of our alumni are still ‘meeting’ virtually to share their work many years after completing their original writing course.
If you are offered a place on one of our online courses, you need to think carefully about what you expect from the course before you enrol.
The courses have been very carefully designed by writers and teachers who have extensive experience in delivering online writing courses. It is intended to develop the skills we believe are essential for good writing and story creation, including:
• advanced technical skills
• discipline, independence, and confidence
• reading and critiquing skills
The model devised for our courses uses a combination of peer and tutor feedback. You will not be given detailed tutor feedback on every piece of work you submit (there are mentoring schemes which offer this, if that is your preferred route). What you will get is tutor feedback at designated intervals , and for many of our courses a detailed report at the end that discusses your strengths, weaknesses, and offers advice for the next stage.
Although in the taught – rather than self-paced courses – tutors will read the material you submit, an important aspect of the course experience lies in establishing good working relationships with other participating writers and receiving their feedback. The practice of critiquing each other’s work increases and refines your understanding of what makes good writing and stories – and the working relationships you form can, if you wish, carry beyond the scope of the course to provide you with an ongoing forum for the discussion and critiquing within our alumni areas.
Sometimes, writers who have no experience of critiquing or working with a group of fellow writers feel rather intimidated by the process – and often, this is because they feel more comfortable with a one-to-one relationship with a tutor. This is fine, but it isn’t what we offer . If that is what you want, please think carefully before you accept a place that will challenge you, develop your work, and require you to work with other writers and to deadlines. It’s important that you understand this is not a passive experience predicated on the practitioner you can be.
WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
• Lots of praise from the tutor – we offer constructive practical criticism and won’t massage your ego.
• To work in isolation – we base our approach to teaching writing online around peer critiquing. In every session you will read and comment on the work of your peers, and in turn have your work critiqued by fellow participants. Why do we insist on this? Quite simply because it makes you a better writer. It’s incredibly hard, especially when starting out, to judge your own work. By critiquing others, you become able – with time – to turn a sharp lens on your own work. Critiquing others creates self-sufficient writers who can switch between their ‘creative’ and ‘editorial’ brains, a vital skill. Put simply, it helps you develop a keen eye for what works and what does not. Peer critiquing is a pedagogically sound method, too. We know that when writing students actively engage in critiquing they learn about their own skills as a writer more quickly and soundly because they’re actively putting those skills into practice.
• Lots of written tutor feedback in every session – we know that writers progress best when given detailed feedback at clearly defined stages in the creation process. So when appropriate your tutor will give you detailed individual feedback. This may be via Skype, podcast, chatroom or in a detailed written report at the end of a course. Is this enough tutor feedback to turn you into a disciplined independent practitioner? Yes. We’ve built in exactly the right amount of feedback you need to progress through your course and achieve the course goals. And, perhaps more importantly, to continue developing your work once you leave the course. Within academic circles there is continuing debate about tutor feedback – there’s a fine line between making learners dependent on a tutor and giving them the confidence and competence they need effectively to judge their own work. Your tutor is training you towards an independent practice.
• Face-to-face meetings, although you can arrange informal meet-ups if you wish, and some groups attend live events such as the Winchester Conference, London Screenwriting Festival or London Book Fair. Many of our writers chat to each other out of hours via Skype.
• To be told by your tutor how to write – this is something that comes from disciplined practice, lots of reading, and critiquing of peers. There is no right and wrong, and you should expect to receive contradictory advice on your work – your tutor cannot decide for you which advice to act on and which to ignore. Working this out and learning to trust your instinct is how you grow into a writer.
WHAT TO EXPECT
• Podcast or Skype feedback as well as written comments – because audio allows the tutor to give you three times more feedback than writing.
• To find your feedback embedded within feedback for other writers in your group – because you’ll be able to draw out points to apply to your own work, and because it hones your ability to critique stories, including your own.
• To be taught as much by your fellow participants as your tutor. While you can’t take your tutor with you after the course, you can take this group of supportive peers. Many of our alumni are still ‘meeting’ virtually to share their work many years after completing their original writing course.