How an online romance writing course works

Christina Bunce
1 February 2017

The first iteration of our Writing Romance course has just finished with great success. We thought we’d see what our tutor, romance author Heidi Rice, had to say about our unique approach to teaching people how to write.

  • Learn to write fresh contemporary romance
  • Explore what makes compelling characters
  • Discover what makes a bestselling romance
Writing Romance course

Q – Hi Heidi. We love your work on the Writing Romance course, but what do you enjoy most about teaching writing with the Professional Writing Academy?

Heidi Rice – I love the time and flexibility it gives me to really nurture writers over a 7+ week long time frame. When putting the materials together for the course it allowed me to look in-depth at the different craft aspects of romance writing, and it amazed me the different skills and experiences the writers on the course brought to these disciplines.

Q – How do you find the online course differs from teaching or running workshops face to face?

HR – Honestly, I love the flexibility it gives course participants to develop their writing on their own timetable. When giving workshops face-to-face it’s also hard to make contact with each individual writer to the extent I can do in this format. Similarly, when doing face-to-face workshops myself, before I became a published author, I always felt under pressure to ‘perform’ when given writing assignments. To be spontaneously brilliant is a lot of pressure, and not how the process of writing works in reality for most authors (and certainly not for me). It can take hours, days to write and then edit any piece. Sometimes the writing flows, but often it doesn’t.

Also, all the materials are accessible and available throughout the course, so you’re not having to jot down notes and listen intently – it’s all there to access and refer to at your leisure when you have the headspace to do so – while at the same time the course gives you deadlines so you can’t prevaricate or procrastinate too much (which all writers tend to do given half a chance, me included!). Sometimes, too, the anonymity of online participation can give writers more confidence about displaying their work. It’s tough putting your writing out there for others to read, especially if you’ve never done it before, and being able to have that little degree of separation can be really empowering. Not everyone is an extrovert after all, and this can be particularly true of writers!

You’re not just learning from your tutor. You’re also learning from every single other writer on your course.

Heidi Rice

Q – Is there anything in particular that makes Professional Writing Academy so special?

HR – I think the way in which the Professional Writing Academy’s online classroom works is one of it’s greatest strengths. As the tutor, I love the opportunities it gives me to give each individual writer informed feedback on their writing exercise and also look at their overall development during the course. Perhaps even more important, though, are the opportunities it gives for the writers to support and encourage each other as they learn to critique each other’s work.

Writing is an extremely solitary profession in practice. The support I get from other writers in my genre whom I interact with online is invaluable to me and something that this course actively encourages, so that when writers finish the course they have the potential to continue to use and benefit from those friendships going forward.

Q – Do you think group teaching is more successful than other approaches?

HR – Definitely. Learning to edit your own work is an essential part of writing, and the very best way to do that is to first learn how to read a piece of writing like an author. Then, it’s important to learn how to improve the qualities in that writing that you believe don’t work – while also acknowledging and supporting those aspects which do. Those are all skills that critiquing the writing of your peers teaches you.

Similarly, having your work critiqued by your fellow writers gives you an invaluable insight into how an informed reader views your writing. Seeing how other writers approach the same exercise also broadens your own perspective. You may think ‘wow, I wish I’d done that’, or ‘that’s an interesting approach’, or even ‘that doesn’t work for me’, but as soon as you read that piece – because you’ve had to do the same thing yourself – you’ll instinctively be looking at what they’ve written through the eyes of a writer as well as a reader.

The beauty of the group approach, therefore, is that it means you’re not just learning from your tutor. You’re also learning from every single other writer on your course. That’s a lot of extra bang for your buck (to put it bluntly!).

Learning to write is a journey that never ends.

Heidi Rice

Q – Do your students ever struggle with peer critiquing?

HR – Writers often lack confidence in their work, especially if they’re new writers who have never put their work out there before. They may be apprehensive about having their work criticised, or conversely criticising the work of others. I always say that it’s okay to be nervous, but to always remember the online classroom is a universally supportive and inclusive environment. The other writers want to improve their writing too, and they know exactly what you’re going through because they’re right there with you.

By the end of the course I assure them that they’ll not only have learned so much from the experience of peer critiquing, but they’ll actually be really excited about getting feedback on their work.

Q – Have any students given you feedback about your work on the course?

HR – Yes, and it was great! Learning to write – in whatever genre – is hard, and it’s a journey that never ends, so I was really pleased that the feedback I got from students on my first Introduction to Writing Hot Romance course was so positive about continuing on their own individual journeys as writers. As a tutor that’s my end goal – not just to inform writers about the skills required to become a romance author, but also to enthuse and excite them about their own potential as writers.

Q – Heidi, it’s been great seeing a tutor’s perspective of teaching on the course, and I hope you’ll have just as much fun in the future. Thanks!

HR – It’s always a pleasure! Thank you.

Heidi Rice is a USA Today bestselling author of 26 romantic novels, novellas and short stories. She has sold over 2 million copies of her books worldwide, had her stories translated into 23 languages and has finaled three times in the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA awards which recognise excellence in romance writing. Her first women’s fiction novel, So Now You’re Back, was published in February 2016 by Harlequin Mira UK and described by one Amazon reviewer as ‘a sheer delight’. Her second women’s fiction novel is due out in August 2017 in Harper Collins’ new HQ Stories imprint.

Before becoming a published romance author ten years ago, Heidi worked for twenty years as a film journalist for, among others, Radio Times, What’s on TV and the Daily Mail. She has run numerous library workshops on writing romantic fiction including featuring in Islington Council’s Word Festival in 2013 and has previously worked as a reader for the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Scheme.

Writing Romance

Begins: 16 October 2017
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