I have decided to take two courses on creative writing at City Academy in London. One is a full week, full day (10-5) class in advanced creative writing. In addition to providing the students with a sharper writing tool kit, it covers the specific skills of novel writing, script writing (film or television) and play writing. There is a good deal of emphasis on creative techniques and structure. There were four instructors on this course, all of them freelance writers, some of them take commissions from the BBC and one is a children’s book writer. All of us (six) on this course were impressed with both the knowledge of the tutors and their skills in transferring the knowledge to us. We completed many specific writing assignments in class, ranging from five to twenty minutes, and we would read out our work to the class.
The other class is on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:00 for six weeks. This course is taught by the head of the creative writing department, who is script writer for Casualty on BBC1. As such, he has a flair for drama. This course is designed to help students progress or design a piece of creative writing. There are five students in this course; I am the only male (aside from the tutor). One woman in her early 30’s has finished writing a middle grade children’s book about a child who is disappointed in her own achievements. A woman in her 50’s has a musical which has been performed somewhere locally and involves repercussions from Vietnam. These two are making final corrections. A woman in her late late 30’s has some ideas for a novel about two female friends, one of whom has a father who has strangely reappeared. And the other student, in her 20’s, is trying to develop ideas for a novel. And I am there with a completed manuscript about a man who is preoccupied with fears of his death. Agents say it is well written, it has three good reviews, but nobody has said ‘yes’, and one agent said that in needs more intensity.
So I outlined the novel last Wednesday, including the concern about intensity. I also presented my list of ideas for ramping up the intensity. Almost immediately, the tutor said, why don’t you make the relationship between the protagonist and his grandniece the centerpiece of the novel, having them tell the story rather than the protagonist alone. At first, I thought, Oh, God another rewrite!, but then it began to make sense. The current structure of the novel is around a timeline which tends to dilute the intensity of the relationships. But, if the two narrators cover and debate each of the relationships in depth, in series, it will be much more intense.
So next Wednesday, I’ve been asked to bring a revised outline to the class. What this involves is taking all the events of each relationship, and grouping them together sequentially, rather than allowing them to be strung out along the time line.
This will, of course involve some re-writing, some new material and deleting some existing material. But I’m looking forward to it.