How A Writing Course Stopped Me Writing

A few years ago I put down A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and felt bereft. I couldn’t eat or concentrate on my pre-Hosseini hobbies for days. Eventually, my mind came out of its stupor and began to imagine its own stories again. One day it wasn’t a short story I had in mind; it would be my first novel. I grabbed my laptop and began typing the scene furiously. I had it. My first chapter. I had wanted to be a published author since I was a little girl but every piece of fiction that I had written or envisaged was never any longer than two sides of paper. I was in my early thirties and I finally began realising my once forgotten dream.

I hadn’t written in over fifteen years at this point. It was time for a refresher of sorts. I found a ‘Towards A Novel’ course in the City Lit Institute in Central London. A week-long course full of promise. I booked the course and booked a week off work. I was excited and couldn’t wait to get started. On reflection, perhaps that was my mistake – being too eager. I hadn’t been in a literature class since High school so I found myself absorbing every pointer as though it was the only way to succeed.

My first chapter got re-worked during that week and was presented to the class on the final day. I received good feedback, but something didn’t sit right with me. The chapter stayed in my laptop for a long time after that; gathering virtual dust.

It took a few years before I picked it up again and almost 11 months later, I had written a novel.

I worked with a wonderful editor to go through my novel and learnt a lot. But I didn’t agree with all of her suggestions (and she was cool with that). I had grown better at listening to my own voice, but I wasn’t quite there yet so my novel went back into hiding.

The plan is to sit with it again. I’d love to re-work it as I have grown as a person and a writer since I last worked on it (and continue to grow). This time, I’ll be doing it alone.

My advice:

Don’t stifle your voice by trying to imitate others or follow instructions. Let the natural narrator in you tell the story.

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