I’ve spent the last 28 years involved in teaching students how to improve their writing and trying to inspire them to follow their dreams. Some are nervous that they haven’t got what it takes; some fear criticism and rejection; some are shy of admitting to their nearest and dearest that they want to be a writer. You do need talent and determination to be a writer but you don’t need to be a genius. And the good news is that everyone can benefit from a well-planned course and constructive feedback from experiences tutors.
I’m no expert on face-to-face training, but I do have lots of experience with distance learning so I’d just like to offer some tips that you might want to consider if you’re thinking of taking a course. Some of them are incredibly expensive and you don’t want to make a mistake when you’re splashing your cash.
So, here goes…
First, ask yourself whether you’re a self-motivated kind of person. Distance learning can be lonely and there is a temptation to enrol and then put off sending in your first assignment. But, let’s be honest, if you can’t motivate yourself then you’re never going to make it as a writer.
Next, do your searches and check review sites. You’re going to be sending a reasonable chunk of your hard-earned cash to the college, so you need to be sure that it’s reputable and not operating a scam. Look for badges such as ‘TrustPilot’ and read the reviews from students.
Make sure you get a trial period. Even when you’ve read the details online or seen a prospectus the depth or complexity of the material might not be what you expect. If you’re a complete novice you want something basic – if you’ve already had a measure of success you want something more detailed. A reputable college will have a ‘cooling off’ period and will refund your fees if you return the materials within the stated period.
Ensure there is enough tutor feedback. How can you hope to improve if you don’t get constructive criticism and help from experts? It’s this that makes the difference between a proper course and just reading text books. It’s what you’re really paying for.
Check that the tutors are qualified and are writing NOW. You don’t want people who used to write but have been retired for years. You need tutors who are familiar with current market trends and practices in the publishing industry.
You need to be able to study and submit your assignments in the way that suits you best. So, if you like working online – check that’s what you’ll be doing. If you prefer printed booklets or submitting assignments by post then go for a college that offers that. Also, look at the timescale. You’re writing – not doing a sprint – so make sure the course allows enough time for you to enjoy it without feeling rushed or under pressure.
As I mentioned earlier, studying by distance learning can be a bit lonely. So it helps if the college has a thriving student community where you can chat to others and, hopefully, share your successes. Also essential is a Student Services team who can be contacted quickly if you need help with admin or have a problem with your tutor. And even in the best of colleges this can occur! Some people just don’t gel.
So, there’s plenty to think about as you start your search for the perfect course. But by following these steps I hope you’ll find something that works for you and gives you the push you need to get you on the writing ladder. And, I can’t sign off without mentioning that here at Writers Bureau we tick all the boxes I’ve just mentioned, so why not have a look at the different writing courses that we have to offer. I think we’ve probably got one to suit you!
Diana Nadin has been Director of Studies at The Writers Bureau for more years than she cares to remember and, until recently, a long-serving member on the Council for the ABCC, the body that ensures ethical standards amongst distance learning colleges.