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Creative Writing Skills & Techniques for Life Writers

January 25, 2012

Today was the start of a ten week course in Creative Writing Skills & Techniques for Life Writers.  The course is held in a small conference centre attached to Darlington Fire Station and run on behalf of the W.E.A.  The course is aimed at adults who are writing a personal, social or family history.  During the next few weeks we will cover basic creative writing skills and techniques such as plotting, planning and developing a sense of both character and place.  Ten of last term’s learners re-enrolled so I guess that they must have enjoyed the previous course in Life Writing for Beginners.

A new feature this term is that each session will be split into a group workshop followed by one-to-one coaching slots tailored to the individual’s needs.  Workshop topics include: defining a personal project, planning a structure, writing a blurb and a biography, developing characters, deciding upon narrative voice and point of view, plotting techniques and revising for style.  Writing exercises are open-ended to allow learners to adapt them to their own projects.  Everyone is working towards producing a chapbook version of their project by the end of the ten weeks.  It is envisaged that this will both act as a snapshot and a marketing tool for more lengthy projects.  I will of course be participating in the chapbook challenge.

This week’s homework is to write a blurb for the project of between 100 and 200 words.  Although it may seem a little like starting at the end, the idea is that it will enable learners to assess whether or not they have completed enough research to be able to answer the questions of ‘who, what, why, where and when’ their project is about.  Try this as a way of summarising your own latest project and identifying where the gaps are.  Keep it concise, clear and  catchy.  Your blurb is the way to hook a reader.  Ask yourself if it conveys the overall message of your ‘story’.

As always with writing, read other blurbs to learn how to construct one.  Find a format appropriate to both your genre and your target audience.  Remember that at this stage your blurb is not set in stone.  You may need to rewrite it once you’ve reached the end of your project but it should help you to focus.  As always with writing, good writing is rewriting.

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