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Illustration by Jill Calder Philip Hensher Good writing is a mixture of the calculated and the instinctual. No one writes through pure dazed inspiration; questions of craft and calculation enter in quite quickly. Last week, speaking at the Bath festival, Hanif Kureishi cast some doubt on the existence of transferable, teachable craft in writing by witheringly classifying Can you teach that?
What lies, or ought to lie, beneath the growth of creative writing as a subject is the conviction that a good deal of the best writing derives from conscious craft, if not all of it.
But writers can perfectly well have native ability, a feel for language, an inventiveness and a keen eye towards the world and still not quite understand how they can do something well, not once, but repeatedly. A good creative writing course will explore underlying principles of good writing — not to impose invented "rules" on writing, but to introduce ways of thinking about writing that are strong and purposeful.
You could teach yourself how to make a chair by taking a lot apart, and experimenting with joists. A furniture-making course might school you in some unsuspected skills, and save you some time.
A bad creative writing class will look like this. A student has submitted some work with the words: I taught myself to write. I still think, for a writer who is also an insatiable reader, there is a lot to be said for the self-taught route. Illustration by Adam Gale Creative writing, as a discipline, may not be entirely selfless, despite any beneficial results.
Forced into the academy, a writer might run a good seminar something like this. We might discuss an aspect of technique with reference to a passage from a published piece of fiction — last week we talked about character from the outside, looking at a page of Elizabeth Bowen.
Other ways of thinking about humanity might prove relevant. When student work is discussed, it has to be a safe but rigorous process. Constructive comments are insisted on; not ego-massaging niceness, but specific comments on where something has gone wrong and how it might be improved.
Is the presiding consciousness the right one? Does he need to filter everything through his awareness?
Is this the right tense? What is this thing called free indirect style? Classes, at Bath Spa and elsewhere, differ greatly.
With a faculty that includes very varied authors, there is never going to be a uniform approach. But we often find ourselves addressing recurrent issues.
How can I create characters that are memorable and engaging? Top tip; incident has to keep coming from outside, and the unexpected illuminates character. Try experimentally dropping a giant block of frozen piss through the ceiling of their room and see what they do.
She would always thank him effusively. And how rude and rare is shrugging, anyway? Your students are not, thank heaven, going to be much like you as writers. They are going to react against you with their own thoughts and creative principles. But a good creative writing course will produce independent-thinking, craftsmanlike innovators with critical, widely curious and energetic minds.
Philip Hensher is a professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University.I’ve taken Brian up on his challenge and as a result, I bring you the 22 best writing tips ever. Best Writing Tips These writing tips cover the basics and the most important aspects of writing. Looking for Quality in Student Writing What is Good Writing?
You know it when you see it. It isn’t that hard to tell whether a piece of writing is good or bad. Chores aren’t the worst but they’re definitely not the best!
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For readers who loved Tune In and Nick Hornby’s Songbook, an anthology of essays from a chorus of twenty-nine luminaries singing the praises of their favorite Beatles songs. The Beatles’ influence—on their contemporaries. When students believe they can succeed, they begin to enjoy writing.
Many teachers believe that ours is the best writing curriculum. Students and teachers alike discover that writing isn’t as difficult as they . UPDATE: These daily routines have now been adapted into a labor-of-love visualization of writers’ sleep habits vs.
literary productivity. My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some.