course

Start Writing Fiction

Start Writing Fiction: A Free Online Course Starting Soon

I’ve mentioned FutureLearn on this blog before. It’s a UK-based platform for short online courses from British and international universities. All FutureLearn courses are free and open to anyone in the world.

Anyway, I thought you might like to know that a course titled Start Writing Fiction begins on Monday 5 March 2018. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It will run for eight weeks and you can enrol now if you wish. It is also usually possible to register for a few days after a course has started.

This particular course runs regularly via FutureLearn and I have mentioned it on this blog before. If you can’t fit it in this time, you can put your name down on the website to be notified the next time it is scheduled.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

The course is run by short-story writer and novelist Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course itself is free, but optionally you can pay £42 to upgrade. Upgrading entitles you to receive a Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course. In addition, you get unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, and quizzes). With the free version, your access ends 14 days after the end of the course. You can, of course, sign up for free and upgrade later if you choose.

For more information, and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the Futurelearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I am currently taking one called In the Night Sky: Orion, also from the Open University, which I am really enjoying.

As well as the teaching itself, another big attraction of FutureLearn courses is the opportunity they provide to interact with fellow students all over the world. You can see all upcoming courses on this web page.

If you have any comments or questions about FutureLearn, as ever, please do post them below.

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Start Writing Fiction

Sign Up Now for This Free Fiction Writing Course from Futurelearn

I have mentioned Futurelearn on this blog before. It’s a UK-based platform for short online courses from British and international universities. All Futurelearn courses are free and open to anyone in the world.

Anyway, I thought you might like to know that a course titled Start Writing Fiction begins on 9 January 2017. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It will run for eight weeks and you can enrol now if you wish.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

Start Writing Fiction focuses on a skill which is central to the writing of all stories and novels – creating characters.

You will listen to established writers, such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey, talk about how they started writing. You’ll consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal.

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback.

The course is run by Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the Futurelearn website.

Futurelearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I recently took one called Secrets of Successful Ageing from Trinity College, Dublin, which was informative and thought-provoking. I am also enrolled on an Open University course called Managing My Investments in January. As well as the teaching itself, another big attraction of Futurelearn courses is the opportunity they provide to interact with fellow students all over the world.

If you have any comments or questions about Futurelearn, as ever, please do post them below.

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Spotlight: Write Any Book in Under 28 Days

I am probably best known online as the author of a number of writing courses that I created for the electronic publishing house WCCL (also known as The Self Development Network).

I am no longer working with WCCL (except as an affiliate) but I still get lots of queries about these courses. So I thought today I would take the opportunity to highlight one of them…

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days (also referred to as The Nick Daws Course) is the first course I ever wrote for WCCL. It’s also the first they ever published. Nowadays they offer over seventy products in a range of categories, but this course is the one that started it all!

Although I have written a dozen other courses since, in many ways Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is still my favourite. It could be sub-titled “Everything I know about writing a book”. It is packed with tips and advice based on my experience as the author of over 100 books, most of which were traditionally published. At its heart is my unique four-step system of outlining and “blueprinting”, which thousands of new writers have used successfully to create their first books.

The course has, as you might expect, been updated a few times, but thankfully much of the content is “evergreen”, so it doesn’t actually date that quickly. It is aimed primarily at non-fiction writers, but there is a substantial section on fiction writing within it. My only slight reservation is that, as far as I’m aware, the publishers haven’t updated the bonus items for a while, but that doesn’t affect the value of the course itself, in my opinion.

Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is shipped on a CD that runs in Microsoft Windows. I know that’s slightly less convenient than the usual instant download, but when it was first launched the course was pirated remorselessly, so WCCL had to take this action to protect it from copyright thieves.

So there will be a little wait before you can access the course content, but it will – I promise – be worth it!

I’ve published an extract below, to give you a taster. It comes from the section of Module Two about getting ideas. Note that, like the whole of the CD, it is written in US rather than UK English.

Start by thinking about your job (and if you’re a student, a carer, a home-maker, a full-time parent or an unpaid volunteer worker, that counts just as well). Think about whether there are aspects of this that would be of interest to ordinary people, or people who do similar jobs to you (or would like to). Remember, you don’t have to be an ‘expert’ now – you can always research what you don’t know later. But clearly it helps if you already know something about your subject. And by the very fact of doing a certain job, you already know more than the great majority of the population about this subject.

However, suppose your job doesn’t suggest many ideas – or you simply don’t find it interesting or exciting enough to inspire you. Try thinking about jobs you have done in the past. Think about your hobbies and leisure interests, from baseball to gourmet cookery, astronomy to travel. Could any of these provide the inspiration for a book?

And think about experiences you have gone through in your life. The topics below (an expanded version of the list in Module One) have formed the basis of many thousands of books already. How many of these could you write about from experience yourself?

    Getting Married
    Having a Baby
    Bringing Up Children
    Living With Teenagers
    Dealing With Bereavement
    Being A Student
    Shopping for Bargains
    Coping With Divorce
    Buying/Selling a House
    Learning to Drive
    Buying a Car
    Extending Your Home
    Making Your Own Clothes
    Designing a Garden
    Getting a Job
    Starting Your Own Business
    Managing Staff
    Negotiating a Payrise
    Employing People
    Managing Your Time
    Travelling With Children
    Investing Your Money
    Overcoming Disability

Remember, the experience itself is just a starting point. From the list above, take ‘Being a Student’, for example. Here are just a few ideas for books which might derive from this:

    Leaving home: a guide for young people
    Study skills for students
    Improve your memory
    How to work your way through college
    Cooking for cash-strapped students
    The Internet for students
    Making the most of student life

Hmm. I might have a go at one or two of these myself! Seriously, the point I am making is that most people have the seeds for hundreds, probably thousands, of books within them already. All you need to do is spend a little time thinking about your life – things you do now and things you have done in the past – and consider how your knowledge and experience might be of interest to others.

And here’s a further idea to make your idea even more attractive to potential readers and publishers: develop your own technology around it! And no, I don’t mean you have to produce some clever gadget to accompany your book. By technology I mean a plan or system around which you can structure your book (or part of it).

An acronym is a good example of what I’m talking about here. For those who don’t know, an acronym is a word made up from the initial letters of other words or phrases. It acts as an aide memoire for the words concerned, and in many cases forms the basis for a set of guidelines or instructions. For example, advertising copywriters are often taught that any ad they write should meet the AIDA requirements. These are as follows:

1. ATTRACT the reader’s ATTENTION

2. Arouse INTEREST

3. Create DEMAND for the product or service

4. Prompt the reader to ACTION

Acronyms aren’t the only example of a technology you could invent for your book. The truth is, ANY original idea can work as long as it is snappy, easy to remember, and preferably contains at least a granule of truth! One example is Declan Treacy, the writer and entrepreneur behind ‘Clear Your Desk Day’. Treacy’s Big Idea (in a nutshell) was to tell harassed executives they could handle incoming paperwork more efficiently by assessing each item as it came in and allocating it to one of four categories: act on, pass on, file or bin. From this simple concept he created a world-wide best-seller, an international business organization and a highly paid career lecturing on the subject of managing your paperwork.

Or, if you want another example, take Stephen Covey. His book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was based around a system for developing personal effectiveness through seven ‘habits’ or principles. None of these is exactly rocket science – for example, the first is ‘Be Proactive’ and the second ‘Begin with the End in Mind’. Covey’s Seven Habits have been widely adopted by consultants and trainers, and were even incorporated by Microsoft into some of their software (e.g. Microsoft Outlook). Covey’s book has been translated into 32 different languages and has sold over 6 million copies to date. First published in 1989, it is still riding high in the best-seller lists today.

All very well, you may say, but I’m not an international business guru – maybe I don’t even want to become one. It doesn’t matter! Whatever area you plan to write about, create your own technology around it. Say you’re going to produce a book about bringing up teenagers (a subject I know nothing about, by the way). A few moments’ thought gave me the acronym RAILS, made up as follows:

Set RULES

Make ALLOWANCE

Show INTEREST

Don’t LECTURE

Give SPACE (or SUPPORT)

As we’ll see in the next section, an acronym can also help provide the title for your book. In the above example, one obvious possibility would be Keep Your Teenager on the RAILS. I must admit, I can easily imagine this climbing high in Amazon.com’s Top Sellers list! I don’t think I’ll be writing it myself, even so – but if any reader wants to pick up the idea and run with it, I’ll be happy to settle for 10 per cent of your royalties!

Finally, suppose you want to write fiction rather than non-fiction. The same principle applies – use your own experience as a starting point, and build on this using your imagination and research. For example: a friend of mine writes detective novels from a police perspective; I believe they’re called police procedurals by those in the know. He doesn’t have a police background himself and wrote his first novel entirely from his own imagination, aided by a little research from books. He particularly treasures one glowing review from a police magazine which congratulates him on the authenticity of his characters!

Of course, the real point is that people are the same the world over, whatever the occupation they happen to work in: some are conscientious, others slapdash; some are sociable, others solitary; some court trouble, others aim to avoid it. The same would doubtless be true in medieval times, the present day or the far future. All writers have to do is start from their own experience of the world and the people in it, and extend this.

As I said above, I hope this will give you a flavour (or flavor) of what Write Any Book in Under 28 Days is about. It is (still) a course I’m very proud of, and I recommend it if you would like advice and guidance on writing a full-length book.

If there is anything else you would like to know, feel free to post a comment below, or click through to my publisher’s sales and information page.

I will be publishing further “Spotlight” posts about some of my other WCCL writing courses in the near future.

Nick Daws Course

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Start Writing Fiction

Start Writing Fiction – A Free Course from Futurelearn and The Open University

If you’re quick, there’s still time to sign up for a free online fiction writing course on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

The course title is Start Writing Fiction. It comes from The Open University, a well-respected UK distance learning institution. It started on 27 April 2015 and runs for eight weeks, but they are still accepting enrolments at the time of writing.

Start Writing Fiction is intended for anyone with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing. There is a particular focus on creating interesting, believable characters. The course does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.You will listen to established writers talk about how they started writing and consider the rituals of writing and the importance of keeping a journal. 

You’ll learn how to develop your ideas and the importance of reflecting on writing and editing, and you’ll hear other writers talking about their approaches to research and consider ways of turning events into a plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review and comment on the work of fellow writers, and receive peer feedback on your own story, learning the importance of reading as a writer and how to receive and respond to feedback. 

The Start Writing Fiction course is run by Dr Derek Neale. It requires a commitment of around three hours a week.

The course is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. For more information (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Start Writing Fiction information page of the FutureLearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally. I am quite tempted by the one promising to teach you to develop a mobile phone game in seven weeks, although Discover Dentistry also possesses a certain weird fascination!

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