First few lessons complete

Okay, I have (officially) completed the first three units of the online course I signed up for last week. Here are my first thoughts. Please be aware that I am a professional teacher (stop laughing at the back!) so I have a lot of experience at keeping people engaged in their learning – even when they have paid and have some enthusiasm for it!

The course is relatively simple. Death by powerpoint (or an online equivalent) before a multiguess style ‘exam’ at the end of each module. Sorry that’s my inner professional teacher trying to burst through, but I am sure you get the drift – a lot of reading and then a 10 question multiple choice test.

Overall the standard of the course is fairly OK, although I would like some variation on the method of presentation, a little more fluidity in the course content AND NO spelling mistakes (of which I have seen several).

The first module was fine, but by the third I was getting a little tired of simply reading a few lines on a slide before going onto the next one. There is also an issue with the testing. The blurb states you have to get 70% to allow access to the next module – fair enough – but they only let you through if you score 8+/10, now I’m sure all you mathmagicians out there have worked out that this is actually 80%. These are probably only very minor issues, but this is something that I, and many others, have paid money for (even if it is only £12 – remember this was a 95% discount)

All this brings me nicely to the first major lesson from this course – as writers, the majority of us will expect people to pay for our work. Therefore we need to act like professionals. Whilst this has been a theme throughout the first few modules, it has been interesting to see (and perhaps I am a little cynical) that the course providers have not always heeded their own advice. The course is OK, but could be great – if it had a more professional feel to it.

Of course, for ‘indie’ writers, being seen as professional can be a problem. Until the big money starts rolling in many of our friends and family simple see this as a hobby – each sale contributing to a cup of tea, rather than the mortgage. But it doesn’t mean we have to bow to these opinions. From now on I am going to try and undertake my writing in a professional manner – same start time, same place (I am lucky enough to have a study), same working hours. Now I know that this will sometimes be a struggle – against myself not only against members of my family who want a piece of my time – but if I don’t start taking my writing seriously who will?

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Online course

I’m not sure that I haven’t just fallen for ‘magic beans’ but one of those ‘daily deal’ websites offered an online writing course (with a proper certificate and everything) for £12 – a saving of 95% (apparently)

Having spent more than this on a couple of author workshops – which to be honest didn’t offer the ‘support’ that the blurb promised – I decided to give this a go.

Naturally I will keep you informed of any words of wisdom that crop up. Do you have any experience of these sorts of courses? Do you have any ‘formal’ qualifications when it comes to your writing? Have I just wasted £12 and however many hours of my life it will take to complete this 12 module course?

I will let you know …..

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Confession time

Eagle eyed readers will no doubt have noticed that it has been nearly TWO months since my last post.  Now I can make the usual excuses (OK some more usual than others): I was busy training for the Norse Challenge; parental responsibilities; work commitments. But it is time to actually face up to the reality of the situation.

I had a difficult scene to write, which I did. BUT then it dawned on me that I then only had a single chapter left to write until I had completed the first part of the story. I had always planned on allowing other people access to the story after the first part was written. This would allow me to a) seek reassurance that it was not all rubbish and b) get answers to some questions: Are the characters well developed? Any clashes in plot development? What questions need answering in the later parts of the story? The list could go on and on.I froze at that point.  I had invested many hours in the first 60 pages of the story (I know that some of you will be laughing at the thought of ONLY 60 pages) and suddenly the end was in sight. So I allowed myself to be distracted, which obviously meant that when people asked ‘how it was going,’ I was able to honestly say that I had been so busy, but it was nearly finished, just a little while longer.

I know that I am not the first and I will certainly not be the last person to experience self doubt, it’s part of the territory. But I am happy to say that I am now well into the second part of the story and am able to confess to my insecurities.  Needless to say, the first part is just the first draft (with the odd bit of editing as I went along) but I would be delighted if anyone who reads this would like to take a look and give me the benefit of their experience.

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Word games

As a writer and teacher (but primarily as a parent) I cannot deny the importance of basic numeracy and literacy. To this end my wife and I play a lot of word games with our youngest son (5 at the time of writing) to help develop his vocabulary, spelling and reading.

Animal Alphabet is one of the favourites (especially after our visit to Chester Zoo over the Easter break as it was getting a little boring), but I have to report that my son has taken ‘eye spy’ to olympic levels.

What started as ‘Eye spy with my little eye something beginning with C’, ‘Car’ etc has taken a more competitive turn with my youngest using C for the corner we had just driven around etc etc. Whilst I am delighted with the development of his vocab and the opportunity to be able to discuss spelling (he used f for phone box – so we had a conversation about the phonics of ph), it is making the game a little more poetic (‘something beginning with S and D’ – sunny day or ‘b and s’ – blue sky)

However nothing could have prepared me for what happened yesterday.

‘Do you want to play eye spy Dad? You start.’

‘Eye spy with my little eye something beginning with….’ as I thought for a moment (and drove the car out of our road).

‘I bet it’s B for basket ball hoop’ he said smugly.

I don’t even need to say the letters! I mentally changed it to ‘L and S’ for ‘little….’

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Coping with loss

Once again I find myself make sorry excuses for not blogging – although since the time has been spent with my family and getting the first draft of my story finished then something had to give (OK it could have been the xbox, but a mans got to do etc!)

Anyway, I find myself with a problem and I am turning to you good people to offer advice and guidance.

There is a somber atmosphere hanging over me at the moment as I now know that I need to kill someone – quickly adding (before internet security type things have police knocking on my door!) that this person only exists in the pages of my book.

The person to be killed is not a major character, so it isn’t as if I know them as well as others, but their death will affect characters I am closer to and I don’t want them to be resentful of me. This character is also not a ‘baddy’ (as my youngest would put it) so their death is a decision I have made to develop the plot – not something that the laws of fiction say must happen. Plus, and this is just a minor point, I haven’t actually ever killed someone before so this level of planning is somewhat unnerving.

So dear reader, any words of advice (or encouragement if you’re that way inclined) – guess this post is just a delaying tactic.

OK the kettle has boiled, there is death to be dealt….

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Charity update

Two posts in one day – you lucky people (person – always unsure how many people actually read this nonsense)

I am delighted and very proud to share the news that the Short Story groups second seasonal collection has raised £56.32 for Cancer Research UK. More details can be found on the Short Story Group blog: www.shortstoriesgroup.blogspot.co.uk

Thank you to everyone who supported (and continues to support) these projects.

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The joy of writing

I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog lately. I would love to say that it is due to a busy writing schedule, but the reality is more about laziness and ‘real job’ commitments.

Anyway, today my real job has given me a writing experience like no other – actually seeing the effect of my words on a reader.

In short a colleague of mine was struggling to put together a summary document which highlighted the positive impact an educational visit she had been involved with had on her students. She asked for my help because she recognised that I was ‘good with words’ (she doesn’t know I write for fun).

Over lunch time, I knocked up a side of A4 and emailed it to her – thought nothing of it, until she knocked on my door with a tear in her eye. She was delighted with the work and has only just left having said thank you more times than you can wave a stick at.

Many people have read my short stories (OK have bought the books whether they have read them is a different matter!) but this was a first for me.

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