In the multi chandeliered ballroom of intentions and resolutions the lights only burn with gem like brilliance when intentions and resolutions are actually realised. Thus my chandelier glows with the merest ghostly glimmer because I have crossed off ridiculously few items from the list of things, I drew up a few years ago, that I wished to do in the coming decade.
One item that’s scored through is attending a Guardian writing class, as last October I signed up for a masterclass titled “How to Write a Bestseller”. By the by, I don’t have ambitions in that direction it just happened to be the one that was listed on the Guardian schedule on a weekend I planned to travel to London. It was held in the Guardian’s super cool Kings’s Cross offices which over looking London’s Regent’s Canal. The line up was stellar with presentation by: Claire Armitstead the books’ editor for the Guardian and Observer; Emma Healey a bestselling novelist whose first book won the Costa prize; Claire Mackintosh a climbing-up-the-charts crime writer; and Jenny Colgan a bestselling author with twenty-five books to her credit. As the keynote Claire Armitstead interviewed the lovely and inimitable Marian Keyes whose books have sold over forty million copies worldwide.
The polished presentations were pitch perfect. I started off taking notes and stopped when an attendee sitting near me said: ‘oh, we’ll get a handout’. We didn’t. There was a lot to take in and with my sieve like memory I have clean forgotten a lot of what was said, but that’s my fault. Emma Healey did prepare her own charmingly illustrated notes. Her useful tips include: act out scenes and visit locations, join a writing group, attend courses, read your writing aloud, try morning pages and other exercises, learn to love editing …
The two messages that I do recall are first the oft-repeated advice to read widely, with a rider to read critically. On that score I don’t think it matters much what you read: books, papers, magazines, blogs, the label on a tin of cocoa … So long as the writing is of a good standard. And secondly a piece of advice – which I think came from Jenny Colgan and I hope I am paraphrasing it correctly – to just write. Yes, if you want to be a writer you need to write! She suggested setting a daily word count target and whatever happens on any given day not going to bed until you pin that number of words to the page.
I really, really enjoyed the day long course: I paid €143.61 for it which I feel was excellent value, the price included lunch, tea & coffee, and there was a goody bag of books to take home. I got a discount of twenty per cent as I signed up, some time ago, for email updates about Guardian courses and occasionally one pings in offering reductions. Full details of all Guardian masterclasses are on their website.