Learning the art of creative writing is a process. Much like growing a flower, it doesn’t happen overnight. Indeed, it can take many years longer than growing a flower to progress from novice to accomplished writer. Depending on how, and whether, you choose to learn, progress can be slow or rapid, and the progression can come to a standing stop if you’re not careful. But don’t depair!! The good news is that you can speed your way along the learning cycle by knowing a few secrets about how it works.
Firstly, it is important to understand that different people learn to write fiction in different ways, just as they learn other things in different ways. Have a look at the list below and see which learning approach best suits you.
I like to be given the theory
I like to see something done well.
I like to be told how to do something.
I like to be shown how to do something.
Each of these different approaches to learning reflects your thinking style. In practice, you are likely to respond well to more than one of the learning style in the list. This is why at Write Fiction! we use all the approaches in our courses, so that whatever your preferred learning style it’s covered in the programme. There is a blend of theory, learning by example, ‘having a go’, and ‘how-to’ tips.
If you are a theorist and all we gave you were examples to work through, you would be left feeling that the novel writing course hadn’t met your needs. If you prefer to practice and try things out and we only gave you theory, you would also feel the course isn’t right for you.
OK, so let’s say you are a theorist. You may well ask, Why don’t I just read a book on how to write a novel, write my novel and submit it for publication? That would be a very good question. There is nothing to stop you doing that, of course. You may find that your learning process takes a very long time, and you get more than your share of rejection letters. Why?
One word…feedback! Let’s look at why feedback is so important by exploring the various phases people go through as they learn.
Most people start off when they are learning something new, by not knowing what they don’t know. This is why so many people say, ‘I’m going to write a book one day’, or ‘I could write a book! That may well be the case, but without some skills it’s not going to be a best seller.
These people are in the first phase of learning, they are unconsciously incompetent, and funnily, they don’t that they are! When people start trying to do something, or begin to learn they see there is more to it than they first thought and they start to understand that they actually do have something to learn, or that they don’t know very much at all. They are now in the second phase of learning and are consciously incompetent – ouch!
This is where learning starts because being consciously incompetent is a challenging place to be. In terms of fiction, people will want to improve their creative writing skills, and will want to be more confident too. People often need moral support through this phase as well as teaching. Through learning and, that all important, feedback people can advance quickly to become consciously competent. The feedback allows people to adapt and change their approaches so that their skill increases. In this phase people are thinking about what they are doing every step of the way as they learn the craft of novel writing.
I think we all need to keep learning, but the final phase of enlightenment is when we become unconsciously competent, and where the skills become second nature and we are confident in our abilities.
Our goal at Write Fiction! is for you to be well on your way between phases three and four of the learning process.
Michaela is a member of the National Association if Writers in Education, and a qualified writing coach.