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Guest Post: Sophie Claire - Why Bother With Writing Courses

I’ve always enjoyed going to writing courses and that isn’t going to stop now I’m published. Surprised?

A lot of people are, yet it was at a writing workshop that I came up with the opening scene of Her Forget-Me-Not Ex, and that’s just one example of how courses have really benefited me and my writing. Here are some others:

They give you the chance to step back from your novel-in-progress and look at it in an analytical way, they make you think about overall structure and themes rather than the nitty gritty of individual scenes. I find that often in these circumstances, new plot ideas and insights about my characters come to me.

Then there are the workshop exercises. When you’re given ten or twenty minutes in which to write something, you jump straight to it – there’s no time to stare out of the window and consider the possibilities. You’re given a task, and you simply put pen to paper and write! There’s something about the urgency of this which fires up my brain and opens up new ideas, leading to breakthrough moments like the opening of my novel, Her Forget-Me-Not Ex.

I’d had the back story for two characters, Luc and Natasha, in my head for while – I knew they’d had a passionate affair followed by an accidental pregnancy, shotgun wedding, then a miscarriage and a hasty divorce – but I couldn’t think of a reason to bring them back together again and start the story in the present day. Yet I knew that fundamentally, they were meant for each other. Then I went to a workshop about conflict. It was run by my local writing group and we did several warm-up exercises, then were asked to write a scene in which two people wanted opposite things. The opening scene ofHer Forget-Me-Not Ex landed in my head and wrote itself: Luc walks into Natasha’s shop desperate for her help; whilst she is horrified and certain that she will never, under any circumstances, become entangled in his life again. It raised so many questions – why hadn’t Luc told his family about the divorce? Why was his father so adamant he wanted to meet Natasha? What would persuade her to go?

I came away from the workshop buzzing, and desperate to get started on the story. It was a lovely feeling, and that re-energising effect is what I love most about writing workshops. They inspire you, they reconnect you with why you started writing in the first place, they spark fresh ideas.

Before I was published, I used to love attending residential writing courses because they gave me a short-term deadline (my long-term deadline was to submit a finished book to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme each year) and motivated me to complete an opening chapter for critique. Getting feedback on a new project was invaluable, and gave me faith to carry on with the idea and finish the book. I also made wonderful friends on courses, including my critique partner whose feedback is priceless.

Writing workshops can be useful no matter which stage of your writing career you’re at, and that’s why I’ll grab any opportunity to go to one!

 Author Bio and Links:

Her Forget-me-Not Ex is Sophie Claire’s debut novel and is available on Amazon

Sophie has a French mother and a Scottish father but she was born in Africa and grew up in Manchester, England. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was shortlisted for the Elizabeth Goudge Award 2011 and the Sophie King Prize 2014.

Previously, she worked in Marketing and proofreading academic papers, but writing is what she always considered her ‘real job’ and now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heart-warming contemporary romance stories set in sunny Provence.


  1. I must say I'm not as anti this sort of thing as I used to be, after reading a very helpful creative writing book for review. I think it's important for people to realise, though, that they can inspire creativity, open up doors previously closed, and provide new friendships, but they won't teach you how to write a good novel if you don't have the innate talent - I think that's a misconception that some people have, ie, that writing is something you can learn, from zero to proficient, like knitting or bricklaying or car maintenance!!

    1. Thanks for your comments Terry. You're absolutely right. For me creative writing courses are a way of learning technics, having a chance to share my work and gain feedback, and stepping out of my solitude to mix with like minded creative people.

  2. I know what you mean Terry and I hope there aren't too many courses raising expectations beyond what is realistic. But I think we can all benefit from honing our craft and I especially like to take myself out of my study and usual writing routine - it can really liven the imagination.

    1. Thanks Sophie for your insightful article. It was a pleasure having you as a guest.


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