Quick Post #7: The Guardian’s How to Write Fiction

I don’t know if this is a new thing The Guardian is doing, or if I’m just a bit behind on current trends in cultural media. Either way, check out their series ‘How to Write Fiction’ with the three posts: Getting Started, Creating Characters and Point of View.

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4 Responses to Quick Post #7: The Guardian’s How to Write Fiction

  1. Gordon Darroch says:

    It’s good, but I’m a little uneasy about the way it’s essentially an elaborate advert for their ‘masterclass’ series. £4000 for a six-month course? I might be missing some postmodernist subtextual irony about the commercialisation of art here, but it smells like an exploitative rip-off.


    • marshrachel says:

      I’m sure you’re correct, in that the series is nothing more than a plug for their course. (Also to note, Faber, I believe, has been doing a similarly priced course for over a year. I have no idea how it’s working out for them.) However, it’s up to all writers to extract useful information from any place they/we can, and if the Guardian wants to put an article or two on their website for free, then why not take advantage. Additionally, I do like the debate that you have implied (please correct me if my inferences are mistaken), ‘Is it okay for publishing companies to host expensive writing courses? And do people who take those courses assume they will be published by the host company once the class is completed? And do these courses jeopardise the validity of the art being produced?’ As someone who is paid to teach creative writing, I don’t think I could answer that without appearing hypocritical. However, if anyone else wants to jump in, I’m game.

      PS-I think only Radio 4 can successfully pull off a ‘postmodernist subtextual irony about the commercialisation of art’. Or wait, maybe they can’t as they’ve reduced the number of afternoon plays.


  2. Kar says:

    I came on to comment and say ‘thank you’ for posting this. I’m trying to find useful, short articles on the basics in the preparation for NaNoWriMo. Low and behold I find the possible beginnings of a debate…

    A publishing house offering an expensive creative writing course does have some hidden bonuses and pit falls. Depending on who teaches the course, and what their position is within the company, it may be a way to hone your writing to that particular publishing house’s style book and perhaps even a way to get your novel pulled from the slush pile (if they are paying attention to who has taken the course that is). It is, however, a slightly dodgy situation for the publishers as people will expect that since they have attended the course, and perhaps even honed their manuscript to the publisher’s suggestions, that they will not be treated as an unsolicited submission. Despite how much you tell people that the course would not guarantee either publication, or even that they will consider your manuscript, for £4000 people expect that this is just to cover the publisher’s back in the event that they have someone with a romantic idea of the industry with too much money and time on their hands who is likely to pester the company long after the course if over. (Although admittedly I’ve only ever encountered these types in fiction itself. Do people like that with JK Rowling complexes really exist?)

    I don’t think it ‘jepordise[s] the validity of the art being produced’ any more than any other creative writing course. Yes writing is an art form, its also a craft and a profession. One of my favourite authors has a part of her blog that gives advice to aspiring authors in which she emphasises her approach that it is a profession, writing is a job like any other where you have to do your research, meet deadlines, manage projects, meet with colleagues and make enough money to pay the bills. I don’t want to downplay the creative nature of writing,

    That’s my two bits. Not sure it incites debate so much as spouts my opinion, but you brought this on yourself.


    • marshrachel says:

      Hi Kar,
      You’ve posted a well stated reply by emphasising ‘expectations’, and I believe you are correct. When someone pays for a service in which they expect to be trained in a specific field (such as writing a novel) they become a client, and therefore they will have certain expectations. Problematically, these expectations will differ from client to client, and no matter what the service provider (the publisher) states, the expectations of the client cannot always be controlled. The next question then arises, ‘Are they taking advantage of the client’s unrealistic expectations?’ All rhetorical questions really, but it leads to a bigger question, ‘Should anyone paying for a writing course have any expectations at all, because can writing really be taught?’

      This topic came up recently in an email I received from a student who attended the Shortbread in Spain course, and I hope to write a blog post in the next couple of days based on this student’s email and the question, ‘Can creative writing be taught?’ But in the meantime, please feel free to continue with this debate. I love you good debate.


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