You’ll probably recognise the problem: if you delay writing to your friends with your news, the news builds up and the challenge of producing a catch-up becomes very daunting.
In January I began a University of East Anglia/Guardian part-time course at UEA’s London campus. Two things drew me: the tutor is Adam Foulds whose novel The Quickening Maze I absolutely love. And the course was advertised with the very attractive promise ‘Finish the first draft! ‘ Well, I sort of have, though it’s a novella, really. But there are still three weeks to go.
What have I learned? To inspect every word and make it work really hard for its place on my page. To dramatise rather than summarise. And I’ve learned a bit of humility – my seven fellow students are superb writers already and part of the joy of this course has been getting to know them.
Any regrets? Not about the course. But about my own mistakes – I began with something very like a memoir and it would have been better not to say so – I think it inhibited my fellow students and it made it hard for me to discuss some parts of the book in our workshop sessions. However, a trick I developed for short stoires has stood me in good stead and I offer it to any writers reading this blog : take a sad piece of real life and invent a happier ending.