What’s a Writing Course?
What actually happens in one of my writing courses? How can I improve your writing skills?
I’ve been working in a lot of different writing spaces lately, because I tailor my writing sessions to meet every client’s needs. I thought I’d take some time to take you through a few examples. Recently, I’ve worked with:
- Someone wanting to write a book length memoir for their whanau
- A blogger wanting help with planning and reaching their target audience
- A professional wanting the words on her website to reflect her personality
- A postgraduate student needing to adjust their writing for a new academic discipline.
Each of these people wanted to write more fluently, more memorably, and with more impact. Each was at a different stage in their writing journey and had different needs.
I know this makes me sound like the biggest nerd on the planet – a badge I wear proudly – but I find this work exciting. As you can see, I read a wide range of writing, and building on that writing to make the writers feel in control of their craft is deeply satisfying.
I’m fascinated by language, and how small changes can have a huge impact on how we’re perceived by our readers. In these examples, using contractions and making different word choices shifts the tone:
- We will endeavour to offer a variety of options.
- We’ll endeavour to offer a variety of options.
- We’ll try to offer a variety of options.
- We’ll try to give you lots of choices.
When I’m coaching, it’s my responsibility (and my pleasure!) to deliver help that is specific and individual. This means knowing what to include – and what not to.
Having said that, there are some common elements in most of my writing courses.
I begin with a discussion with the client about what they think about their writing, what they want to achieve and how they’d like to proceed. (There’s no charge for this discussion.)
Next, I look at a sample of the client’s writing. I’ll look at the areas the client wants to focus on, and also note any others I think we need to work on. I’ll always tell clients what they’re doing well, but that’s because often, we don’t know what’s good about our own writing. And it never hurts to know you’re succeeding!
Preparing for the first session usually involves analysis of the writing sample, some research if it’s a writing genre I don’t know much about, and planning for the session itself.
The first session is often less ‘concrete’ than later ones. The client and I are feeling our way, working out a system that works for both of us. By the ending, we’ll have a shared understanding of what we need to accomplish and how, specifically, we’ll work together.
Sometimes that session is enough, and sometimes the client wants more. The number of sessions is driven by their goal. They may want to learn how to write more casually, or accurately, or change their writing style to suit a new audience or purpose.
I don’t go into a writing course with a fixed agenda or plan, and this is important. Any good coach – whether it’s sport, music or writing – can adapt their coaching to suit different needs, contexts and abilities. I pride myself on my ability to adjust.
I’m a generalist. I’m not the person to reach out to if you want help with highly technical language – say legal, or medical, or engineering. Also, I speak and write New Zealand English, which sometimes makes very little difference, and sometimes – particularly in informal writing – a lot.