In this two day course at Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells I'll be
working with writers who are already making a start on their
novels. We'll be talking about characters (how to create them,
deploy them, deepen them) and structure (the situation and
architecture of the world the characters must cope with). This is a
fast and furious version of a course I teach in Chicago at Columbia
College. In Chicago I have a whole semester to impart novel-writing
advice. This class is a distillation; I hope to equip people with
good practices, to head off unproductive habits of mind, and (not
least) to provide a little company as they work on their
books. In my view the most important lesson to learn is
perseverance, and a willingness to fail and start again. I
think that it can be easy to misunderstand how artists work; people
imagine gushes of inspiration all the time, rather than occasional
insight alternating with sheer hard work. My own worst habit
is that I have no regular schedule at all. I correct for this
by having deadlines.
One of the best reasons to take a class or join a writing group is to watch other writers deal with their problems. Each writer has different strengths and weaknesses, so a group of writers can learn from encountering loads of problems at once, some easily solved and others more bizarre and intractable. As a teacher I design exercises that allow interesting problems to come up. I place students in unusual proximity to their own work, so they can see it from new vantage points. I try to make the overly familiar feel new. I hope I succeed. If I could have been taught by any novelist, dead or alive, it would have to be Henry James. I have a few questions for him about The Beast in the Jungle.
I'm really looking forward to my visit to the Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells. I've stayed at other Hotel du Vin properties before but not visited this one yet. Also I have never taught in a hotel before, and I'm hoping that we'll have both uninterrupted time to concentrate on our work and a slightly holiday-ish feeling that comes with being very well looked after.
For more details on the Writing Workshop click here.