This year really seems to have gone quickly and I’m sure that many of you are already starting to mull over how you intend to push your writing career forward in 2017. For some this will involve trying to find more ‘me time’, or networking and attending writing events. For others it might involve enrolling on a writing course – either face-to-face or by distance learning.
I’m no expert on the face-to-face variety, but I do have years of experience with distance learning so I’d just like to offer some tips that you might want to consider before taking the plunge, as some courses on offer are incredibly expensive and you don’t want to make a mistake.
So, here goes…
First, ask yourself whether you’re a self-motivated kind of person. Distance learning can be lonely and there is a temptation to enrol and then put off sending in your first assignment. But, let’s be honest, if you can’t motivate yourself then you’re never going to make it as a writer.
Next, do your searches and check review sites. You’re going to be sending a reasonable chunk of your hard-earned cash to the college, so you need to be sure that it’s reputable and not operating a scam. Look for badges such as ‘TrustPilot’ and read the reviews from students.
Make sure you get a trial period. Even when you’ve read the details online or seen a prospectus the depth or complexity of the material might not be what you expect. If you’re a complete novice you want something basic – if you’ve already had a measure of success you want something more detailed. A reputable college will have a ‘cooling off’ period and will refund your fees if you return the materials within the stated period.
Ensure there is enough tutor feedback. How can you hope to improve if you don’t get constructive criticism and help from experts? It’s this that makes the difference between a proper course and just reading text books. It’s what you’re really paying for.
Check that the tutors are qualified and are writing NOW. You don’t want people who used to write but have been retired for years. You need tutors who are familiar with current market trends and practices in the publishing industry.
You need to be able to study and submit your assignments in the way that suits you best. So, if you like working online – check that’s what you’ll be doing. If you prefer printed booklets or submitting assignments by post then go for a college that offers that. Also, look at the timescale. You’re writing – not doing a sprint – so make sure the course allows enough time for you to enjoy it without feeling rushed or under pressure.
As I mentioned earlier, studying by distance learning can be a bit lonely. So it helps if the college has a thriving student community where you can chat to others and, hopefully, share your successes. Also essential is a Student Services team who can be contacted quickly if you need help with admin or have a problem with your tutor. And even in the best of colleges this can occur! Some people just don’t gel.
So, there’s plenty to think about as you start your search for the perfect course. But by following these steps I hope you’ll find something that works for you and gives you the push you need to get you on the writing ladder.
And before I close for this week, if you’re still struggling to think of an appropriate present for the writer in your life, then you could get them a subscription to the Association of Freelance Writers. There are all kinds of great reductions off competitions and services for writers, free online courses, plus 50% off a year’s subscription to Writing Magazine. You can subscribe online or call us on 0161 819 9922 and we’ll be happy to set up the subscription for you.
Author: Diana Nadin
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