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Writers Bureau Course

edited May 2007 in - Reading


  • I'm currently doing the Writers Bureau writing course but don't feel like I'm getting anywhere with it. I haven't looked at an assignment for months and haven't completed one in over a year. My tutor who has had over 20 genre novels under various pseudonyms isn't very encouraging either. I'm not saying that my previous assignments have been so good that they didn't need correcting but some of what my tutor says makes the stories I have written worse (in my opinion)but maybe that's why I haven't had 20 genre novels published.
    There are two things that I would like help with.
    1. Has or is anyone else out there struggling with the WB course? Maybe we could join forces and help each other.
    2. What's a genre novel?
  • Hi Zoe
    I did this course I still have the folder. It sounds very much like the same problem I had, and got the exact same response.

    My understanding of 'genre' is not a specific novel but a novel that falls into a category. For examples Historical, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy are all different genre. So for any author to say they have had 20 'genre' novels published.

    Let them explain which genre? or is it 20 different 'genres'?
    So to be absolutely blunt Zoe I didn't believe a word of what they said

    Sorry Writers Bureau Course but it's the truth, and no I didn't finish the course iether.
  • Zoe I joined a similar course some time back. I started a few of the assignments but was ;eft feeling deflated. I put it away and have not looked at it since. I then joined an adult creative writing class a few years later and I could not have been more motivated.
    I feel it is necessary to be surrounded by writers and a physical presence of a tutor. That is just for me by the way, others my feel totally different. I just lover the motivation of having to finish work to deadlines to read out and the instant critique that is offered. I would still be writing a story every now and again if I had not joined. Now I write a story at least once a week and have found the courage and encouragement to begin my novel.
  • hi, i am still trying to get into assignment 2.  i am sat here struggling right now. i had a good review for the first assignment but i've left it too long to start the second and i have run out of steam.  maybe its worth writing what they want and send it out to a relevant magazine or something. see if your new work gets accepted for publication.  then the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
  • Can I ask what seems like a silly question: why didn't you do the Writers News course, is it more expensive or something? I keep seeing questions on here about WB but not WN. 
    I used to work for WN when they were the David and Charles Writing College and it was a really good time, plenty of backup from the college and some good students, some I still write to now. 
    Then they sold out to Writer's College, I think it was, who were disastrous, who sold it on to another organisation who promptly shut the whole thing down.  I had been earning steadily for eight years, it was a bit of a crunch! Not to mention missing the student contact.
  • There used to be advertisements for writing courses that guaranteed students a full refund if they didn't earn back the cost of the course by selling their work - it might have been within a year of completing the course. However there was a proviso: the course HAD to be completed.

    The problem was that students were so overloaded with assignments that hardly anyone ever finished the course, so the guarantee was loaded very much in favour of the company.

    Does anyone remember the name of that company?
  • i too am pleased at this early stage with the quality of the course and work.  i have yet to do an assignment that may be submited to publications.  i would have done a wn course but i hadnt heard of it at the time of enrolling! still i guess its all about effort and encouragement. perhaps asking for another tutor would help or what about asking some questions - i believe that is allowed.  what course are you doing?  when i first enrolled the only course was a general one so i enrolled on that but now they have fiction etc.  i would have gone for something else as non fiction isnt high on my priority and i am seriously struggling to write. maybe thats why all my writing has gone askew.
  • Amanda, give the non fiction a go. There is a bigger market for articles than stories out there, and really they are like writing a story without the characterisation, just something you know about. Write about anything you are interested in, hobbies, books, anything. I used to write about all manner of things, from the toad in our pond to a visit to Dymock in the Forest of Dean and the Dymock Poets appeared in Evergreen). Now I write historical articles as that is my interest.  It's worth doing.
  • Dorotyd, thanks for the encouragement. i guess i am wimping out alittle. i have an idea for an article on transporting horses abroad i have done the research, i just need to write it.  but for the last month i have just sat here and looked at it.  i just cant seem to write in real life!
  • pretend it's a story. You can always alter it once the words are on the screen.
  • thanks.  going to bite the bullet and give it a go. never thought about it that way! you certainly are multi-talented!
  • Hi Amanda,
    I've just begun the WB course.  I originally felt I wanted to write only fiction - perferably crime - but am enjoying the non-fiction part.  I'm only on the second assignment, but am researching an article on embroidery and hope to get it written shortly.  Drop me a line if you'd like to compare notes.
  • hi megrose, i'd love to!
  • Hi Tracey, thanks for the encouragement. its really nice to hear of your successes it really helps to motive! many congratulations.
  • tracy sorry about the stray 'e'
  • tracy, i think your right about the 'tough love' thing.  its hard to take critism especially about our pet projects but i guess we aren't going to make it as writers if we cant handle alittle constructive crit! it doesnt mean we can drink wine and blub abit though!
  • guess what?  i've actually written out the salient points of my assignment 2 article!  whooooo its only taken nearly 2 months!  its all thanks to you wonderfull people out there!  lots of hugs to you all!!
  • Just to answer your question dorothyd I did the WB course because that was the one that I saw advertised. I wasn't a suscriber to WN then. The promise of a refund also sounded good too. As it happens I haven't had to claim that because I have earned what I paid for the course.
    I think the reason I commented originally was that I was hoping to get motivation to carry on with the course. 
  • I too signed up for a WB course and am now on Assignment 2. I am in trouble with this as we are supposed to aim at a certain market, specify the magazine we would be targeting and why. As I live in a non-English speaking environment and the only magazines I receive here are WN and Mslexia, I am finding it difficult to find a mag that would be right for my interests or what I usually write about viz. political-historical (non-fiction). I surf the net and the only ones I have found that could be the sort of mag that might possibly be  interested are well out of my league - LRB or New Yorker etc.
    My article is finished for the assignment but I cannot complete the other part of it - which magazine, details of the mag and why that magazine for this article.
    My first assignment came back with only one correction: 'About sixty-odd...', obviously either 'sixty-odd' or 'about sixty', not both. But that was that...
    I didn't even know there was a fiction option! Too late now!
  • If it's the general course, Clarissa, the second part of it IS fiction. I should be working on  assignment 8 having sent Assignment 7 in two and a half years ago. The Englishman, you recall, 'takes time'!
  • That is if he's not out 'in the midday sun' with the 'mad dogs'! :) Pity there are no smileys on Talkback!
  • I am currently doing a Writers' News poetry writing course.  I find the feedback from my tutor valid, critically constructive, and therefore most helpful.  I feel quite motivated so far. 
  • clarissa, what about using the article base and turning it into something alittle more general for ordinary people?  perhaps we would like to read your work too! what about readers digest or simular. they like intellegent work.
  • Its not too late Clarissa. I was really struggling with the non fiction part of the WB course despite the fact that my tutor was very supportive.  think the problem for me was that I struggled to find the right market for my articles or the articles to fit the right market, I'm not sure which. I asked to go onto the fiction course and I did. I enjoyed the assignments I have done but am really struggling on the one I should be doing now.
    So you can change if you want to Clarissa you just have to ask but I'm not sure that it was the right thing to do. I maybe should have worked harder at getting to grips with the non fiction as the market is so much bigger.
  • Not sure I would be better off in fiction, Zoe!
    Amanda, thanks for the Reader's Digest idea. I don't even think I would have to adapt the articles written  so far - they may be a bit off the beaten track as far as the subjects go, but the writing is not exceptional in any ay. Would that it were but then again I would not be doing the course, would I...
  • clarissa, we all need some advice and encouragement so just go for it.  if you gave me a hint on what sort of subject it is maybe i could come up with some ideas for you - after all we are all in this togther and i totally sympathise as i live in France!  i have some slightly older readers digest i would be happy to send you one if you want.  they pay for readers tips etc as well.  i belive you can submit fillers and bits later on in the course.  good luck dont give up, we may have to work alittle harder but we will be better people for it!
  • Thanks Amanda!
    The subjects of the 2 assignments sent in so far:
    1. Commemoration of the Armenian genocide by the Turks here in Vienna
    2. Article about practically unknown Ukrainian nationalists and WW II.
    So you can see, not in the least commercial but both I found interesting enough to do some research. And I hit upon both subjects quite by accident.
    Even if I never manage to place either of them, both were worth the time I spent learning something way off the beaten track and completely new - to me in any case.
  • absolutely worth it.  bringing to the attention of the world, peoples suffering can only do mankind - oh and woman of course (obviously hermaphrodites arent excluded either) good.  i should think a great many people would be interested in reading your work especially in this new era of expanding EU. it is opening up more interest in that segment. will give it alittle thought but i would give Readers Digest a go for sure.  good luck keep going.
  • Thank you so much, Amanda.
    I might give Reader's Digest a try with the next article I am writing for assignment 3 of the WB course. It might be of more general interest than the other two mentioned above. And I shall have the time to check the magazine out. I should be able to buy an up-to-date copy somewhere.
    I hadn't thought of Reader's Digest - thank you for the idea! Just wondering if they take unsolicited uncommissioned articles from unknowns but I guess I shall find that out once I try. Once it's written, that is. Still researching but have another subject I find interesting - and not so grim this time round!
    Curiosity killed the cat - probably my fatal flaw - endless curiosity. :) (insert smiley here please)
    Thanks again, Amanda.
  • no probs! anytime! i am looking for a history magazine that may suit one of your peices but lost it at the mo.  bear with me! 
  • I started the Writers Bureau non-fiction course in February in the belief that it would help me learn the market before trying to get a series of 3 novels published. I'm an English graduate, former English teacher, former librarian and I have always been led to believe I could write. I've had one book published a few years ago. However, I'd say don't do the WB course if you want to build your confidence. I'm on Assignment 7 and apart from being bored rigid have had no success whatsoever at getting anything published. I've made every possible effort to comply with the requirements and have even enjoyed writing some of the assignments. However, my experience has led me to believe that magazines are sewn up as tightly as they could possibly be at the moment, and it's a very lucky person who gets anything past an editor if he or she doesn't have connections within the industry.
    My tutor is always happy with what I write and says lots of positive things - but I'm feeling really demoralised. Whatever I write no editor wants it and no one is telling me what they do want, even when asked: their objectives seem extremely vague. This is not a course to do if you are looking to increase your confidence - go for a taught creative writing course instead, where you can talk to someone.
    All the instruction in the world on paragraphing, layout and market research won't give you the joy you feel when you write something that you yourself like. I'm about to rebel and pack in on the basis that I want to have some fun again, and on the basis that if everyone wrote to order, there would be no originality in writing at all.
  • Sympathies, Rhona.
    But it's difficult, whatever you're writing, to get accepted.
  • [quote=rhona]However, my experience has led me to believe that magazines are sewn up as tightly as they could possibly be at the moment, and it's a very lucky person who gets anything past an editor if he or she doesn't have connections within the industry.[/quote]

    It's not easy to get an idea accepted, written and published - but it does happen.

    There are several TBers who have had their ideas commissioned - it's all about timing.

    Often it's not the quality of writing that turns an editor off, simply the subject you're offering isn't right at that time.
  • I shouldn't worry about lack of non fiction success in terms of your novels as that's not going to matter at all.
  • Sorry to hear this, Rhona. I started the WB course in 2004 and I have got as far as exercise 6. Few assignments have made their way into print, but I've done other writing along the way that has got there. It's been more of a vehicle to explore new magazines / markets. I haven't aimed particularly high and have had a few pieces published about my pets (the tutor suggested going for better paid markets), lots of letters published and other bits and pieces. I am now regularly contributing to a column in a work-related magazine (nothing to do with WB), so I've stalled with the assignments. I aim to pick this up again when I get a chance. I must admit that a lot of the assignments are not terribly inspiring, but I don't like giving up on things. And I want to get to the fiction part of the course eventually.
  • [quote=rhona]I'm about to rebel and pack in on the basis that I want to have some fun again[/quote]

    If this is a course whereby you can stop and start as you like then I would say yes, stop for a while, have your fun then get your head down again at some point.

    No need to pack it in completely, is there? Just put it on hold.
  • [quote=rhona]I started the Writers Bureau non-fiction course in February in the belief that it would help me learn the market before trying to get a series of 3 novels published.[/quote]
    I might be missing something, but the markets for non-fiction articles and novels are very different. An agent or editor looking at a novel submission might take notice of a few published articles, but they'll be more impressed if you've sold some short stories.

    Unless you particularly wanted to write non-fiction then I wouldn't worry that you're not enjoying the course at the moment. It's true that some people find success with novels after making a name for themselves in journalism, but I think the majority of novelists come to it via success in fiction magazines, ezines, competitions, and anthologies.

    All writing's good exercise, though, so if the assignments are sufficiently interesting and you can scale back your hopes of getting them published, I'd suggest you stick with it. If though you spend your whole time wishing you were working on your novel instead, maybe you should take a break for a while.
  • [quote=danfango]I think the majority of novelists come to it via success in fiction magazines, ezines, competitions, and anthologies.[/quote]
    I disagree, Dan. I think the only thing agents and publishers are really interested in is if they can sell the novel. You'd have to be an incredibly successful short story writer for that to have an impact on book sales.
  • All I meant was that success in those kind of things could help convince an agent or publisher to take a look at your manuscript in the first place. I doubt there's much of a correlation between getting short stories published and selling books - sadly, most people who buy and read novels aren't particularly interested in short stories.

    Of course, a published short story gets your name 'out there', so it might lead indirectly to sales.

    I'm no expert, I just think the proportion of novelists these days who get a publishing deal with no track record of being published at all must be relatively tiny.
  • I know of two writers who first published a non-fiction book which pushed them up to the top of the Agent's lists. The fact that they could finish a book, albit non-fiction showed they had sufficient determination and perseverence to finish a novel. Both of them got two book contracts with traditional publishers. One has now had seven books published and the other is working on a second non-fiction book.
    I took a Writer's Bureau course, which I still haven't finished, but it did lead to me getting several articles published and put me on the road to short-story writing at which I have had a modicom of success.
    The thing is to never give up. Keep trying.
  • [quote=rhona] However, my experience has led me to believe that magazines are sewn up as tightly as they could possibly be at the moment, and it's a very lucky person who gets anything past an editor if he or she doesn't have connections within the industry.[/quote]

    Don't give up! My first 'proper' (i.e. an article, not a filler) article is being published next month. The editor hadn't heard of me before and I didn't need to namedrop anyone. The same editor rejected my next idea so, as mentioned above, it's sometimes just that the idea wasn't right for them at the time and not a reflection on you/your writing.
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