Describe your fiction writing course in a nutshell.
This is a 6 day intensive fiction writing course on a beautiful Greek island, from Monday evening to Sunday evening. The fiction writing courses run usually from Monday to Sunday evening. Click the here for negotiable dates and booking instructions. One favourite option is to arrive by boat from either mainland Piraeus or Lavrio on Monday evening, and to return to either on Sunday evening.[
Where do we work?
The teaching room is in my house, a five minute walk downhill from Cafe Merihas.
We work from 9am to 1 pm every morning, stopping for a brief coffee or a stroll at 11am. About 1.30 every day our taxi driver Mikhailis takes us somewhere very nice on the island: either a quiet and beautiful beach plus taverna for lunch, or a village like Kythnos Hora, Loutra, Kanala or Dhryopida, where you can laze or shop or sightsee, and where there are plenty of options for lunch. Around 4.30pm Mikhailis picks us up and we return to Merihas.
We have dinner at the restaurant of our choice around 7 and then reconvene at 8.30 in the teaching room for more relaxed work; e.g. readings by you and by me; general discussion about say publishing and work routine rather than hard writing; just possibly a film about VS Naipaul or Virginia Woolf.
Finish at 9.30 and then disperse to do what we like for the rest of the evening.
Ok, but when do we find time to write?
Good question. Aside from the morning writing you are welcome to take your pen and paper or laptop with you on your afternoon trip. You can tuck yourself away at a remote and quiet taverna table and work away on your fiction writing to your heart’s content and nobody will mind. Back at Merihas you then have between 5.30 pm and 7pm to do what you want, before we meet for dinner.
But hang on, what about the work? What about the fiction writing?
Don’t worry you will be ready to relax a bit in the afternoon as you will have worked intensely for 4 hours in the morning.
Exercises such as a minute study of a very good piece of fiction will act as a launch pad to you writing a very good piece of fiction. Perhaps from Kate O’ Brien or GB Stern and her Matriarch novels, or from Lisa St Aubin de Teran. Or maybe we will go native and look at the work of a young genius called Vangelis Hatziyannidis and his stunning debut novel Four Walls (Marion Boyars, 2006).
Working this way will open the door to your own creative energies as it exposes you to alternative ways to write, think and see things.
What else do we study on the course?
First of all and crucially every student will be offered a 1/2 hour one to one private tutorial with me. The basis of this will be a maximum of 10 A4 pages of your fiction. I recommend you bring 2 copies of this with you from home, one for you and one for me, and you give it to me the first night. You can alternatively use work you do in Kythnos.
You will also learn very important editorial skills by assessing your own writing word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. One way of doing this is to do mock Reader’s Reports on your partner’s work. You analyse a partner’s piece of work with minute and exact commentary on phrasing, narrative tension, dialogue, structure, style and idiosyncrasy etc. You assess what is good and what is not so good and offer possible advice. The same thing is done to you by your partner. Apart from anything else you will be duty bound to defend precisely and accurately your critique of your partner’s work. You can only be precise, exact and detailed in your critique, by writing it all down first as a very detailed Reader’s Report, preceded by a provisional pencil editing of your partner’s work. The object of the lesson is that ultimately you will learn how to assess your own work and improve it in due course, and the tougher you are on yourself, the better your work will be.
Hemingway is supposed to have said ‘it reads easy cos it’s wrote hard’ and we will be testing the veracity of this steely dictum for six days.
What else do you do apart from detailed fiction study and editing exercises on your courses?
Lots of things!
Collaborative Plotting and Individual Plotting.
The benefits and limitations of Structural Variety and Narrative Sophistication.
The use of present tense and past tense narratives, of first person and third person, and again their limitations and advantages.
First person options of confessional diaries and monologues, and also the epistolary narratives or email and text fiction as they might be today. There is a remarkable epistolary novel by the French Canadian writer Marie-Claire Blais called Tete Blanche, about a very needy boy and his strange and offhand mother. We might well look at that and see what we find.