Saturday, 28 November 2020

Book Birthday Blitz and author Guest Post: A Taste Of His Own Medicine by Linda Fawke

Writing Courses – are they a good idea?

Linda Fawke

Can you be taught to write?

Some folk sneer at Writing Courses believing writing skills are innate. Why? No-one believes dance or music lessons are a waste of time. You can’t guarantee a writing course will turn you into a best-selling author but you can learn a lot. As I discovered the hard way…

When I retired and started to write seriously, I didn’t believe I’d need much help. At school, I’d been taught formally and well – I was that generation. My English grammar and spelling were good and I could construct a well-phrased sentence. My problem was I knew nothing about the business of writing, how to get started, how to get published, who to contact – hundreds of questions. So I decided doing a writing course would help. I enrolled in a distance learning course with the Writers’ Bureau.

To start with, I gathered some compliments on my writing. This is a doddle, I thought. I shall sail through this course. But it wasn’t long before some harsh – yet constructive – criticism arrived. Huh! My writing wasn’t perfect! Somewhat affronted, I took it on board. I began to realise there is much more to good writing than the ability to spell, punctuate and write grammatically. I climbed down from my pedestal and accepted how much I had to learn.

To my surprise, the course was commercially orientated and the Writers’ Bureau expected participants to sell their writing. They were so sure you could earn the cost of the course back within two years they offered to refund it all if you didn’t. Initially, I thought this was a great offer – then I realised how ashamed I would be to make such a claim. Fortunately, I didn’t need to.

We started with non-fiction. This meant writing articles for magazines, sending in funny stories and letters to Readers’ pages and learning how to go about all of this in a professional way. These were not routes I’d ever gone along before. Did I really want to? This wasn’t ‘real’ writing to me. But I had no choice. I would creep into W H Smith’s and buy the sort of magazine I normally considered rubbish to see what the opportunities were. I would look furtively around me to see if anyone saw what I was buying!

I realised I needed to grow a pretty thick skin. Unfortunately, it is never quite thick enough. You have to get used to rejection. However, when you do get something accepted, it is all the sweeter.

I submitted quips and letters to many magazines including The Oldie (various short travel pieces and a Rant or two) and Saga magazine (a letter). I had a great success in The Readers’ Digest with a ‘filler’. It was 70 words long, took me a few minutes to write and earned me £50. My highest ever rate of pay! ‘Star’ letters are often well rewarded. I won a lovely piece of Rimova cabin baggage worth around £350 for a letter in the Air Canada in-flight magazine. All this fulfilled the requirements of the course – and it was good to get some recognition – but didn’t really satisfy me. However, it did teach me discipline in writing, an important lesson. The over-riding message was, ‘Write EXACTLY what the editor/magazine wants if you want to get published’. My first ‘proper’ article, commissioned and paid for, was in Berkshire Life magazine. I felt at that point I could call myself a writer.

The course also encouraged us to enter writing competitions. I’ve had some success but my winnings are not going to make me rich. My most lucrative success was my entry into the Daily Telegraph ‘Just Back’ competition. This is a weekly competition on Saturdays for travel writing. I won one week – £200. I’ve entered many times since but with no further success. Again, a key point for any competition is to obey the rules to the letter. I was learning!

We moved on to fiction which is my main love. However, it became apparent how hard it is to sell. There are fewer opportunities than for non-fiction. Although I’d been a bit sniffy about writing for magazines, I was glad I’d done that part of the course first. It had told me I could write and gave me some confidence. The challenge of getting my fiction accepted was greater.

But I was getting there!

A Taste of His Own Medicine

How long can the desire for revenge last?

Kate Shaw, a successful pharmacist, goes to a thirty-year reunion at her old university and uses the weekend to settle some old scores. Her main target is her ex-lover, Jonathan. She decides to scar him for life as he scarred her. Her bizarre plan works but he shocks her with his strange, unwanted reaction.

What is the unexpected link between Jonathan and Kate’s husband?

What is the significance of the ‘Love Bite’ photograph?

What hold does Jonathan have over Kate?

Revenge is never simple.

A darkly humorous story of love, lust, loss and vengeance.

Amazon UK                Amazon US 

Linda Fawke is an arts person who studied science but always wanted to write. Now retired, she indulges this passion, writing fiction and non-fiction, even occasional poetry, preferably late at night. She has now written two novels, 'A Taste of his own Medicine' and its sequel, 'A Prescription for Madness' using her background in pharmacy as the setting of both. These are easy books to read, suitable for Book Club discussions. ' A Prescription for Madness' is more serious than the first book, dealing with such issues as pregnancy in later life and Down's Syndrome.

She has been a winner of the Daily Telegraph 'Just Back' travel-writing competition and has published in various magazines including 'Mslexia', 'Litro' online, 'Scribble', 'The Oldie', 'Berkshire Life' and 'Living France'. She was a finalist in the 'Hysteria' short story competition.

Linda blogs at where her 'Random Writings' include a range of topics from travel to 'Things that pop into my head'.

Twitter: @LindaFawke

Facebook: Linda Fawke