Old dog, new tricks… yes, it’s possible!

I know the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ can be interpreted in different ways, but the idea is that once you’re in the habit of doing something a particular way you can’t learn to do it in another – nothing necessarily to do with age. Well, considering the number of people who try new things all through their lies and become successful and enjoy ‘the new trick’ I don’t think it’s necessarily true – and maybe jut an excuse for not trying a different way of doing something. It might be harder as you get older to do something new when you’ve been doing it a certain way for a long time, or to acquire new knowledge about something you’re totally ignorant of – children soak up different languages like a sponge, for example – but adults can successfully learn and become fluent, it might just take longer and need a little more application.

I’ve been writing stories for just about as long as I can remember but I am very aware that’s easy to get stuck in a rut and not challenge yourself in different aspects of writing – and become boring and predictable! So with that in mind, when I saw there was a new on-line course about writing (well, new to me) I decided that despite being busy I would have a go at it! It’s a MOOC – massive open on-line course, entitled ‘Start Writing Fiction’ and it’s free!

I hope it will give me some fresh ideas, not just subject ideas – I have plenty of them, but new ideas on how to write in an interesting and engaging way. , and make me think about writing in a new, fresh way – to challenge myself!

Here’s what I can expect:

  • to discover the rituals and approaches that successful fiction writers use
  • to meet established writers, including some I know but not read -Louis de Bernières,  Alex Garland, Michèle Roberts , and some I don’t know – Patricia Duncker,, Gurnah, Tim Pears, Monique Roffey; they will talk about how they started writing.
  • to consider the rituals of writing and keeping a journal (oh heck, something I’m really bad at!) to learn how to develop my ideas; reflect on my own writing and editing and to hear writers talk about their approach to research. It won’t just be about thinking it will be to start turning events into plot.
  • I’ll also have the opportunity to review the work of fellow writers, and then receive comments on your own – which I am looking forward to, but somewhat dreading! No doubt we will be encouraged to make constructive, kindly criticism! An interesting aspect will be to learn to read as a writer and to respond to feedback.

… and here’s the topics which will be covered:

  • creating characters in fiction
  • different sources for characters
  • ways of presenting characters
  • reading as a writer
  • writing practice, including creativity, research, observation and editing
  • peer reviewing, workshops and the importance of feedback – looking forward to this greatly!

Dr Derek Neale of the Open University is the course leader; in his introduction he says ‘there seem to be two different types of character. There’s the type that just turns up at your shoulder like a ghost and insists on being written. The other kind of character is the sort that you invent more or less from scratch or creator as a composite of various people who you’ve noticed or come across.‘ He also adds ‘if you haven’t come across MOOCs before, Massive Open On-Line Courses, now is a great time to find out about them so that you can join and develop your writing! These free courses developed and run by universities from across the world offer learning experiences for all.’

I will be charting my progress here, but I would really love to have others join – we can ‘meet’ in the discussion groups and discuss our progress. I shall be updating how I’m getting on right here over the next seventy days!

Here is the link:






    1. Lois

      It’s difficult isn’t it to shake yourself out of the way you do things – yes, I’m hoping it will dig me out of my rut! I’m also doing a genealogical MOOC which I think will help with my stories about family history.

      Liked by 1 person

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