There are more and more creative writing courses springing up so there are obviously plenty of people interested in being taught how to write, but it occurs to me that the question really being asked is - can you teach someone how to write a book/play or short story that will get published?
Are these students honestly so keen to write that nothing else will do or have they been tempted to embark on their writing career by the media's portrayal of fame and fortune, as they imagine their first book as an instant best seller?
I have to declare an interest, having written a book on how to write for children.
Like many children's writers I visit schools and I often run writing workshops for children, of all ages. I also run writing creative writing workshops for adults.
So does that mean I believe that creative writing can be taught?
Imagine a young man sitting at his computer. He's got an idea for a novel and although he has never done any writing since he left school, he loves reading books and dreams of writing a best selling thriller. He writes in his spare time, for days and weeks until he gets to the end of the story. Congratulations are in order at this point because actually getting to the end of 90,000+ words is a lot of hard work and an achievement in itself.
The problem is that he thinks the book is now finished and in reality it is just the beginning. His novel is slow to start, there are too many characters and no real sense of who the main characters are so there is little focus for the reader. His dialogue is generally well written but his point of view shifts constantly making it confusing to follow. He has heavy passages of what he thinks is fascinating research, which lie like indigestible lumps at the beginning of several chapters. This young man can write well but he needs to learn a bit about writing because although he has talent, he needs to be able to recognise what is wrong with it. Otherwise he might spend a lot of time re-writing (or sending it out to publishers and agents just to have it returned).
In the case of this (fictitious) young man some kind of creative writing course or tutor might help him make the best of his talent.
Although it is said that everyone has a book in them - it is also true that a lot of the time that is where the book should stay! Not everyone can write something that deserves to be published, but until you have the chance to try and perhaps some help to find out how to hone your writing skills, how can you know if you can do it or not?
I firmly believe that everyone can be creative, in some form or other, but often creativity is dampened down by everyday life, or by insecurity or a feeling that it will never be good enough.
I love to go into a classroom and see the children getting so excited about the characters they create that they are full of ideas about how these characters will behave in their story.
I don't see it as teaching creative writing, it is more about opening the door to their imagination and pointing out that there are lots of paths they can take.
Can you teach creative writing? I remember hearing debate about whether you should teach art or were you stifling the artist's creativity by imposing the teacher's ideas on the student. The same could perhaps be said about writing.
What do you think?
Linda's latest novel is Dead Boy Talking (Strident Publishing)
Writing for Children (A & C Black) for all aspiring and newly published writers
Follow her blog - Bookwords - writingthebookwords.blogspot.com
Visit her website - lindastrachan.com