Kirstie Bedford2019 Faber scholarship winner Kirstie Bedford on how a creative writing course will improve your manuscript

Ask any group of writers about creative writing courses and youíll start a solid debate about the reasons you should, or shouldnít, do one. Personally, Iíve always been an advocate. To me, itís much like any profession. You wouldnít apply for a job as a school teacher or lawyer, for example, without a qualification, so how is being a writer any different?

I started my career as a news journalist more than two decades ago and have been writing news and features well before I tried my hand at creative writing, and when I did attempt it, I soon realised it was a completely different genre.

Like most people who want to attempt fiction, Iíve always loved story. I also love to write. It fills my soul with a satisfaction nothing else does, and thatís the reason I do it, but I also have a story I passionately want to tell, and want other people to read. I want to write stories that make people feel. That move people. My favourite authors are talented at plot, character development, have a strong voice, and importantly, they move me to tears.

But how do they do that? You can read the work of your favourite author repeatedly and see that it works, but without some basic skills and techniques itís very hard to know how to apply that to your own work. Much like using a washing machine, you can see that it works because your clothes are clean, but if you understand the mechanics behind it, you know how it does that, and ultimately what you need to do if you wanted to build one.

I believe a manuscript is initially built on a strong understanding of the craft of writing, and learning this from someone who has been down that road is invaluable.

Faber Writing Academy's Writing a Novel course in Melbourne is taught by two of the most inspiring, talented, authors you could get, and their mentorship has been invaluable to my writing progression. I was stuck at 60k words for months, and since completing the course Iím at 85k and have reworked the entire manuscript. Had I not won the scholarship, I wouldnít be in a position to participate in the course, and I am convinced I would now be well below that word count, and importantly, wouldnít have the right skills to hone my craft. Toni Jordan and Paddy OíReilly give invaluable personal advice that only someone who has been through the process can provide. They are candid and generous. Thereís no sugar coating, and that means youíre getting the advice you need to move forward in your writing and also insight into the Ďbusinessí of writing, so you can pitch your story to agents and publishers.

While Paddy is a self-confessed believer in Ďno rulesí and Toni leans the other way, they are always on the same page when it comes to the basic skills you need to know about writing: plot, narrative drive, character development and voice Ė to name but a few of the areas youíll cover. And as Paddy says, you canít break rules until you know them.

Most writing courses also provide feedback from fellow students who will debate your characters actions and your plot. Take it or leave it, but hearing other people take your work as seriously as you do is refreshing, as is understanding how itís being received, and importantly reading other peopleís work is a great way to see what does and doesnít work.

At the end of a writing course there will be a confidence in your own creative process, knowing youíre on the right path. Instead of feeling like you are wading around at sea at night wondering which direction to go, youíll have some lights showing you the way. It will get you closer to a traditional publisher than you would otherwise be, unless of course thatís not the reason you are doing it, and if not, then at least youíve got the skills to craft a manuscript that works, even if your family are the only ones who ever read it.

Kirstie Bedford