Wednesday 3 April 2024

Paying for help with writing in the UK

Maybe you've never had a poem or story published. Maybe you've already had a book published. Whatever level you're at, you may feel that your creative development need an injection of pace. What options offer value for money? Options include

Writers Groups

Local writers groups might offer monthly meeting for maybe £20/year. Quality is variable, and you need to give as much crit as you get. There are online forums too.

Evening classes

Quality is variable, and like writers groups, they take months to have an impact.

Specialised Courses

The Poetry School is an example of an organisation that offers 1-day sessions (e.g."Short order poetry to go" - 72 pounds) and courses (e.g. "The Construction of the Poem " - a 30-week course)

Residential courses

The most well-known is Arvon - about £700/week. There are many beneficial side-effects. Immersion for a week in a writing environment helps people to start thinking of themselves as "writers". See the post by John Foggin


Some festivals/conferences offer workshops as well as celeb events


Several magazines, often as part of the standard submission process, offer critiques with quick turn-arounds. See for example


It's not so much the academic surroundings that attract late-comers -

  • It's a way of finding a peer-group which might last you way beyond the length of the course.
  • You may appreciate the disciplined approach, the lack of distraction, the easy availability of help.
  • Unless you show you're serious about writing, your family won't take you seriously and won't give you space.
  • A Masters is a way to validate your skills - even if it doesn't help you write better, the certificate at the end will open doors.
  • It will show the grandchildren that you're not over the hill yet.

See Should I do a Creative Writing MA? (Emma Darwin)


Many "how to write" books have exercises. A good example is "52: Write a Poem a Week. Start Now. Keep Going." by Jo Bell (Nine Arches Press, 2015)


Mentoring is about $40/hour, and 60,000 words cost at least £400 to be evaluated. Regional Arts Boards can sometimes help with funding or at least offer recommendations. Even if you find a reputable company, you won't know beforehand how useful their comments will be, but even their help with the all-important first few paragraphs may make all the difference. In an advert I recently read, "Established, acclaimed authors offer aspiring writers ten hours of consultation time, usually spread out over a year. In between, the mentor reads the work for a further ten hours" for £2600.


Write your own syllabus for the year, combining some of the elements above. If you have the self-discipline you could plan a year-long programme tailored to your own needs. Creative writing syllabuses are online to give you ideas. Festivals, readings, short residential workshops, private study, and competition deadlines can be time-tabled into a year of activity. The NaPoWriMo might be useful stimulation, or competition deadlines. Holidays can be integrated into the scheme too.

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