Creative Writing Courses in France

Kick Start Your Project

FAQ answered by Tutors Peter May and Janice Hally:
Janice and Peter
Choosing a creative writing Course from a website is a risky business!

If you already have lots of questions to ask, you can scroll down the page and find out if they are covered by any of the "Frequently Asked Questions" we receive.

  If you haven't any specific questions, then Janice has written an article about the things you should think about when you are choosing a Course.  Click here to read it
Also, please tour our website pages which will hopefully will give you a clear idea of what to expect. And remember, we're always happy to discuss your individual situation, simply click here to E-mail us.
Why don't you hold more Courses each year? We're both professional writers, so most of our year is spent writing! We arrange only a few Courses each year. Timings vary according to our availability and the availability of the Hotel Victor Hugo.
Do you think it's important that tutors on Courses like this are professional writers? Not every professional writer would make a good tutor as not everyone has the ability to pass on their expertise - but every tutor ought to show evidence that they are able to write

If a person can't put their theories into practice themselves, what use will their theories be to you? 

If they haven't had a book published or a drama produced, don't you have to ask yourself - or them - why not? 

If they haven't been through the process - and have no personal experience of it - can anything they have to say about it be enlightening?
Why don't you take bigger groups?

We keep the groups small in order to devote as much time as possible to each writer.  It's important to us that the Courses work.

Some Courses advertise that writers can have a single individual session with the tutor at some point during the Course. We don't believe that is enough.

We have found that the most important and productive part of the Course is the one-to-one tutorial. We schedule one daily with each writer - though it's not compulsory... we don't force people into anything!

What level of writing experience is required for someone coming on your Course? This Course works for anyone, from complete beginners, who have never written a word before, to published authors who may want to try writing a play or screen play, or to tackle a new genre.

or example, experienced journalists and writers of non-fiction have come on "Kick Start Your Project" to start their first work of fiction.  Often people are coming on the Course because they've had a long-held dream or ambition, but need guidance about how to approach it.

Everyone benefits from a creative and stimulating environment, and, returning to the importance of the personal guidance in the one-to-one tutorials, we ensure that everyone gets the level of advice and help which is appropriate for them.

What is the average age of the people who come on your Courses?

The youngest person was seventeen, the oldest, over seventy. The rest were in their 20s, 30, 40s, 50s and 60s. In other words, there's no average.

Each group is different, and every group has always been the same in one respect: they have shared a desire to write and supported one another through the creative process of developing their ideas (when every writer is at their most vulnerable). The bonds and friendships which have formed in each group never seem to be affected by age or sex.

What kind of writing project is the Course aimed at?

The Course is for people working on a major work of fiction:

  • a novel
  • a theatre play
  • a screenplay for cinema
  • a single drama, or a serial drama for television.
N.B. The Course is not for Poetry, short stories or works of non-fiction

How much preparatory work should I do before I come?

As little as possible!

The Course is designed to lay the groundwork for a new idea. It works best if you arrive with simply the germ of an idea. It even works if you arrive with no idea at all!

N.B. The Course is not designed for doing editing work or re-writes on a manuscript which you have finished and which is "not working" or which has problems which you are trying to solve.  Don't bring an old manuscript to re-write.

Come on this Course with a fresh idea...
get it right first time...
and you'll avoid the need for re-writes!
What does "laying the groundwork" entail? In easy logical steps, you'll develop your characters and your plot, then you'll begin to define and structure your story in the way which will most engage your audience or readers.
Isn't it more creative to "go with the flow" and let things evolve?

The workshops and writing assignments will get your creative juices flowing so that you find yourself with the greatest choice of opportunities and possibilities.

Creativity is always our priority, but being focused and taking logical steps means that you don't waste your creative energy.

Making the right choices early and laying the right foundations for a project definitely increases the chances of its success.

What makes this Course special? We are both experienced not only as writers but as editors, and are used to encouraging and enabling other writers to produce their best work.

The one-to-one attention we give to every writer and their own project is the key to the success of this Course. You can see from the letters we receive how people feel about that (read extracts here)

We don't believe in large impersonal groups, where tutors keep their distance from the people on the Course and dish out lectures on theory. There are general principles and advice which can help any writer: we deal with those in the morning workshops and in the writing assignments. But the thing which makes this Course special is the fact that we never forget that every writer and every idea is different.

For a writer to receive advice that is genuinely helpful, it has to be specific and relevant to that writer and his or her own project.

In the daily one-to-one tutorials, we get to know everyone personally and work closely with them. That's why the time we spend with each writer is the part of the Course which yields most results.

If you want to remain anonymous don't come on this Course!

Are there any books on the theory of writing which I should read before coming?

Like learning to play the piano, it might help to understand some basic principles before you start: such as, how to lay out a script if you want to write a screenplay.

Remember though, that many successful works of fiction, whether prose or drama, break the "rules" which the self-styled experts advise their students to follow. And above all bear in mind that...

no amount of theory is a substitute for practice.

Our experience is that the people who have read the most books about theory, not only seem to do the least writing, but seem to be the most inhibited.

If you want to do homework before the Course, our advice would be this:

  • if you want to write a theatre play, go to the theatre as often as you can, and read plays.
  • if you want to create a television drama serial, watch television drama.
  • if you want to write a screenplay for a romantic comedy, watch as many romantic comedies as you can
  • if you want to write a psychological thriller, read all the psychological thrillers you can lay your hands on

In other words, get to know your genre. Find out what is out there already, and try to analyse it. Decide what works for you and what doesn't. Work out why you like something and why you don't. Read authors you admire and devote time to thinking about what they do which engages and moves you.

There are guidelines on characterisation and story structure which we deal with on the Course. They are based on principles which we have developed from our own experience of writing drama for stage and screen as well as novels. These principles will be introduced in the context of your writing assignments, so the theory will never be isolated from the practice and everything you do will be taking your story and your writing a step further.

Why do you hold these Courses?

Part of the answer to that can be found in the things people say about their experiences here. People get so much out of them! The week is demanding and hard work, but exciting and hugely entertaining too, as we watch each story develop across the seven days.

It's also a chance to pass on what we have learned from experience. During our early years working in British television we learned from older writers (some of the country's most talented playwrights and scriptwriters). Later, much of our own work involved bringing on new writers and developing their writing abilities.

Now, we've chosen to come and live and write in a beautiful part of France, and are very happy here, but it does leave us isolated from other writers. Each Course brings a group of people together who share our love of writing and who want to create and tell great stories.

Will the Course tell me how to find a producer or a publisher for my finished novel or drama?

First things first! We achieve an enormous amount in the seven days, but we don't get to that stage. We do believe you should focus on taking one step at a time. You should write and finish your novel or drama before you start worrying about marketing it.

There are many books which can help if this is information which you require. One which provides an excellent description of the publishing world is literary agent Carole Blake's "From Pitch to Publication".

We don't avoid the subject completely. You will have plenty of opportunities to ask us questions about anything. But learning about marketing your work is not formally included in the Course because we don't have the time. To do the job properly would mean tackling several different subjects: explaining how the worlds of publishing, film, television or theatre production work; suggesting ways of finding an agent, a publisher or a producer; giving tips on how to "pitch" your idea, or how to write eye-catching letters of introduction. It would make a Course on its own - maybe a Course which we will set up one day - but it's not part of the Course which we are concentrating on just now.

This Course is designed to do exactly what it says in its title...
"Kick Start Your Project"

Does the Course work?

We have had so much positive feedback about our approach, that it seems to work - but there's no money back guarantee!

But don't take our word for it - why not listen to those who have experienced it...

Click here to find out what people say about the Course
May I bring along work I have already written so that you might read and give me a critique of it?

In a word... no.

The mornings are devoted to group sessions with everyone together, in the afternoons, we have a solid schedule of one-to-one tutorials where we work with each person individually, and in the evenings we have get-togethers where we talk about various aspects of writing. The rest of the time during the seven days is spent either eating or sleeping.

To avoid causing offence to you or embarrassment to ourselves, it's best that we are blunt now...
Don't bring manuscripts or samples of your writing, we just don't have time to read them during what is a very busy seven days.

We hope you are understanding about this. Don't feel slighted. We will devote lots of time to your work, but we will be concentrating solely on the project you have come to develop on the Course.

These FAQs haven't answered all my questions, where can I find out more?

Almost everything you need to know will be here on the website. The most important pages to look at are:

If you still have a question, just click on the link below and ask. We're always happy to help:
Contact Us


© 2011 Peter May & Janice Hally