Silverfish writing programme for the rest of us:

Silverfish writing programme for the rest of us:



I started this programme in 2006 and ran it once or twice a year (depending on demand) until two years ago, just before Covid-19 struck. I have received several inquiries about a new intake (also, for an “advanced module") since then but we don’t think the “new normal” was going to allow us to meet and discuss stuff like we used to. Besides it’s very tiring physically.

So, this post is our response is the “new normal”. I am posting our Writing Programme on Quora for free (albeit modified for the net) for anyone, anywhere. But I recommend that you work in groups, small groups. (3 persons is a number, otherwise the discussion will gravitate towards cheese-cake recipes before long.) Of course, Quora allows you to post questions for me (or any other Quoran) to answer. Let’s see how this works.

When a have a class of ten, it doesn’t take long for me to identify those who’re natural and those not. (But I have been surprised by many “hopeless cases”.) Unlike a schoolteacher, publishers cannot spend too much time with the weakest links. We’re only interested in nurturing the best. (Sorry, if that sounds Darwinian.)

Another thing:

Getting published is not the only reason for this writing programme. Anyway, this course (for want of a better word) is targeted at an intelligent and curious Joe average. I believe learning something new is never a waste of time. I have three books published (two of them for my grandchildren) that I was never interested in selling or receiving royalties (although my publisher arranged to supply them to some bookstores). I did it for fun and was only interested in the process, to prove to myself that I could. I’d get more than a little embarrassed when someone asked me to sign my books, though. I’d absolutely hate that. God, what an affectation! But that’s me.

So, learning to write (or, for that matter, draw) is a most useful and joyful skill (a lot like lock picking), and fun. And like bicycle riding, you’ll remember the skill even when you’re 80. Forget about all the “big” money you’re not going to make, because you’re not. Simply enjoy the ride and share it.

A caveat: I don’t believe this “creative writing” thing that’s hyped about. It simply a marketing gimmick that preys on the mass hysteria promoted by media based on the crazy (normally fictious) amounts of money “writers” make. (Talk about fake news!) There is good and bad writing, and good and bad storytelling. No one talks about courses in creative painting, or creative film making or creative sculpturing; it’s redundant.

This programme is about storytelling and how to use skilful writing (in any language) to tell it well but keep out of the way. This is not a course for the “naturals”; they cannot analyse what they do; they just do it. It’s for the rest of us. It’s about allowing a story take over and talk through you. (Sounds spooky, no?)

It’s about allowing your story to come alive. Yes, I believe stories have a life of their own and live in your imagination and must be allowed to roam free in the wild. It’s called culture. While a language skill is an important tool, it’s not the story. The Silverfish Writing Programme is about learning the techniques that will make your stories come alive and grab the readers by the jugular.

Two stories:

One, about 20 years ago, I ordered a book for a customer, Drawing with the right side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I was so intrigued by this 1979 book when I researched it, I decided to get one for myself. When I read her book, I realized she was talking about the same problems people faced when they started to write.

Two, there are hundreds of books on writing out there in the market, but the only one that has stumped me. Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande, first published in 1934 which I found in a pile of secondhand books a friend was throwing away, is such a basic common-sense, it’s a gem.

So, I’d suggest you get a copy of these two books because they are books are great reads and worthy of a place in anyone’s library. I have picked a few points and techniques from them, but the two books have a lot more useful information . As a bonus, you may even want to learn to draw!

Now, let’s do some home work

Exercises for Week 1 (Oh, take as long as you want if you’re not training for the Olympics.)

  1. First project: drawing! Yes, that’s right, and this is modified from Betty Edwards’ book. (She has many more tricks.)
    1. First look for a nice photo of anything (faces are good). BW is better; colour makes it too complicated.
    2. Okay, now try to draw the picture you see on a blank page. Don’t give up, draw it; take as long as you want.
    3. When you’ve had enough, turn the photo upside down and draw it again. Now, can you feel your brain rebelling, going berserk? That’s good; your brain is not used to this, looking at things in a completely different way! Your right-brain has just kicked in. Get acquainted with it. Work it.
    4. Persist with the upside-down drawing; it will get easier with time.
    5. This is also what happens in writing. Look at the world in a completely different way. Over time it will become easy, even natural. Have you noticed how some people can be so funny and engaging at parties and gatherings, and you’re so self-conscious? When they tell stories they exaggerate, bend, use half-truths and even lie, to make it interesting. And it works. Their aim is not to deceive, but to tell a good story, to entertain.
    6. It only becomes fake news when the aim is to deceive or cheat.
  2. Second project: writing.
    1. Write for at least 30min daily in the morning writing with no correction. Awake half-an-hour earlier, get a cup of coffee, sit in front of the computer and write. Don’t read anything before you start. Write about your dream if you can remember. Look out of the window for inspiration, look around the room, remember what happened yesterday, last week; is someone coming to visit, someone you love, someone you hate, do you have to visit someone; a chore to do; anything … let it flow, let it go. Close your eyes for a bit if nothing comes initially. Something will since, you’re writing in that twilight zone between wakefulness and sleep, that’s your right-brain zone. Don’t be afraid of the bizarre.
    2. Save your work. It will become useful later.
    3. Don’t read what you have written. Don’t show it to anyone. Remember these are personal thoughts, not one for the Facebook; your ego is very fragile at this point, and the slightest criticism will make you freak. (In the age of social media, people have forgotten how much personal space means.) NO ONE ELSE SHOULD READ IT. It could, and should, contain some of your deepest (and rawest) thoughts and emotions
    4. Do the same the next morning. Do it daily.
    5. Print them out and file it (dangerous; someone might read it), or better save, password protected, in your computer.
    6. Let this be the start of your junk heap, your quilt basket.

Okay, see you next week for the second part.

The programme is entirely free. Simply click this link: to join in. Then, you’ll have to join Quora (also free), follow my writing space to ask questions.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.