Booked Out: Online: How to become a Professional Writer with Órfhlaith Foyle

Booked Out: Online: How to become a Professional Writer with Órfhlaith Foyle

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Starts: Wed 3 Feb 2021
Time: 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm
Duration: 6 weeks
Cost: €165/€150 members

Course Level: Emerging 

All Irish Writers Centre remote courses take place on Irish Standard Time (GMT) 

Course Summary: 

Participants will concentrate on the structure of their work in progress, paying deep attention to characterisation, narrative, dialogue, as well as pace and action. It is not necessary to have a finished draft or story.

This course will aid the writer’s critical awareness of their first finished draft  - balancing their passion for their work against the professional expectations of publishers via simple questions such as  - does your work show/tell a story, does your prose come from your writer’s voice, is the action true to the character(s), does scene 3 really foreshadow that death in scene 14, are there too many details on this page, why does your character do this or that? These are only a selection of questions and exercises that the student will perform.

 Course Outline: This course consists of six workshops culminating in either a finished piece ready to send to publishers or a piece that is almost ready.

Workshop 1 (First Hour) Introduction  What Makes A Writer?

Example Lesson Plan as follows:

Aim: For the creative writing students to discuss and analyse what makes a writer.

Aids: Students own ideas, writers’ quotes - historical and contemporary-

Body of Lesson:

5/10 mins

Introduce myself to the students. Explain the aim of the lesson and briefly describe how future workshops will follow.

10 mins

A short discussion based on simple but necessary questions and referring to writing quotes. I will read a passage from Hard Times by Charles Dickens detailing Mr. Gradgrind’s view on art.

What is the difference between  a writer born and an author?

What is a writer and why be a writer at all? What are stories, novels, plays, poems for?

10 mins 

Each student writes down their idea of what a writer is on a piece of paper. The pieces are then collected and three ‘beliefs’ selected. What are the opposite of these beliefs?

20/30 mins

Using the current topic of writers/artists/poets surviving Covid-19, the class will be divided into for and against either into two main groups or three/four smaller groups. Each group has one belief or its opposite to discuss, to stand up for and debate.

This seems like a simple exercise but it will establish that in COVID-19  and in even lesser crises and every day society, art has to defend its existence against the Mr Gradgrinds of the world. I also aim to use this exercise as a referral for later study on a novel’s protagonist/antagonist, literary research and critical thinking re literature.

5 mins

Each student writes a paragraph detailing why they want to be a writer with a view to being a published author. This exercise will depend on time. Students can finish it outside class and bring it to the next workshop where it will act as an introduction to how their writing will have to navigate the world of contemporary publishing.

Desired Outcome

The students will have examined why they want to be a writer and discussed how necessary art is to them as human beings, to society and the contemporary publishing world.

Second Hour of Workshop 1  ‘Being’ a writer in the contemporary publishing world.

The class work will discuss how a writer can situate their art into today’s publishing world

How do you edit a piece of writing?

Workshop 2  Can you imagine the shape of your novel/short story?

This lesson will begin with character, voice, location –how they can ‘show the story’ and steer your project. Aids include writers’ works showcasing the above.

Workshop 3  Development -Discipline -Grit -Bloody minded-ness.

History of novel - The history of story -followed by a practicum where the students will study their project’s shape, its colour, its lines, what pieces of drama, story they have arrowed into it.

Workshop 4  Ringfence it or Wing it

Remind the students they have already begun to plan their project aka their shape work. Writers’ quotes on to plan or not to plan but it will become clear that every writer plans in some way…a creative idea is a plan in itself.

Workshop 5  Editors – What are editors in this publishing world and Why are they necessary?

What is the role and responsibility of an editor? What is the author’s role and responsibility to their work and the editor?

Workshop 6  To Present This Way and not That Way 

  1. Re-read their work as if it were new to them, honestly seeing holes and hollows or an abyss in the narrative -practicum follows – intense work on what publishers/ contemporary literary world expect re submissions

 Course Outcomes:

 Aim of Course – creative writing students to work on a present project or begin a new one, outlining and editing, detailing structure, character, voice, action etc.

Desired Outcome  - each student works with view to submitting to publishers


Órfhlaith Foyle has  published one novel Belios (Lilliput Press), a poetry collection Red Riding Hood’s Dilemma, two short fiction collections Somewhere in Minnesota and Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin (Arlen House). Arlen House will be publishing her third short story collection and second poetry collection in 2021. She recently received full Broadcasting Authority Funding for her radio play May’s End which will broadcast in 2021 on Newstalk Radio. Arlen House will publish the play to coincide with its broadcast.

"Órla Foyle’s strange stories of violence and yearning beguile the reader even as they disconcert. She is a true original, a writer of great gifts, and I find her work immensely compelling and memorable."

Joseph O’ Connor  Author

"If a very early-career Ian McEwan got together with Franz Kafka and Flannery O’Connor and somehow a lovechild grew up to be a writer, I think that writer might be Órfhlaith Foyle. Throw in the loneliness of Jean Rhys and the twisted fairy-tale atmospheres of Angela Carter and the picture is almost complete."

Alan McMonagle  Author

"The short story collection Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin by Órfhlaith Foyle….reads a little like Carson McCullers and tastes like one of the richest and most darkly dreamt things in recent Irish writing."

Martin Dyar  Poet

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