Circle of Misse

A Writer Progresses

Novelist Carol Topolski leads a writing exercise exploring 'a sense of place' at Villandry
Novelist Carol Topolski leads a writing exercise exploring "sense of place" at Villandry 

You have a solid idea and at least a few chapters of your project. This week is about tackling the problem areas, fine-tuning our understanding of the writer's tools to improve your writing and move your project towards completion. In this mentored course, you will have daily one-to-one feedback and everything is tailored specifically to your manuscript. You will leave with a solid plan and revised chapters.

This strand is ideal for writers at all experience levels who have made a committed start (at least a few chapters) to a book-length writing project (novel, short story collection, memoir, narrative nonfiction. Anywhere from a few chapters to a full rough draft. It’s fine if it is very rough. That’s not important. What is important is that at least a small chunk of it exists on paper and not just in your head. A story can’t begin to live until it’s on paper.

This course is manuscript-focused, so it is important to have at least enough of a start on the project that there is something to work with, text that hints to the tone, character and direction you may want to take the work as a whole.

We create an environment of total immersion in the world of your work-in-progress. You will work half of each day with experienced writers and mentors in dynamic sessions focused on a specific area of writing craft and problem-solving techniques that you can apply directly to your writing project, enabling you to experiment, explore and strengthen your work while also developing new skills that can be applied to the project as a whole. We combine teaching, discussions, the examination of excerpts from published work illustrating a craft element applicable to your own work, and writing exercises tailored specifically to your project. We will hold some of the sessions at farmer’s markets and areas of natural beauty, so we can truly allow our conscious minds and "inner critics" to get out the way as we have fun exploring and trying new approaches to our writing goals.

You will also join your course leaders for a daily one-to-one mentoring session to discuss your project, receive manuscript feedback and develop strategies to move you forward. The other half of the day is yours to spend writing, applying the things you learned in the small group sessions directly to your work-in-progress, and accomplishing the goals you set during your daily one-to-ones with the course leader. A writer-in-residence is available during writing time to provide help if you get stuck or just want to bounce some ideas, or get clarification.

At the end of each day you will have the opportunity to submit the day’s work for feedback during the one-to-one the next day, if you like.

There is also time set-aside in the late afternoon for free-time, walks, reading, simply chilling out with a drink, or for continuing to write.


What Will I leave with?   More confidence and trust in your abilities as a writer that will propel you on to the finish. A better understanding of techniques you can use to interject a sense of play and imagination into your work-in-progress and your writing practice in general. Methods for quietening the 'inner critic' and dealing with writer's block and the other worries that often keep us from writing. You’ll leave with a better sense of your writing style and who you are as a writer. You will start to find, develop, and cultivate your own individual voice. You’ll learn to read, think and observe like a writer.

You’ll also develop a better understanding of the ‘world’ of your story. You’ll begin to learn to see your work objectively and cultivate the skills and judgment to effectively apply specific elements of writing craft to your work-in-progress. You will learn skills that will allow you to problem-solve your own way through your work, making the necessary critical judgments to take your work to the next level. You will leave with substantial redrafts of problematic sections and new text where you’ve clarified, deepened, strengthened and solved problems that were weakening your work-in-progress or preventing you from moving forward. The new sections, along with the goal-setting and strategies you take away from the course can be applied to the project as a whole, providing a roadmap for a solid draft you can implement once you return home.

Advance submission of writing?   Three to four weeks before the course date, you can send up to 10,000 words of the project you intend to work on during the course, along with a short summary of the whole project, we will also send you a questionnaire asking about your writing goals and what you’d like to get out of the week here. This allows the course leaders to get a sense of your writing style and your vision for your project, so they can structure the course specifically to your needs.

Course Length, Costs and Booking:   This course runs Sunday-Sunday (7 nights). See Dates and Costs for all details and booking information.

Writing in Pictures

  • Emma-Claire Sweeney leads a session in the Misse library

  • An autumnal sky

  • Working solo in the Misse garden

  • Enjoying potato and tomato flatbreads al fresco

  • A Misse bedroom

  • Pumpkin girasole (sunflower shaped pasta) with sage and beurre noisette

  • Sunshine streams into the Misse lounge