Jo work pic'Should I do a writing course?'  is a question often on the lips of new writers.

Some quickly talk themselves out of it, believing the adage that writing is a solitary pursuit, to be battled out alone. (Picture the traditional scene - the lonesome writer, holed up in the box room, banging away on their typewriter surrounded by scrumpled bits of paper, reference books and stained coffee mugs.) But in modern times, with a plethora of writing courses on offer, writers needn't lead such a lonely existence. 

Yes, the writing bit does have to be done by you - on your own - but you can benefit enormously from the input and feedback of other human beings with eyes and ears. It's rather like dieting and going to WeightWatchers - you diet throughout the week but go to classes for support (I wrote that for my benefit because I'm looking at ways to  slim down). And after all, most of us  look  for help if we want to learn to play a musical instrument, or paint with watercolours, or dance the tango - so why not with writing too?

It's a very personal choice. But if you're having a spot of bother getting started, or even getting finished, then a writing course might be one way to push past it.  By attending a course you'll get to meet other people in a similar situation to you - serious about their work and furthering their understanding of the 'craft' of writing. Depending on its aims, a course could help you to knuckle down as chances are you'll be sharing your work with the class. And you'll benefit from reading and listening to others' work too.  It's a commitment, but it's probably one worth taking.

It's quite easy to find the right course for you - time and budget permitting. Courses range from one-year full-time MAs to cheaper and more flexible, locally run classes. Lots of universities and institutes offer evening and weekend writing courses, and literary festivals often hold writing events and workshops. To find out more look at university websites, advertisement boards at libraries and bookshops, and festival websites, in particular the Edinburgh Book FestivalCheltenham Literary Festival and Winchester Writers' Festival.

When all's said and done, at some point you'll still have to lock yourself away in the box room and write,  but a course might be just the thing to give you a helping hand. But, ahem, do bear in mind that paying for a course does not guarantee a published book at the end.

Sadly - nothing does.

Warm wishes, Jo