Continued Professional Development is a term that people are used to hearing in their normal work lives. It is a part of the psychological contract between employers and employees. It refers to the unspoken promise of improving a person’s employability by providing training and ongoing development, whether through accredited courses or in-house training. In our ‘work’ lives it is the foregone conclusion that CPD is a good idea. For some reason though, we don’t seem to consider it in our lives as writers.
Going back almost a decade, when I went to University, there was only one college that was providing Creative Writing as a minor, rather than a one-off optional module. It was pretty much the deciding factor for me. Now, there a great many universities that offer Creative Writing as a Joint Honours route. It works really well if taken with the more traditional preserve of writers, English (Studies, Literature, Language, whatever). There are even Masters programs available now for Creative Writing. Many of the courses will have established writers, journos, editors, etc, coming in to add value to the learning. But of course, degree programs aren’t the only way into the writing world. There is also a selection of correspondence courses, writing workshops and residentials available too. But these are only starting points and no guarantee of publication.
Online writing workshops like Critters , or the traditional writer’s circles, are a good way of improving your own writing by critiquing other people’s work and applying the learning retrospectively onto your own work. Also, fellow critics will be able to provide you with direct feedback on your work. This will make you more aware of the recurring flaws or handicaps in your writing, e.g. mine is cramming too much story into my short pieces. Once you get something published, it doesn’t mean that you should stop trying to improve either. Every rewrite that you do, every novel that you read and every bit of feedback you receive is an opportunity to improve your craft. I have read about many writers who carry on editing books that are already in print! And now with ebooks, a writer/publisher is free to upload a new version whenever they spot a few errors that they can’t help correcting.
There are also shelf-loads of books on the various aspects of writing that provide deep insights into the process of writing, many which are worth re-reading over and over again. I would personally suggest Stephen King’s On Writing and White and Strunk’s Elements of Style. There are websites dedicated to the craft of writing, podcasts, radio shows, magazines, etc, which will sharpen your mental pencil and help you brush off the dust collecting on your keyboard.
Even a rejection letter from a kindly agent or editor will provide an insight that may lead you to becoming the writer you want to be.