One to One: How to get the most out of a discussion about your writing

If you’ve ever daydreamed about attending a creative writing retreat (or if you’ve been lucky enough to go on one!), you’ll be familiar with the term “one-to-one tutorial”. These are usually with an experienced writer/tutor, and can be a fantastic opportunity to advance your writing.

But let’s face it: for those of us who don’t have a novel already under our belts, the idea of spending a block of time talking about our work and nothing but our work can feel daunting, or just downright terrifying.

Maybe you recognise your own reaction from one of these …

They want to see some of my writing! HELP!

They’re going to think my writing is rubbish. I’m not good enough for a one-to-one tutorial.

I’ve got too much to talk about! Where do I start?

They’ll ask me lots of questions about my writing that I won’t be able to answer.

One-to-one tutorials are for “real” writers.

If you thought any of these things, you’re not alone … but you also don’t need to worry.

With one-to-one discussions forming an important part of my own upcoming writing sessions at Shambellie House, I spoke to fellow tutor Steph Newham to get her advice and reassurance:

“The one-to-one session offers you the opportunity of having a dispassionate external eye look at your work, followed by a discussion about what you want to explore in your writing. It may be style, or discussion of your narrative voice and point of view.  Perhaps you need to look at plot and characters or how you are structuring your story.  Many people like to look at their opening paragraphs and the introduction of their characters. You might even like to talk through your plot; verbalising your story is a great way to achieve clarity in your own mind. 

“Whether you are a beginner or well-advanced on your writing journey, this session will help you to clarify your objectives and enjoy developing your work. This is your time, and the private discussion can include any aspect that would help you towards developing your writing skills and producing a good story.”

As Steph explains, the one-to-one is a relaxed and private opportunity to get some advice on whichever part of your writing you feel you want help with.

What about the practicalities?

Each retreat, workshop or tutor will have different guidelines on what to expect. It is worth taking some time to read through this guidance and to get in touch with the course organisers if you have any questions.

With reference to the upcoming workshops at Shambellie House, here are our guidelines:

  • On arrival on Day One, you will be allocated a 20-minute time slot for your one-to-one discussion. This will take place with experienced writer and tutor Steph Newham.
  • Please come prepared with EITHER: (a) a short extract from your writing upon which you would like to receive detailed critique, OR (b) a specific question or issue related to your writing which you would like to discuss.
  • Extracts should be maximum 500 words, printed in an easily-legible size 12 font and double-spaced. Please bring two copies.
  • If you need any further advice related to these workshops, please email

In summary, a one-to-one tutorial can be an excellent opportunity to receive impartial, private and practical advice on your writing.

And remember – the tutor is there to help, advise and support you, whatever stage you are at in your writing journey.

To book a place on the creative writing sessions at Shambellie House and secure your own one-to-one slot, visit

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