Friday, July 8, 2011

Get Educated About Writing

Two things happened recently that have caused me to think about the issue of whether a writer needs to attend college classes on writing and literature or even take writing courses.  The answer is...maybe.

An English degree isn't a guaranteed book deal nor is a certificate for finishing an online course. In fact, there are people with degrees who have trouble stringing words together to make a coherent sentence.  On the other hand, there are people who have been teachers and later become some of the most beloved authors.  As for me, I'm horrible at math. Anything beyond simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and I'm totally lost. I admit it. But I don't work at anything that requires it.

Below are a few questions a people interested in writing might ask themselves.
  • Are your spelling, grammar and punctuation skills fairly good?  If you're planning to write, they should be.  But there's always online help for grammar, not to mention dictionaries.  (More on this at some point in the future.)
  • Do you understand the basic structure of a good story?  Even when my youngest was in third grade she understood that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Do you have an idea of what type of stories you want to write?  What genres and/or sub-genres?
  • Have you read a lot of books, meaning all kinds of books, but especially those in the genre in which you'd like or do write?
  • Are you willing to take the time to learn the craft of writing?  Publication doesn't necessarily come easy or instantaneously.  It often takes years.
  • Are you willing to learn how to keep current on trends and marketing?  Both are changing at lightning speed.
  • Have you grown a thick skin?  Comments from other people and rejections from editors can be hard to take.  Growing a thick skin and understanding that it isn't personal, just part of the business, will keep you from the doldrums of writing.
The first two can be learned in school.  The rest are learned more by doing than anything else.

While there are basics that everyone interested in writing should know and have, some things that need to be learned aren't taught in a college course or even in an online course.  Traditional education channels might very well point you in the right direction and at least let you know where and how to find the information you'll need, but they won't create the story idea, and they sure won't write it for you.

None of this means that a person shouldn't take college classes, get a degree, or take an online course.  Just don't expect any of those things to be the magic key to publishing a book.

What can you do to help you with your writing and the chance to be published?
  • Write.  Then write some more.
  • Read, and keep reading.
  • Find a group of like-minded people who share your goal.
  • The internet is a gift.  Learn to use it to your advantage.
  • Don't give up.
Be knowledgable about writing.  Seek answers to your questions, not just from one person, but from many.

There is no magic key.  Only hard work, the desire to create a story and the opportunity to share it with others is what's needed.

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