Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ask the Authors: Wednesday

Were you educated to become a writer, or is your training in another field (and just how necessary are writing courses, anyhow)?
I studied screenwriting under a mass communications degree, so I suppose I do have an educational background in it. And there is no denying that it was extremely useful. However, most of what I've learned as a writer has come from studying great writing and spending hours upon hours creating my own work. If you are a beginner, I would definitely recommend taking some writing courses. Many community colleges offer novel writing courses, and also writers conferences are a great place to add to your knowledge. -- Rene Gutteridge

It depends on what you mean by writing courses. I (Cheryl) have studied the art and craft of writing since I was very young. I studied book after book on novel writing, I took college courses on novel writing, and the English language study was a necessity--but it came easily for me. I did not get a degree in journalism, or in English, or in anything else, for that matter. I was self taught, but I did have to study hard for many years in order to be publishable.
Mel does not have a degree in journalism. He's a doctor of osteopathy. He did, however, take a special humanities course in college. I am the one who has studied the craft, and therefore I am the main writer. --Hannah Alexander

My degree is in Journalism and Multiple Languages. But my best training as a novelist came from reading novels and taking writing courses. How important are they? Very. Whether in an academic setting or at writers' conferences, you need the guidance and wisdom of those who've been there. It's easy to write. I see proposals from folks who write every day. But are they publishable? No, not many of them. If you want to write something that stands out, that's a notch above the rest, to write something that will change lives? That takes work and seeking help from those who know what they're talking about. --Karen Ball

My master's degree is in print journalism, as my
original dream was to be a magazine journalist. I've
never taken a fiction-writing class, other than what
was offered in the School of Hard Knocks (Reading the
Classics for Emotional Survival 101, Writing as
Therapy: Turning Your Inner Angst into Fiction 102).
Even so, learning how to write nonfiction in college
and grad school definitely helped prepare me to write
fiction. I think everyone who has natural writing
ability can refine that talent by taking classes--at a
school, online, at writer's conferences--and by
considering seriously the feedback of a seasoned
instructor. --Ann Tatlock

I wasn't educated to be a writer. Writing courses are okay, but I would place more emphasis on grammar and editorial skills.-Lori Copeland

Lots of English and fiction writing classes (and courses), but much more music background than anything else. I learned far more about writing from writing-and from reading. As to how helpful writing classes are--this can be very subjective. The effectiveness of a writing class largely depends on the instructor's experience, ability as a teacher, and how the class is structured. For fiction writers, there's no classroom like life itself. -BJ Hoff

I was a film major in college, so story and structure were drummed into me by osmosis. I studied short story writing with Raymond Carver and screenwriting with Paul Lazarus, a well known Hollywood producer. But I still had a lot to learn about the craft, and got most of it from writing, showing my stuff to people I trusted, writing more, studying good books on the craft and trying out what I learned, reading novels with intention (to figure out what the masters were doing), and writing, writing, writing. I believe the craft of writing can be learned. Your talent is given to you, but you can take it to the max by honing your craft. - James Scott Bell

Since I’ve always had an interest in writing, I took many creative writing and English courses in high school and college. I have only three semesters of college credit on my transcript, but have never found that to be a detriment. In many ways, I feel I’ve “earned” a degree in novel writing by virtue of the many workshops and conferences I’ve attended, the bevy of books on the craft of writing that I’ve studied, and even more, the gift of working so closely with professional editors. If I were recommending a course of study for an aspiring novelist, I’d say journalism and literature classes would be most helpful. –Deborah Raney

graduated with a degree in Telecommunications with a proficiency in Television Production. But my concentration within my concentration was Writing for Television and Radio. My senior thesis was a screenplay. I thought I was being edgy (I went to a Christian college--back in the 80's) by putting a video montage segment to Christopher Cross's Ride Like the Wind! How things have changed! --lisa samson

I was a voracious reader, and I learned my craft by writing, writing, writing and reading, reading, reading. I went to my first writers' conference just before my fifth novel was released. I wasn't educated to become a writer. That said, if you want to be a novelist, all knowledge and all education is valuable and you will put it to use throughout your writing career. -- Robin Lee Hatcher

I majored in English in college and my master's degree is in theology. But while I appreciate having a literature background, everything I know about writing and the business aspect came from reading books and/or trial-and-error. When I see how much is taught in writer's conferences today . . . well, I wish I'd had the same advantage. Still, writing skills are one thing . . . having something worth writing about is quite another. --Angela Hunt


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