1. Admin
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    Building Skills in Writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Admin, Oct 25, 2012.

    It came to my mind just now that I have not done a lot of entertaining writing in a long, long time, yet it appears my skills in writing have improved. I am very grateful for my AP Literature & Composition class, as well as my AP US History class, as I assume they are the culprits in this steady advancement towards writing proficiency. With In-Class essays, FRQs and DBQs, out of class essays, journals, analysis', and everything between, I have been growing competent in the art of articulating my thoughts well, while keeping my ramblings to a minimum by being concise, yet effective, and being deliberate and focused on a main theme or thesis in which I am writing on. In conclusion, if you want to become a better writer, for God's sake write all of the time, but you should also take an interest in high-level classes that involve a lot of essay writing, literature analysis, and grammar practice.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is basically another avenue of the "Do you need a degree?" discussion. Classes can be helpful to some, but are a waste of time and money for others. I'm not interested in writing essays, don't really need practice in grammar, and find most analysis of literature boring and typically based on what the analyst wants to see - so obviously I wouldn't be a good candidate for classwork.
     
  3. Admin
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    This is all also very true. Mainly however, I think the time constrained, In-Class essays are an amazing practice. One of the biggest problems I hear writers becoming victims to is not being able to focus their ideas into coherent writing. These ICEs force you to write what you need to say, effectively, and in a short amount of time.

    Also, my advice with the classes was geared more for high school students who have a genuine interest in becoming better writers, as those classes are free in high school enrollment.

    I think in order to be a good writer, you have to have some level of competence in analysis of literature, and in a high school setting (I am not sure how it is in college), your analysis is valued for you ability to support it, not for its alignment with what your instructor found.

    Yet as Shadowwalker said, this won't be for everyone.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Having completed my degree a couple years ago while also holding down a full time job, I can agree somewhat with what you're saying. But I also am squarely with shadowwalker's point that it isn't for everyone. It's a boot camp approach to writing, like weekly forced marches with a thirty pound pack. It will whip you into shape, if it doesn't put you off writing entirely.

    I think it will strengthen your work ethic more than it will improve your actual writing, because it will train you not to fold under pressure or procrastinate. But it is by no means the only way to go.
     
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  5. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    Wait until you get to higher education. I'm working on my doctorate in political science at the moment. It's the biggest challenge I have ever faced and to be honest, I'm loving every minute of it. One of the hidden benefits has been that I get the opportunity to write something every day. And while it's all academic and non-fiction, it's writing nevertheless and does help me in the rare moments when I have the opportunity to sit down and write fiction. My professors and advisers demand perfection. They're smart enough to understand that it's unattainable, however, they want us to strive for it anyway. They give us the line that we are the 'creme dela creme.' PhD candidates at an Ivy League school....blah blah blah. When one of my papers is under review or being graded, I know how closely they are going to examine it. Grammar, spelling, word choice, everything in that paper goes under a microscope. So, I'm well aware that my writing has to be perfect.

    I'm learning how to apply that level of perfection to writing fiction. The smallest mistake in a manuscript can wipe out my chances of having it published, for example. I respect that reality more now and I view fiction writing entirely different now than I did when I was younger. I am hoping that when I have the opportunity to write more, it will help me. My fall break is coming up next week and there's a nor'easter heading our way, so I'll have the chance to spend some serious time writing fiction. We'll see how it goes. :)
     
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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not really a 'should'... as noted above, what works for you is not what will necessarily work for everyone...
     
  7. Admin
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    Then again, all of these skills are valuable in a variety of ways. Even people who don't write should take these sort of classes to broaden their perspective on life, become better communicatores, or anything in between.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Again, there's that word "should". Taking such classes, unless you're already committed to college/post-graduate studies for professional reasons, is an expense most people don't need! Even for those who MUST take such classes for their profession have to work many years to pay off that debt. Despite the propaganda put out by the schools, a degree doesn't particularly increase your earning potential in a position you already occupy. It opens the door to positions that are closed to you without the degree, and THAT is responsible for most of the higher earning statistics.

    Your enthusiasm for higher learning is charming, but many writers do quite well without it.
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I quit my english major after the first year because I wasn't learning anything. Even the teachers agreed. I was learning about books, sure, but I wasn't really gaining any knowledge that made the time and effort worthwhile... for me. In the end I was just treading water to get a passing grade, and I need more than that to stay interested. I won their short story competition, and when the faculty staff debriefed me about what they liked and didn't like about my work, the head professor of English asked me 'what are you doing here?' I had already decided to quit, and she agreed that leaving was my best option. Not because I was bad. It was because when I told her that I went to university to learn how to write she replied: 'why? You already know how to write.' I was pretty happy about that. My point is: study to learn, study to grow, study if it suits you, but it's not for everyone and it's ok if you don't.
     
  10. Cogito
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    For my part, attending college was worthwhile. I needed the degree to continue to compete in the job market. I had the experience and the knowledge for my profession, but the degree became a gating issue.

    Naturally, I did learn from the college courses, particularly the required courses outside my major. If that sounds conceited, the context is that I had been working very productively in my profession for three decades already. I have always studied best on my own, so the bottom line is that college got in the way of my studies for that period of time.
     
  11. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I would imagine it is easier for those with an English or History degree to write competently. If that is what is important to you then go for it. However, my ultimate goal was to land a job. I choose the path that lead to an in demand occupation and I'm glad I did that. Now I can work on a story in my free time rather 100's of cover letters.
     
  12. Kectacoco
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    I have taken only two writing classes: the same class both times, since I failed it on the first try. The classes that really helped my writing skills weren't even writing classes, they were instead two years of French and a Discrete Structures course. French because it helped me understand how natural languages 'work' and Discrete Structures because it taught me how to formally relate what I'm thinking--to some extent. There're still loads of things I have to learn though.

    Briefly, I think it's a lot easier for some people to learn a particular concept if they learn it sideways, since that was my experience. :p
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    one might think so, but i can tell you from years of experience helping people improve their writing that it's not true for many... quite a few of those i've mentored and had as clients did have degrees in those fields and needed me to teach them how to improve their writing skills... even those who teach english or history are likely to be poor writers...

    one of my first clients was a high school vice-principal with a masters degree who was a terrible writer and paid me to guide her in writing her phd application essay and later, her dissertation... another was a double phd'd professor of history who needed me to correct his coffee book text... so higher education and degrees obtained do not necessarily 'good writers make'...
     
  14. Mikewritesfic
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    Mikewritesfic Senior Member

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    That's kind of disturbing that she needed help in writing her PhD application essay AND her dissertation. Let's be honest, if you do not have a firm grasp on writing by that point, you shouldn't even be in a post graduate program. Sorry if I come across as insensitive or cool, but that's my take and it comes from personal experience. Sounds like your client got into a more forgiving PhD program than I did.
     
  15. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Did they receive their degrees from DeVry?
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no, not dvry... and yes, she did get her phd... her problem with writing stemmed from the fact that her earlier degrees and her career were based in sports education... she was a coach and gym teacher, did not train for teaching academic studies...
     

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