1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Do You Need A Degree?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by cutecat22, Apr 5, 2015.

    Hi, Guys.

    So, we've talked a lot about what makes good/bad writing (we'll never actually get to the bottom of that one, me thinks) but where do you stand on a writer's qualifications as far as academia goes?

    Would you be more inclined to read the work of a writer who has degrees in writing/English/arts (just talking fiction here) or do you take each book you read on it's own merits of the actual story?

    Should it make a difference?

    Thanks x
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2015
  2. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    Just throwing this out here:

    Stephenie Meyer has a B.A. in English. ... So, no I don't think it makes a difference :bigtongue:

    I take each book I read on its own merits- if I like the first couple pages I'll read on. I don't usually know or care about the background of the author unless they're well-known like I knew Gillian Flynn used to write for EW before I read her books.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It doesn't make a difference at all, at least as far as quality is concerned (having a degree may help with making connections and getting your foot in the door).
     
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  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I might be slightly more inclined to read something self-published if I knew the person had a couple degrees in some form of writing - at least I'd have reason to believe the author could use grammar correctly, etc. I guess it's another way I'd be looking for a gatekeeper, something that could help me filter through all the crap in the self-pubbed world.

    But if something has already gone through the gatekeepers of a reputable publishing company? No, I see no connection between an author with formal education in writing and better quality work.
     
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  5. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only difference I think it makes is a wider scope of knowledge in various fields.I don't think that really is the case anymore though, with the internet, websites where writers can help each other and e-publishing so more new voices can found... it is a much more even field.
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It tends not to be a factor I take into account until after I get to know a writer. I don't usually background-check a new author, though I do often research a writer of whom I have grown fond, this in the course of looking for interviews, things the writer has to say about other works s/he is reading, etc.

    No. That the writer has a degree in a field we think of as related to the world of writing and literature is not something that would sway me. It might, in fact, deter me. The insularism inherent in that kind of tract would not be a plus in my personal take on things.

    Degrees should always make a difference, but goodness knows I've worked with enough people across the years who have had lovely framed diplomas on their walls and all I could think when I was working with them was what a waste of good money and time that was, wasn't it. Widdershins likewise, btw. Plenty of folk without a single document to frame have crossed my path and left me mightily impressed.
     
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  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I have never walked into a book shop, picked up a book that looked interesting and thought 'I wonder if the author of this thing has a degree'.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't need a degree. You need to be able to, as a minimum, construct a coherent sentence, and a coherent paragraph.

    A degree won't make you literate, and you can be literate without an expensive piece of parchment certifying that you know stuff.
     
  9. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Depends? Would having a degree help you become published?

    For a publisher, I'm sure that information may be useful. For me, as a consumer, it has no relevance. It doesn't matter whether the author graduated at the top place of the most prestigious university, or whether they learned English from a chimp. I don't actually check this information before buying a book, so I base everything upon the text itself.
     
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  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think publishers care, either. I've never had one ask me about my academic background.

    They care about how you can write, not how you learned to write.
     
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  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Who cares? I either enjoy the story and writing, or I don't, and whether the author has a degree in English and/or writing doesn't matter to me. It's like speaking a language - who cares if you have a degree in it as long as you can actually use it?

    now if you were going to teach writing, having some kind of qualification could be useful, because it means you've got to know the more technical side of things and know which authors to read and recommend and matters of style and technical terms etc.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Doesn't make even a little bit of difference to me.
     
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  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    A degree helps with networks: example being one's attendance at Oxford, Cambridge then one's youthful contemporaries are likely themselves to one day head publishing houses, be the children of journalists, politicians, theatrical impresarios rather than the more grubby offspring of plumbers, IT consultants who generally read special books designed for their minds, such as Lord of The Rings & Dune, hew.
     
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  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't care about a degree, I just care about the book. If an English degree provided any assurance of writing quality, I might care about it for a self-published book, but it doesn't, so I don't.
     
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've thought about this myself. I think I just need to read more and keep working on my weak points. I've come across some writers on Smashwords who've claimed to have some pretty impressive decrees. I say claimed because their writing doesn't seem to back it up. If they're telling the truth a degree hasn't helped them any in their writing/storytelling skills. Funny thing is they seemed as blind to their own errors as anyone else when they should, with their education, have a leg up so to speak.
     
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  16. A.J. Pruitt
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    A.J. Pruitt Member

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    I usually refrain from becoming involved in these discussions; however, this thread sparks a note of interest within the writing lobe of my brain.


    We had a lengthy discussion about this topic a few weeks ago when I was a guest speaker at a writers club. My input to the discussion was, “writing is like a highly trained chef making a beef stew. In my manner of compression, a writing degree would be the stove that would provide the heat to cook the stew. The cook would now need to add the perfect blend of essential ingredients; the meat, the potatoes, vegetables, spices, salt, cooking methods and times.” Now it must be asked, what are the chances that the cook just made a stew that had all the perfect blend of spices, flavours, thickness and color that would please everyone who tasted the stew?


    Has any member of this forum attempted to cook up a dinner that has everyone moaning with satisfaction? The perfect meal so to speak. It’s not possible as far as I am concerned.


    We all use words differently. We all read words differently. We all prefer different genres of story lines, and so on. Having a degree in writing (is there such a thing as a degree in story writing) does not make a great story teller anymore than a trained chef would be a great cook in a bush camp or in a fast food establishment.


    So, what is the secret ingredient to good story writing? I would say, it depends on the reader’s personal likes and dislikes and the author’s ability to keep the reader hooked.
     
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  17. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It makes no difference to me whether or not they have a degree or not. If I read the first few pages and I like it or if I like what I read on the dust jacket or back of the book then I am going to read it.

    I really just don't care.
     
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  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The only time a degree would influence me when buying a work of fiction is if a writer has a degree in the subject matter they're writing about. A medical thriller is likely to be more believable written by a doctor. A novel about the history of the Tudors is more likely to be accurate if it's written by somebody with a degree in English history. That kind of thing.
     
  19. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to like Sci-Fi written by someone with a related degree to the story, it usually feels more believable. One of my favorite authors is James Rollins, his veterinarian background gives him knowledge to write an interesting story, IMO. I guess this is directed at a literary degree but that would not concern me in general.
     
  20. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    But from a fiction point of view, isn't that what research is for?
     
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  21. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    After all, medical jargon can be emulated easily. Read an anatomy textbook, ask a doctor.
     
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  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the problem is that amateurs don't know what we don't know. That is, we wouldn't know that we needed to fact check a certain detail, or whatever.

    I agree, you can feel the authenticity when the person writing really knows the field.

    John Grisham and Scott Turow writing about law, Dick Francis writing about steeplechasing... I think I can tell the difference between them and someone who's done research but hasn't ever really done the job.
     
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  23. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to be a good writer is all, I think.
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    No, I didn't mean I wouldn't read a medical thriller written by a non-doctor. It just means that if a doctor writes one, I can be fairly sure the medical element of the story will be accurate. I don't look to see if an author has a degree in the subject they write about or not, but if they do, it might be a positive influence. It shows they know their onions, so to speak.

    Speaking as a non-doctor who wrote a medical element into my novel (after doing a lot of research into doctoring in the late 19th century on the American frontier), I can attest to the wonderfulness of having a doctor as a good friend. She was willing to go through my first draft and catch my 'mistakes.' Or rather, suggest ways I could have done what I did more believably, given the methods and knowledge of the times. If I had been a doctor myself, I would have known all this stuff.

    Some fiction authors don't really care if they make factual mistakes in the course of their storytelling, but I'm not one of them. If an expert points out something I've done wrong, I ALWAYS change it. It's a positive challenge, actually, to find a way to change details and yet keep the story on track.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2015
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  25. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't care whether a writer has a degree or not. Besides recommendations and good reviews, I decide what I want to read by actually reading the first page of a book and seeing if it appeals to me.

    That said, I think writers with a degree usually do write better because they spent the money to get instruction on how to write, read, and critique. As a student, you also have designated time (more free time also) to devote to writing. I wish I had opted for an English B.A. in college, but learning slow and steady on your own is better than not learning at all.
     
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