1. Shia
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    Shia New Member

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    How to break into the industry with no degree?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Shia, Sep 3, 2013.

    Hi there guys. Im new and have just joined up!

    Have been writing and reading for a while and absolutely love it. My aim is to make a career out of writing - even if I'm just scraping enough to get by, I'd love be able to do it.

    My question is - how does one go about breaking into the industry, be it via freelance or whatever? It seems if one has no experience in the field, no one seems sincere enough to take me seriously.

    I feel completely ostracised and thus, I turned to looking for forums or other outlets for advice!

    Hope someone can help me!
     
  2. Ghost Cat
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    Ghost Cat Member

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    I'm in the same boat you are! Hopefully someone or someones can come up with some good advice!

    I'd love to publish a book of poetry especially one day.
    Does anyone here have some successful experience in this arena?
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Do you check out an author's credentials before reading a book?

    It's not credentials it's skill, which one can learn if one isn't naturally gifted.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not that easy to write fiction daily as an income source. Most folks who earn money by freelance writing are usually writing journalistic pieces and often have some sort of journalism background or degree. Their fiction pieces are often done on the side. There are paying markets for short fiction, but it's tough to have enough pieces accepted to rely on that as a sole source of income.

    As far as novel writing, well, that's kind of a holy grail for a lot of folks. The way to do it is to write an engaging, intriguing novel that a lot of people want to read. Although there are certain educational credentials (such as an MFA) that help with these skills, even those are not sufficient in and of themselves to guarantee any sort of success with a novel.

    You need to start writing, and find someone who can give you some feedback. I think the most helpful mechanism for this is a live, in-person writer's group in your area. Try googling or looking at meetup. Or ask at your local library or bookstore. Once you've whipped your novel into the best shape it can be, then try to find an agent, which is a process.
     
  5. Ghost Cat
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    Ghost Cat Member

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    You make a good point, Ginger. I've never tried to have anything published. Is it so simple as bringing a manuscript to a publisher(s) and giving it a go?

    I suppose I could probably find this answer by simply Googling it, but it's always more fun & perhaps more instrumental to hear from first-hand experience.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to be traditionally published, you need to get an agent. Generally you do this by sending them query letters along with an excerpt of your work. Sometimes, you can find one by interacting with them at a writing conference.

    But, if you go this route, you need to do your research about which agents might be the best match for your type of writing, and then follow their guidelines about how and what to submit. There is a lot of information out there if you google something like 'how to get a literary agent.' Learn as much as you can before you start querying.
     
  7. Ghost Cat
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    Ghost Cat Member

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    I take it these literary agents charge a fee, or is this only if they are successful at getting you published?
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    They get a commission based on the author's advance and royalties. I think it's 15% in most cases. So legit agents don't charge an upfront fee.
     
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  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Right -- stay away from anyone who wants any kind of upfront fee. Legitimate agents get paid when you get paid. (This is part of the reason why it is so hard to get an agent -- an agent has to not only love your work, but they have to believe they can sell it, too. They don't want to put in a lot of work for something they don't think will sell.)
     
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  10. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I can't give you any definite advice, but I can tell you what I'm doing.

    I'm following a new policy of lurking the craigslist writing gigs section for my area, sending applications to pretty much anything that either pays or gets me publicity. Experience is worth more than rent, in my opinion, and I prioritize my applications accordingly. In the mean time I'm planning on submitting any stories I write to Amazons self-publishing section. I don't expect profit from them so I'm going to toss them into the public domain. I'll either get attention from it or I won't, I'm not stressin, because either way they'll be out there for the two or three people that might read them; and two or three readers of a story is better than the zero they'll get on my hard drive next to my ever expanding porn folder.

    To be honest, my writing skill isn't at publishable level yet. When it is I'll go through the proper channels and work with a publishing company.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't need a degree. You only need to put an equivalent amount of study and practice into your writing. Your diploma is an acceptance letter. At that point you are an entry-level writer, like a novice employee in any other business.
     
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  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all you need is some degree of talent and excellent writing skills...

    i never went to college other than at 39-41, to audit some language courses, to improve my french and italian, since i traveled to europe often... and yet, when i started out as a freelancer and a writing consultant, i sold my writings easily, was hired as an editor, and had clients with ph.d.s and multiple degrees paying me $75-100/hour to write whatever they needed, or help them improve their own writing...

    the only time a degree is necessary for a job related to writing, is if you want to be a journalist, or an editor at a publishing house...
     
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  13. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    An analogy, if I may.
    You can go to every audition in every city and try to get on American Idol, or whatever it is called this season. And you have a 1 in a million chance of getting on stage, so you can be humiliated by some has been 'celebrities'
    Ot you can go to the Actors Studio and go to every cattle call and wait tables until you get an off off broadway walk-on.
    To see how this works out rent the movie Tootsie.
    And, listen to mammamaia; spend the tuition money on postage (to agents, of course!)
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although I do believe that a degree such as an MFA is by no means necessary to become a novelist, I don't want to give too much of a dismissive impression of that degree or of any other. I see that the OP is 20 years old. Generally speaking, at least in the U.S., that is very young for someone to have any sort of degree beyond a High School degree, which is not what we're talking about. Although it is possible to have a B.A. at 20, in most cases, people are a tad older. Similarly, there are many folks who are 20 who have not yet made much progress, or possibly any, toward a B.A.

    The OP also asked about "writing" in general. It is not clear whether he meant specifically novel or short story writing, or if he also meant some sort of journalistic-type writing. The fact is that most folks who are doing any sort of journalist-type writing -- that is, for any sort of already established newspaper or magazine, whether it's online or in print, do have college degrees. Some have degrees beyond Bachelor's degrees.

    I'm not saying that it is impossible to write without one of these degrees. It certainly is. But the reality is, if one wants to be hired by someone to write these sorts of things, those doing the hiring most often want someone with a degree. And with the competition out there, most of the applicants are going to have a degree. Once there are too many applicants for a position, a credential such as having a degree is an easy way to weed out candidates, despite the fact that it might not be the most fair or best way to do so.

    Getting a degree isn't always as useless as some of these responses make it seem. Not only can you learn valuable skills, but you also make contacts with peers who are going into the same field, and also with teachers/instructors/professors, who are already in this field. These sorts of contacts and the insight that can be gained by spending time with others in the field are invaluable.

    Again, it depends on exactly what type of writing the OP wants to do, and how long he can afford to write stuff for low or no pay in order to establish some sort of portfolio. There are valid arguments that the money spent and the opportunity costs incurred in pursuing a degree outweigh the benefits one obtains. But this is not to say that nothing is gained. Whether enough is gained is highly dependent on what, specifically, the person is seeking from the degree. It's hard to put a price value on knowledge, wisdom, understanding and insight.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    At what Universities can I get a Degree of Talent?
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    witty, cog!
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you're half right. :D
     
  18. Nightstar99
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    Nightstar99 Contributing Member

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    Can you be more specific about what industry you want to break into? You don't need a degree to write as others have pointed out but unfortunately making a living out of creative writing is asking quite a lot. Write everything you can and hope someone likes it.

    There is a lot more money and opportunities in non-fiction, especially technical writing and copy writing but you need to have those skills to be of use to an employer.

    Newspapers are not faring well but there are still journalism opportunities out there, though most papers have cut back drastically on staff writers there is nothing to stop you trying to freelance. Be warned that you have to be very hard nosed to be a journalist. If you dont want to go poking around into other people's business where they dont want you poking, then journalism probably isnt for you. Your actual writing ability also isnt terribly important in news journalism as your editor will re-do everything, they are more interested in what you find out.

    I know a guy who got a great job as a music journalist and talent scout but he had to spend over a year sleeping on a friend's sofa while he interned for no salary and was still very lucky to get a break. I know another guy who was an English major from a top university who landed a job writing technical software manuals where he can work all over the world, but he says his degree wasnt relevant to this.

    I know a lady who writes screenplays who by the standards of the industry is doing very well as she has had two major successes, but it has taken her a long time to get where she is and most of her output is not recognised at all . She writes full time to earn enough to pay the rent.

    A fair number of the creative writers I know are academics. This is a pretty good gig if you can get up to doctorate level because you can teach creative writing as well as doing it and commercial success doesnt matter very much. Any textbooks you write can go on the reading list for your class.

    And I know, sadly, lots of writers who have never got anywhere. Including myself so far.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2013

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