1. thatguy
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    thatguy Member

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    Study, write or both?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by thatguy, Jul 11, 2011.

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm a very amateur writer, but I’m very enthusiastic about improving myself as quickly as possible. I dropped out of school very early, and though I took some correspondence English courses, I was never taught Creative Writing by any traditional means.

    So from experience, what has helped you guys more? Creative writing classes and seminars and reading books on writing, or just writing? Or a healthy dose of both?

    Also, can anyone recommend any must read books on the craft, or suggest any online courses? I’ve read a few articles here and there, on this forum and off, but I’m looking for something I can really sink my teeth into, where I can relearn the basics and build from the ground up. I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount for any online courses.

    Going back through the traditional school system is out of the question, I’m afraid.
     
  2. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think creative writing classes can be a bit hit and miss. Some will be good, some won't be. I'm currently doing a degree in Creative Writing and it has really helped my writing. The workshopping of each other's works in particular is invaluable.

    As for reading books on writing, I'd say read a few but not too many. It's more important to read the genre of what you're writing, then reading about how to write - you can learn that by the former.

    I think there has to be a balance. You should read and write frequently, but it is also important to get constructive criticism regularly too whether that is from a course or forming your own writing group.
     
  3. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Ihaven't been able to take a writing class(can't afford it), haven't found any writing groups, so I follow at least four creative writing forums(probably more, but four is the ones I regularly visit.)
    The (4)websights have some aspect I like, that the others don't.

    Only one websight has gotten my reviews score up. 4 reviews on one story, the same story that the other three only got one review. Also more likes then any sights too.(5 likes, next closest was four but that was an art websight, with no reviews.)

    I think an indepth review of a story is alot more helpful then general questions being answered.

    "dropped out Very early", this caught my eye. If you dropped out, you may need to take courses in basic sentence structure. I passed the classes and still have trouble writing a sentence well.(good?) :D (But that was many decades agooo(echoing in the distance)

    I think reading, research and writing are a must to write well.(this one I know is right.)
    Reading; inspires you to e creative.
    research:Never stop learning, don't guess in your story, check it out. You'll gain knowledge and pass it on to your readers. Number one reason kids hate learning? Because its concentrated, dry and doesn't seem to fit in their world.
    Easiest way to learn something is to know how you will use it your life.
    Writing: It is an art unto itself, nothing else you do will directly help your writing, except to write.

    btw there is a point at which education becomes a handicap, a point where you are top heavy with technical it weakens the creativity. (Ie master degree in creative writing is not neccessary.)
    Before someone jumps on this, this is in general, individual results may vary, may not be legal in some states, objects in mirror may be closer then they appear. Void in Rhoad Island (must be a boring state nothings allowed there????)and all those other required warnings.:p
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Forget how-to writing books. Read well written works in every genre, and read them to analyze how each writer succeeds or fails at what he or she is trying to convey.
     
  5. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Creative writing classes, writing myself and reading helped me.
     
  6. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    I always did wanted to take a creative writing class, but evil forces prevented me from doing so. I have never attended seminars either. I learned from getting involved in the field, and study a bit when I come to something I am uncertain of or do not understand.
     
  7. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    My 4th grade teacher was a big part in my creative writing development.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Thatguy,

    First, don't give up on going back to traditional schooling in one way or another. Education is about life, and selling it short is selling yourself short. (Sorry to be preachy.)

    Next, I agree with the others, to become a better writer, write. But I'll add slightly to that. Before you write, read. Read everything you can, find out what interests you, what authors you like, and read them all. Then, analyse them. Do critiques on them much as we do here on our own works. Find out what works about them, what makes you like them, where things go awry.

    Then write.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. NecessaryPain
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    NecessaryPain Member

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    The only way to get better is to write, read, and then write some more.

    You will be suprised how fast you can adapt when reading from a good author, and writing at the same time.
     
  10. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Okay, don't want to start a debate, but it's not necessary to have a formal education to become a better writer. It is possible to teach yourself (through online resources, other writers, reading, etc.) to be the best writer you can be.

    Some people simply do not have the means or ability to pursue formal education no matter how much they might like to and making comments like this, comments that have the ability to make them feel like less, or unworthy, simply because they haven't had what others have, is irresponsible IMO.

    And for the record, maybe thatguy can go back to school - maybe he does want to. And maybe that's not what you meant at all. But that's how I took it, and if I did, I'm sure at least one other person did and it needed to be addressed.
     
  11. Cain
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    Cain Member

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    Make friends with people who also write (through courses, workshops whatever). Being able to bounce around ideas, have truly constructive feedback, and just generally being in the company of other wannabee writers is a huge boost in my opinion.

    Plus you'll have more friends.
     
  12. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    If possible, I would encourage everyone to get at least a High school education. But in his first post he said that is not possible currently.

    I would never discourage anyone from writing, but if you desire to publish something, basic English classes(sentence structure, verbs, adj, nouns, and requirements for good sentences.) {not english as a second language class} are needed. But this does not mean you have to take classes in the traditional since.(But they won't contribute to the GED.) You can find the information online or in the library.

    I fully admit I am weak in this area.:rolleyes: My teachers didn't demonstrate how this "junk" would apply to real life. These required classes were bull snot(as the edited for tv movies would say.) back then. Just an obstacle to overcome to get that piece of paper.
    But I did not want to be a writer back then either.
     
  13. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    I didn't think his comment was that inflammatory, just a friendly suggestion. Maybe I just took it differently though.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  14. thatguy
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    thatguy Member

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    I guess I should've explained myself a little better... The way I see it, a formal education is just one step towards obtaining a lifetime career, which I have already had for four years with promising advancement towards retirement, some 20 years from now. I'm just not willing to deal with the bullshit of finishing high school when I can simply isolate what I want to learn with online courses and personal study. I know, the knowledge gained in a formal high school education is invaluable, but so is real life experience.

    Besides, it seems like the general consensus here is that reading and writing as much as possible is the best possible way to improve your writing.
     
  15. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    I hated English in high school. I wasn't terrible at it but I was far from good at it. I also had a terrible time learning to read. Later when I got a story stuck in my head and decided I just had to write it down I had an uphill road to travel. I have found several things that I would consider helpful as I've learned how to write.

    I think books on how to write are a worthwhile investment of time. Several of the books have end up at Goodwill or in the trash but I still have many from the Writer's Digest Write great fiction series (dialogue, Description and Setting, Conflict, Action and Suspense, etc) My most used book on how to write is Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell. Although the other books Jessica Morrell has done on writing haven't been as good.

    I have also taken some continuing education classes through local universities and other places. They provided motivation to work on specific writing issue and I can say I always learned things but they were more social than helpful.

    I enjoy the classes offered at conferences and would completely recommend this as a great way to network and get excited about writing again. I loved that I could listen to several instructors on many different topics over a short period of time (a few days).

    Reading (for fun) of course is a great help as well (several people have mentioned this and I agree completely)

    I also think a writers' group is very helpful.

    The most important part is the deisre to learn more and enjoying what you are doing. Hope this is helpful.
     
  16. e(g)
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    e(g) Member

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    Educate yourself!

    Cogito has some good advice: read novels across several genres and analyze them for what the author does right and wrong. I would also recommend Stephen King's On Writing, Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages, and Jack Bickham's The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes.

    I would also suggest you write a novel, a first one, approximately 140 pages long that you decide right up front won't be for publication. That will take the pressure off and allow you to experiment with techniques and "break in."
     
  17. Cain
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    Cain Member

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    John Gardner's Art of Fiction is worth reading. It's not a spoonfeeding book though, and so you need to have read a lot to appreciate his examples. I liked it because I was able to return to it several times and still get more out of it.

    However the first half is aesthetics and the second is the process of writing (ie common mistakes, technique etc), and I wish it had been the other way round on my first read - the first half almost put me off as I was fairly overwhelmed, even though that's the half I returned to more frequently later on.
     
  18. thatguy
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    thatguy Member

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    I read On Writing a few years back, and remember it being very helpfull, I've been meaning to find a new copy. I'll check out the others too.
     
  19. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can't make music until you learn to play the instrument.
     
  20. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    This. Absolutely agree.
     
  21. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I think the most obvious answer is both. In terms of studying writing, I'm currently studying a book called "On Writing" by Sol Stein. A lot of books claim to open your eyes to a whole new world, but the majority of those books are cluttered with useless rhetoric and you get little out of it.

    Sol Stein's "On Writing" is crafted with only essential information. I've learned more reading it the past 2 weeks than I have 2 weeks before my entire lifetime. The quality in his lessons is almost equivalent to a novel; you're itching to find out about the next lesson and never is a word or sentence ever wasted on useless information.
     
  22. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Trish, Thatguy,

    Off the topic a little, but I certainly did not intend to make anyone feel less about themselves for not having gone on to further education. Apologies if either of you felt that way. I'm simply expressing my philosophy, that education is about life as much as anything else, and that I believe everyone should aspire to learning for life.

    So many people these days look at education as being a ticket to a job or career, and it can be that. But its so much more. Its about understanding your culture, the world you live in, the people around you, where we came from, where we're going to.

    Call me a dilettante or a Renaissence Man, or whatever, I'm happy with both descriptions, but I do believe that people who don't continue learning, whether through a formal academic institution or informally, are denying themselves from achieving their full potential / of living their lives to the fullest.

    I hope that doesn't offend anyone.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  23. thatguy
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    thatguy Member

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    Greg, I disagree. I do take the value of traditional education seriously, but I think it all comes down to real life over taught life. Would you rather live it for real, and write about it as an amateur, or think it up and write it like a professional? I know my answer.
     
  24. thatguy
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    thatguy Member

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    And yes, I did take offence to that. I'm a grade 9 drop out, not even 23 years old, and I know more about our shity world than any thick dry text book could ever teach me, thank you.
     
  25. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Again, apologies for causing offence.

    Cheers, Greg.
     

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