1. Gigantic
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    Gigantic New Member

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    Uneducated Authors Who Struck Gold.

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Gigantic, Sep 3, 2013.

    When I was involved with filmmaking, there was a drive of motivation to think of once amateur filmmakers who made a name for themselves after shooting a film on a very low budget with zero experience or formal education other than watching films. There's a massive list of independent filmmakers who even made a career for themselves, and some even went on to marry respected people like Madonna.

    Is there any examples of this in the literary world? I keep reading about authors giving praise to their writing teachers and years upon years of honing their skill - but has any successful books been done by someone who had avoided educational route, winged it and now have a mansion made of gold?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Faulkner was a high school dropout who ended up winning the Nobel Prize.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know a great many writers do have some college education, but not necessarily in writing. But nowadays most folks have some college, so it doesn't really mean anything. If you're asking if people need an education, and/or an education in writing, to be successful, the answer is no.

    And really, most authors don't have that huge success that leads to mansions, let alone made of gold. ;)
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    P.G. Wodehouse had only a high-school education, being unable to afford going to university. He began his working life in banking. As a writer, he became extremely successful and very highly paid.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Apparently H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were high school dropouts as well.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you say 'winged it' what exactly do you mean, though? Bill Gates is a college dropout, but I bet he studied his field of expertise far and beyond anything he would've learn in formal education. There are quite a few examples of this, because tertiary education doesn't matter if a person works so hard to make themselves an authority on the subject. With writers, there are plenty of self-taught ones, I dare say a majority, who never studied creative writing or literature at University, but you can bet they worked at it tirelessly, much more than any formal course would require. Also, quite a few have unrelated higher education, like journalists, doctors, lawyers, teachers etc who also write. Especially in genres such as crime and thriller, bestselling legal thrillers, medical thrillers, police procedurals are usually written by people who have degrees in those fields (or worked in them in one capacity or another).
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
  7. Lucid420
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    Lucid420 New Member

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    H.P. Lovecraft did not go to school for the first time until he was eight years old, and then only for a year. He was a very sickly child and suffered from night terrors, which is where many of his stories came from he says.
    Four years later at 13 he went to high school till he was 17, but had to drop out due to a nervous breakdown his Senior year.
    He never went back to school, although he always claimed he was a High School Graduate.
    And He Rulz
     
  8. Gigantic
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    Gigantic New Member

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    When I say 'winged it', that's more in reference to the filmmaking rather than literature - with no-budget crews having to come up with ideas and solutions on the spot on the big day when something unexpected happens, or wasn't thought about properly. All that's left to do is try and hope for the best. But with writing a book, it's at one's own pace. But all the same, if someone is inexperienced and didn't have the internet to rely on back in the day, or a means to obtain books with hints and tips, then all that's left to do is apply their own theories and hope for the best. Maybe winging it isn't the best term to use in regards to new authors in this age, but even now there has to be success stories who didn't see the need to attend a creative writing class. And I'd like to read some of their books as an example. It just gives an idiot like me hope that maybe I can write something that someone other than my mother would read.

    What about you folk, have you went down the further education route for writing? Or, not? And is it effective if so?
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    There are only a few "young" authors in the past 10 or so years (I say 10 years because creative writing programs have really gained popularity in the last decade) who haven't graduated from some sort of creative writing program and have received critical acclaim. One example is Jonathan Safran Foer. I'm finding that editors from a lot of prestigious magazines are drawing from graduates of MFA creative writing programs vs. new writers without some sort of writing degree (The New Yorker's 20 under 40 featured a lot of writers who graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop).
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Dmitry Glukhovsky was allegedly only 18 when he wrote Metro 2033. It was published in 2002 when he was 23. It's spawned an entire franchise, including a popular video game.
     
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  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Henri Charriere - Papillon. Publishing sensation 1973. Being a fan since childhood I researched, my thinking that reading a French language original version would be my way into fluent french, always having loved the English translation.

    Now, the veracity or otherwise of the original tale is not up for debate, but interestingly half the French Amazon reviews talk about the paucity of l'author's language, his dull repetition, general grey pasting.

    The English translation was by Patrick O'Brien, he of Master & Commander.

    Same thing applies with a similar, very masculine, similarly brilliant book - the Forgotten soldier. Being a fool I purchased another Eastern Front war book. Bored me witless by page fifty. The author is absolutely everything, regardless of the experience. Anyway, there's your answer ex-con H Charriere.
     
  12. sanco
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    sanco Contributing Member

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    I don't know whether to feel inspired or pathetic.
     
  13. Darkthought
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    Darkthought Active Member

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    Dickens and Jack Kerouac were famous drop outs as well.

    That is my favorite part about writing. You get to do something you love and you don't need to have some kind of degree telling you are good at it do it. I suppose an education could never hurt, but writing comes from experience and passion.

    This is especially true of virtually all fiction. Can anyone show me where a college education helps you learn the finer points of magic or dragon fighting or rescuing damsels in distress?

    No, if you are passionate enough and force yourself to sit down and just get it done then its possible.

    Wow, kind of rambled off topic a bit I think.
     
  14. Gigantic
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    Gigantic New Member

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    I agree with you Darkthought. I imagine education has the purpose of teaching you how to get the most out of your ideas, but as far as teaching you how to come up with ideas, that's all your own doing.

    Why hasnt there been a lot of young authors? Surely it doesn't take the majority of authors years and years of learning to write a debut that has success? Again with the film world, the majority of debut independent films are from 22-26 year old filmmakers. Why is it different when jumping mediums?
     
  15. Darkthought
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    Darkthought Active Member

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    There doesn't really seem to be an accessible platform for young up and coming writers. I blame it on the internet and people's attention spans. Its easier to go to youtube and watch videos from indie film makers than it is to search around the web for indie authors.

    Whoa...maybe there's an idea.
     
  16. Gigantic
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    Gigantic New Member

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    That's quite tragic if that's the case. Surely there must be a block of the internet dedicated indie writers? With online communties like this, why hasn't it already happened? Does showcasing your writing online damage chances of being published, therefore folk keep it all to themselves? How does independent writing even work - aren't we all independent writers really?
     
  17. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really think filmmakers and writers are comparable in this area. Filmmakers have a lot more to deal with -- not only do they have to write the script, but then they have to produce the film. There are a lot more technical aspects to learn.

    Indy authors can and do compete with already established authors -- there are many of them on amazon. You can also find them on smashwords. And there are plenty of folks who write for free and put their stuff on their own websites.

    There are many, many authors who don't have MFAs. There are also a lot of writers who have quite a bit of education, but not in creative writing. Michael Crichton was a medical doctor. John Grisham is/was a lawyer.

    As far as young authors, it certainly helps to have an MFA, and certainly one from Iowa is a huge plus as far as instilling some knowledge and practice, as well as establishing some "credibility" in trying to get an agent. But it is by no means a requirement, and I would guess that a majority of authors out there don't have MFAs. They're really only a requirement if you want to teach writing.

    Editied to address
    Independent usually just means self-published, as in not having gone through a big publisher. (Some people consider going through a small publisher as being the same as being 'independent,' while others only consider independents to be those who truly self publish.) Those who self publish take care of everything on their own (or outsource particular aspects to others on their own -- i.e. cover design, editing, formatting.) You take care of all of the marketing, production, printing (if you decide to offer printed copies - many people only offer electronic versions), etc.
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Writing a good novel takes a lot of time, mental endurance, and discipline. It also takes experience, which is mainly why you don't see very many good young authors (by that I mean authors less than 30 years old). I mentioned in another thread that an author's peak, which is when he/she produces his/her best work, is somewhere between the ages of 40-50. At that age, an author is old enough to have lots of experience with writing and life and is young enough to have the mental endurance necessary to complete a novel.
     
  19. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Shakespeare died at my age. By the time Mozart was my age, he'd been dead and buried for seventeen years. Joyce published Ulysses when he was twelve years younger than I am.

    Sometimes I feel like I've wasted most of my adult life.
     
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  20. DPVP
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    so just a few thoughts on the whole get a masters thing, that is very tilted for my industry and life. for that reason i will use an MBA as my example instead of a MFA witch i know nothing about except i am gathering Iowa has good ones.

    i would really carefully look at the cons before getting a masters. The cost just seems so high to me. first you have the cost of the program, its books, living, and other expenses. lets say that totals to 100,000 for the two years in expenses. but your also no longer making money so their is an opportunity cost of 60,000+ a year. so we have 220,000 cost just on things we can define.

    but lets take it farther. if you worked those two years chances are your salary, or bonus, or book of business would have expanded or you get promoted. suddenly that 60,000 would have been bigger. also working those two years would give you more experience and more on your resume, along with chances to make moves on a higher position or a section you like more. those two years of work could do more for you getting a better job then that masters degree.

    my end note is that its not what you study in school or what your grades were, it will not take long until no one cares.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well...and read. You don't learn to write with hints and tips, or from the Internet; you learn to write by doing a tremendous amount of reading and a tremendous amount of writing. You might do that in a formal and organized way in school, or you might do it on your own.

    I'm confused - why would you assume that it doesn't take years of learning to master writing? It seems quite logical to me that it would indeed take that long.

    Do you have a source for the statement that the majority of independent films are from very young filmmakers? Are these successful films or just, well, films? I attend a local film festival every year, and I rarely see a filmmaker who's that young.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2013
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  22. Gigantic
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    Gigantic New Member

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    Aye exactlly, you learn from working your box off. But why should that take twenty years to figure out before even thinking about sending your work around due to that being the standard time? My question is authors who have done so against the standard, and my opinion is that there should be more like them.

    But all my knowledge of writing is based on script work, which isn't as complex as novel writing, so maybe film vs books is a bad comparison. Plus the audience for film interest is much larger, and any idiot can make a film - but why can't any idiot write a book?

    Chicken - well just because you've not seen them at your anual festival doesn't mean they're not out there. There's plenty in the UK. Even folk like Rodriguez and Singleton knocked their debuts out at 24. Then there's the slightly older folk that took a stab through their own resources and cash and paved a career from themselves. It happens chief.
     
  23. chicagoliz
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    Well, any idiot can write a book. And plenty of them do. That doesn't mean that they're any good.

    Also, I don't think writing a novel is necessarily more complex than writing a script. They have many similarities, and with a script there aspects that need to be considered that are different from (and in addition to) a novel. But with a film, there are still more additional things related to producing the film that aren't present with a novel, so although some comparisons can be made, they're not exactly the same.

    That said, I don't think what you've seen in the film world is necessarily so different. I'm not at all immersed in films. I don't know much about most independent works, and new ones aren't on my radar. I pretty much only know about them after I've read something about them or they get so much acclaim that they've "made it" to the general public, and might be shown at an indy theater somewhere in a city near me that shows smaller films. So most of these indy film producers that you believe are successful aren't necessarily (actually they most likely are not) people that I have heard of.

    Remember, most of the "successful" authors -- that is, ones who have managed to get multiple novels published and earn enough money that maybe they only need part-time or sporadic employment instead of a full time outside job in order to earn enough money to live, are still not authors that everyone has heard of. So, it is possible there are authors who have achieved a level of success similar to that of some of the filmmakers you're referencing.
     
  24. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, they learned the exact same way we do today - by reading the masters and practicing, until they reached the quality of writing they could be proud off. There's nothing in a 'how-to' book that can't be learned by reading Dostoyevsky, Austen, Dickens, Kundera, Marquez, Rushdie, Herbert, Zola, Dumas, Neruda, Homer etc etc.

    And this is the case as far back as the beginning of storytelling. Perhaps the very first guy (or a girl) who ever told a story, and that must go back tens of thousands of years (if not hundreds of thousands) then yeah, perhaps they were inventing something completely new, with no help form anyone. But even still, by observing day cycles, seasons and life stages in his fellow beings, the Three Act structure is impossible to miss. But that's hardly relevant to writers of homo sapiens age.
     

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