1. karalissa
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    karalissa New Member

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    What do I need?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by karalissa, Nov 12, 2009.

    Okay, so I could simply write this amazing book and get it published and end up on Oprah and make millions of dollars, but lets wake up and be realistic.
    What are classes I should take throughout college to become a better/more talented writer? How far should I go? BA? Masters? Ph.d?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Degrees won't make you a better writer. Of course, ANY college work will entail writing papers, and you will be held to a higher standard than in lower schools.

    What will make you a better writer is plenty of reading, and plenty of practice writing. You will make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he's right!...

    the truth is that very few successful writers down through the ages ever went to college at all, much less got degrees in writing-related fields...
     
  4. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    IMHO, if you want to publish non-fiction books, it does matter that you have the relevant credentials.

    For example, Dr. Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, author, and talk show host, has appeared on Oprah many times. I guess he's making millions of dollars now. :D
     
  5. Robert Lipscombe
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    Robert Lipscombe Member

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    ..well, any experienced publisher/writer/reader will be able to tell within a sentence or two whether you have talent, and should know by the end of the paragraph whether or not you have technique. Technique of course can be learned, quite quickly actually - with the right guidance [beware: there is a lot of flimflam and flummery about]; talent however is not something you can learn, although you can acquire such technique as to appear at times to have talent ..not the same thing at all. Talent will get you noticed, will get you started; but without technique it is unlikely your talent will bring you the success you seek.
    The bottom line? Start writing. Show us what you've got. If people respond with enthusiasm then you could start working on the technique [unless, rarely to be seen - you were born with talent and technique already hard-wired]
    With best wishes
    RL
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bruce...
    having topic-related degrees will not make one "abetter/more talented writer" [which is what the op is asking about]... it will only lend credence and legitimacy to the subject matter of a book, not make it any better-written than the writing talents/skills of the author allow...

    and as oprah has proven more than once, sad to say, she's no judge of writing quality, only of popularity potential...
     
  7. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    First. You need practice, and to not starve while you're practicing.

    Most people who haven't written much just don't have the ability to "write this amazing book and get it published" and make gratuitous amounts of money. Just as an apprentice carpenter will not be carving perfect designs on the second day, so a writer who "wants to" but hasn't actually practiced much will not be able to just write a book and make lots of money.

    And there are no exceptions of which I'm aware. Heinlein wrote a very bad first book (only published after his death), then went to writing short stories for a while in order to practice the craft. Many writers do short stories first, as a way to practice character and pacing and plot. Other people go straight into novels, write a bad one and several less-bad ones before getting into the swing of it, and then produce beautiful prose and awesome characters.

    So practice. Practice, practice, practice. And don't let yourself starve. Go to college while you practice, or work somewhere.

    Second. A degree in writing is not useful for much either before or after you become a writer, but for different reasons.

    If you get a degree before reaching the "author" or "professional writer" stage (as opposed to the hobbiest writer stage, which most of us are in), what good does it do? You can't do much besides research, teaching, or odd jobs that don't require a specific advanced degree. It's not entirely useless, but it's probably not optimal.

    If you get a degree afterward, you're in the same situation except that you've been published. Here's the thing: publishing houses look at your book itself, your actual writing. They don't care whether you have a double PhD. in Creative Writing and Technical Writing. If you can write, great! If you can't, the degree means little. And you still can't do much besides teaching or academic research or odd jobs.

    Third. If your career uses writing all the time, you may feel burned out on creative writing as a side job.

    This is the other danger inherent in a writing degree. So now you've graduated and gotten a job -- writing speeches, or writing letters as a secretary, or writing adverts. But it's not what you want to write, and you'd like to write on the side in your free time to get better.

    Unfortunately, some people start to feel that writing is no longer fun. It's work -- something done for the money, something you sometimes get bored with. And then they stop writing creatively.

    Note that this doesn't happen to all people, but it's a risk.

    Fourth. If you insist on getting a degree in Creative Writing anyway... all right.

    1. Take classes under professors who are professional writers of some stripe, who are actually published in the field you care about. For me, this meant seeking out classes headed by Sheriann Lewitt and Joe Haldeman. You probably have other authors available to you. Take advantage of this.

    2. Take classes on a variety of topics. Short stories and novels and novellas. Autobiography and technical articles. Webpage stories and interactive fiction. Sure, you should focus on your medium of choice, but you should also take a few other classes just so you know what tools you have available to you.

    3. Use the time to write on the side and to polish your work or submit to writing contests. I'm a bit of a hypocrite here; I've won awards at my university, but I haven't sent my stories out to publishers. (More fool me.) But it's a good thing to do.

    That's about it. Keep working at your writing and at plotting and at characterization. I'm an okay writer, nothing special so far. Hopefully you've found me suitably coherent. Just remember that you need to practice quite a bit to become really good at anything, and writing is no exception. So write!
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    If you want a degree that will help you write creative fiction, study English lit. The ability to deconstruct and analyse pieces of writing, to think critically and theoretically about language and literature will elevate your own writing ability more than simple practice will. Few authors study creative writing, but a great many hold degrees in English/(indigenous country's) Literature, and I think it shows. The control over the smaller, subtler details that can only come from having been shown them in great literature is evident in their writing, where many amateurs (and even less-accomplished professionals) have a solid grasp on story-telling and other broad details of writing but seem to lack the advanced technical knowledge of some of their more successful counterparts.
     

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