My thoughts were sparked by a previous thread but I wonder just how many of us have committed to post secondary writing courses, such as a BA in English, Creative Writing, Professional Writing Majors and Minors, an MA, an MFA, etc. etc.
For those of you that have committed: How has it changed your view of writing and the publishing world?
For those of you that haven't committed: Do you think you would ever take a writing course? How do you feel as an aspiring or published writer without any writing credits?
I'll answer first as it's only fair right? I tried to take one course through the Long Ridge Writer's Group. I got through four assignments and stopped. I wasn't aware that the course was aimed at short stories and while it improved those skills immensely, it didn't really give me what I was looking for.
I also took an English 1 course when I was in Grade 12 and the materials studied were exactly the same as my Grade 12 Literature40S class. I can't say that doing two classes that had the same reading list was any fun, especially not when one class read the books from bottom to top and the other from top to bottom. Basically, I had to have ALL the books read by the time the term was halfway through. The only book I remember liking from that class was Fall On Your Knees by Anne MacDonald.
Being published now, I don't know how I feel. Sometimes like I'm on the outside looking in and other times like, I've learned a lot from my Beta Readers, Editor and Agents I've worked with to be able to survive.
I believe that all you need is a great story and the ability to put it into words. You can learn the technical stuff along the way but be mindful when someone tells you what to do and what not to do. Don't make the same mistakes twice . . .
Okay, that's it for me, how about everyone else?
I place a lot of value in my Professional Writing degree, and not just because of what I learned/the writing practice. I'm glad I studied something that I was really passionate about, rather than something that would have led me into a career I hated! I wouldn't consider any money or time put into my writing/editing/publishing skills a waste.
A degree hasn't really changed my view of publishing. I had an understanding of the business before college (via following literary agent blogs as a teen, etc.), so there were no major revelations or discoveries during my studies. No moments of painful epiphany, "OMG, I'm never going to make money and it will take forever to get published and editors will eviscerate my manuscript, waaaaaah." That had already happened, and I still wanted to pursue the dream. Getting a writing degree was a commitment to my dream and a signal to others that I took it seriously.
With the degree, I got to refine my skills and have some great experiences/opportunities. Writing & English degrees are absolutely NOT necessary to be successful in publishing. I'm sure I'm not the only one who doesn't consider a degree a credit towards someone's writing (especially after seeing a lot of my classmates' writing and my early writing, eek). But I do appreciate my degree.
That being said, I should go finish editing my manuscript...gotta walk the walk, not just talk the talk, eh?
I agree with this.
I will add, however, that any chances you get to do specific training -- whether that's Clarion, Cat Rambo's online classes, or any of the workshop-type courses -- will help to further you as a writer. College workshop classes are hit or miss. Some are excellent and really do a great job to advance the technical and storytelling skills of the participating writers, others are at at best unhelpful and at worst utterly debilitating, particularly to writers of non-literary or genre fiction.
I think classes that are not related to a degree are more likely to be both tailored to the particular sort of writing you're after and more useful in terms of specific feedback.
I studied Spanish literature as my major and took several fiction classes. Writing is a craft and, as such, improves with time and practice. While I don't necessarily believe one must have a writing degree to become an eloquent and successful writer, I do believe in studying and reading with an analytical mind all manner of fiction. Some of the greatest writers received their education in the local library (Ray Bradbury, anyone?) That being said, I have considered pursuing a MFA degree if and when I can take a break from my writing, but I don't foresee that happening any time soon. :)
PS: Regarding grammar and punctuation errors in a manuscript; that's what freelance editors are for and there are many out there who need the work. Keep an editor employed!
My degree is in English, and the only thing I think it helped me with (in terms of writing) was to introduce me to some books I'd never read before, and authors I'd never even heard of!
I am not really a fan of writing courses. I think for some people they can be fantastic, but I am always wary of the way they are taught...is the instructor/professor letting his/her students be creative and expanding their knowledge of the greater writing world? Or is (s)he really focusing on one style of writing, storytelling, or even publishing practice?
And of course, the student is just as big a consideration as the teacher. Writing is so personal that you have to step back from whatever you learn, and fit it into your writing (instead of fitting yourself into what you've learned). Some people can do this, and thus they take away a lot from writing courses. Others can't, and then it's not very beneficial.
This is an excellent topic and I'll admit, it's something I've worried (and asked) about before.
I love the idea of taking a writing course and would jump at the opportunity if I could work it in. The two things keeping me from doing anything of the sort right now are 1)childcare for my three and five year olds and 2)transportation, considering we are a single vehicle family and my husband works thirty minutes away. I've worried about people taking me seriously in this industry because I really don't have any credentials other than my actual--unpublished--writing. Responses on other forums, though, have given me the confidence to push these worries aside. People should be more concerned with the quality of the story than someone's background, right?
I took a creative writing course and hated it because the professor was really incompetent with the criticism. I wanted to learn how to write poetry, and I never did. He was more of a short story writer, but even then his criticism was very shoddy. As someone who was having a freelance editor working on her book at the time, I felt very qualified to critique his criticism.
My degree is in English, middle education. But my biggest influences have been my beta readers, the freelance editor I interned for, and reading and just writing, writing, writing. I don't have my degree yet, but I also don't feel any desire to take another creative writing class. I have a book deal currently, and just joined a local writer's group. I look forward to learning even more as edits for my book come in.