Qualified to Write???

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
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writeitsideways
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by writeitsideways » February 21st, 2010, 2:09 am

All through school, I was told I had writing talent, so when it came time to apply to university, you can bet I applied for a degree in creative writing. Problem was, at 18 years old, I was way too young and naive to understand how the world works, let alone write a publishable book.

The structured creative writing courses were not for me at the time, so I transferred to English and then took a post-grad education degree. I wish I had the skills and maturity I have now, more than 10 years later. I believe I would excel in those same writing courses today.

Still, getting a couple of degrees, reading a lot of books, writing tons of essays, and studying the craft of writing--those are the things that will help me move toward getting published.

I have regrets aplenty, but I won't let them hold me back.

Qualifications are nice, but not essential.

Cheers,
Suzannah

Leila
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by Leila » February 21st, 2010, 3:08 am

Thanks very much to everyone for the great information and for sharing what you've done or are doing in your own lives. I really appreciate it.

I've learned a lot about what to do, how to do it etc, but hearing people's stories always grounds the theories for me. Experience makes everything real, understandable and helps me pick up good tips and lessons along the way.

Thanks again

casnow
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by casnow » February 21st, 2010, 3:53 pm

I don't really think credentials are that important... I think that motivation level is by far more important than a big vocabulary. I would guess that 95% of words in 95% of novels are things that everyone knows, and that it's how you string them together that matter. Grammar and punctuation? It can all be learned by copy-catting novels that you read. How do you do dialogue? Open up your favorite book and see where the commas and quotation marks go.

I think that Ink put it best when he/she said that the college writing education afforded 6 years to concentrate on writing. Time is a valuable asset. A great writer will never pop out a novel if they don't have time to put the words on paper. I also think that time is important because you can become a much, much better writer if you are willing to put in the time. Novel 1, 100k words of dribble, novel 2, 80k words that didn't looks so bad, novel 3, another 80k words that a few agents are interested... keep repeating and eventually you're getting something publishable.

Not all credentials need to be writing credentials. Why does Grisham write such accurate legal thrillers? he was a lawyer. Why was Michael Crichton so good with medical topics and technology? He was an MD and an early adopter of many technologies. So, their credentials were that they knew what they were writing about. The final thing about writing is that in most post-graduate programs you do tons of high-level non-fiction writing. I know I have over 800 pages of published material in the form of top-tier, peer-reviewed journal articles - you learn a lot about word economy and how to have ZERO fluff when you do that type of writing. Is that a credential? I'm not a lit agent or an editor, so it's not for me to decide.

PaulWoodlin
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by PaulWoodlin » February 21st, 2010, 4:51 pm

In my more bitter moments, I suspect many creative writing programs in academia are just a way of giving jobs to writers whose books aren't popular enough to support them taught by people who resent needing to teach to support themselves. I wish I could remember his name, but a successful author pointed out that very few artistically important or commercially successful writers actually come from these programs. Based on the experiences of my friends, any genre writer thinking about going back to college for a MFA should better make sure their writing program is friendly towards their genre.

However, to be fair, I do like going to workshops and feel I learn a lot from them, so if a creative writing program is workshop oriented and, as I said, giving your particular genre a fair hearing, I can't see the harm in it. If writing to a professor's deadline and getting good feedback keeps you writing and improving, that's fine. It's like paying for a really good writer's group, and those can be hard to find. Just remember, if Rowling had written Potter to impress professors, she's probably be waiting tables.

victoria
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by victoria » February 22nd, 2010, 5:46 am

There are thousands of students churned out of Uni's each year with english, linguistics and speech & lang pathology degrees. Just because they have an in-depth knowledge of writing (and can lecture you on semi-colons and dangling modifiers) does that automatically mean they can write? I personally don't think so.

It comes to practice, passion and a little bit of talent :)
http://victoriapantazis.blogspot.com
Sharing my research on how teens read and applying it to the process of writing.

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polymath
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by polymath » February 22nd, 2010, 9:25 am

Eight thousand U.S. authors make the bulk of their career income from freelance fiction writing. The majority have taken at least some college coursework in writing. An associate's degree in most disciplines requires a minimum of two courses in writing. Expository composition and vocational writing and research are the two standard courses for basic studies requirements. Basic creative writing coursework is an elective that most colleges and universities offer.

A graduate student teaching assitant must have eighteen hours of completed graduate-level writing concentration coursework before he or she can teach accredited writing courses on his or her own, and will not complete graduation requirements without meeting a minimum publication standard.

Professors of writing must have publication credits to get the job in the first place and continue publishing or perish. Retention policies have rigid publication expectations in the publish or perish paradigm for tenured academic citizenship in every teaching discipline, and in many other professional disciplines. Even continuing education writing instructors must have some publication credits to get the job.

Most professional occupations have a writing component requirement as an everyday activity.

The mechanics of effective writing can be taught, in all cases must be taught at one or another life stage beginning in grammar school.
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A quarter of a million workers in the U.S. engage in writing activities as a primary activity--not including fifty thousand technical writers gainfully employed--roughly half and half authors and editors. Seventy percent of writers and editors are freelancers.
Median annual wages for salaried writers and authors were $53,070 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,150 and $75,060. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,630. Median annual wages were $58,740 for those working in advertising, public relations, and related services and $43,450 for those working for in newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers.

Median annual wages for salaried editors were $49,990 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,690 and $69,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $95,490. Median annual wages of those working for newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers were $49,280.

Freelance writers earn income from their articles, books, and less commonly, television and movie scripts. While most work on an individual project basis for multiple publishers, many support themselves with income derived from other sources. Unless gotten from another job, freelancers generally have to provide for their own health insurance and pension.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2011 Edition, Authors, Writers, and Editors. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos320.htm
Spread the love of written word.

casnow
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by casnow » February 23rd, 2010, 2:15 am

polymath - Thanks for the numbers from the BLS - I would assume that technical writers are probably the ones that are pulling that average way up, as many of them not only have to be solid writers, but also technical experts in what they are writing about.

i think in college I had to take 3 writing courses (2 literature and 1 technical writing)

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marilyn peake
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by marilyn peake » February 23rd, 2010, 4:12 pm

I took some English Literature classes in college, and wrote a Masters Thesis that was over 100 pages in graduate school. I don't think writers need formal training, however. Some of the world's greatest writers have been self-educated with a passion for life and writing. On the other hand, I do think reading lots of books is very important to becoming a good writer.
Marilyn Peake

Novels: THE FISHERMAN’S SON TRILOGY and GODS IN THE MACHINE. Numerous short stories. Contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL. Editor of several additional books. Awards include Silver Award, 2007 ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

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wilderness
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by wilderness » February 24th, 2010, 7:32 pm

Nope. I'm completely unqualified :)

On the other hand, I've had some success since I have at least had my full read by multiple agents. Since I didn't put down any credentials, it means that at least some agents aren't writing me off despite the lack.

As for my grammatical and technical skills: I grew up reading a lot. In fact I like to joke that my parents used the public library as their daycare (it's only partly a joke). As a result, I was good at grammar in grade school and still feel confident I can put together a coherent sentence.

Confident is the key word there. I think you have to have a bit of an ego to push yourself along in the face of rejection.

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Polenth
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by Polenth » February 28th, 2010, 7:41 am

I don't have any writing qualifications. Most of the creative writing I've done over the years has been real-time roleplaying. A few years back, I decided to start writing fiction and submitting it for publication.

In that year, I won a contest on Nathan's blog, so I can't have been that bad.

Roleplaying helped with dialogue and characterisation. Everything I know about plot and pacing came from reading.
Polenth
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Lorelei Armstrong
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Re: Qualified to Write???

Post by Lorelei Armstrong » February 28th, 2010, 11:47 am

Here's the "qualifications paragraph" from my upcoming query letter:

"I have an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA and am a member of the Independent Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America, West. My one published novel is IN THE FACE (Iota, October 2008). My mother bought several."

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