Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do You Need a College Degree to be a Writer?

Photo: Mary Gober
Hi all,

One of my readers recently asked me if you need any formal training (English or Journalism degree) to become a freelance writer. The answer is a flat-out “No”. While I am a big proponent of a college education (and am currently paying for my own child to get one) and I think an English or Journalism degree would give you an edge, I also do not believe that everyone needs to have completed college to become a freelance writer – or any type of writer. Talent, grammar skills, a willingness to learn and a great dictionary and Thesaurus is probably what most beginning writers need to start a writing career.

What a College Degree Can Do for You

A college degree can give you a great basis and understanding of the English language, grammar and the skills to write perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. In college you will read all the great writers and learn about style, structure and nuances. You will pick apart every story you read and try to figure out what “exactly” the writer is trying to tell you in every paragraph. You will learn to write in appropriate styles and learn to edit. When you graduate, a college degree will help get you into the doors of magazines, newspapers and big websites and can lead to copy writer jobs, editor jobs and even management. A college degree can help you get where you want to go much faster – however, if don’t have any actual natural writing talent, it may not get you there very fast.

What a College Degree Can’t Do for You

While a college degree can give you the tools to be a writer, it certainly cannot give you what a writer really needs – talent, imagination, the ability to sniff out a story or the ability to write sentences that flow and make people want to read more. A college degree will not guarantee you will sell your novel or any of the articles or stories you send off to magazines. A college degree will not ensure you success as a writer – it will only get you ready and you will have to do the rest by yourself.

So, How Do You Get Started?

If you do not have any formal education in writing, but you love to write and you have some natural talent, then you need to start by learning everything you can about writing. Read articles and books on writing for magazines, websites or newspapers (or on writing novels), learn how and where to sell your work and then just write. You’ll never get anywhere until you write that first article, first news story or first chapter of your novel. Don’t worry about your past education – just write.

Famous Writers Who Didn’t Go to College

For a little more inspiration, here are a few writers who did not go to college. If you don’t know who some of these people are, it is because you didn’t take that college literature class – but you can always read their work on your own. (By the way - if you are going to college - stay in college.  I don't want you to drop out and have your parents mad at me.)

Jane Austen – Novelist

James Cameron – Screenwriter Titanic and Avatar

James Fenimore Cooper – Novelist

Charles Dickens – Novelist

William Faulkner – Novelist

F. Scott Fitzgerald – Novelist (You MUST read his work!)

Jack London – Novelist

George Orwell – Novelist

J.K. Rowling – Novelist (Wrote a little series of books starring Harry Potter!) Ooops!

Now, just get out there and write!

Happy Writing,


2012 Writer's Market2012 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market (Novel and Short Story Writer's Market)

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Haven't Disappeared - I'm Just Busy Writing

Been busy as a bee!
Photo: Enrico Nunziati
Hi all,

I haven't added a new post for quite some time because I've been very busy doing that thing we all do - writing.  I've been writing for money and working on a project that I hope will eventually bring in money.  I've also been working on an old project hoping that it will be revived to a whole new existance.  Busy, busy, busy.

You Just Never Know

Earlier this year when my residual income was hit hard, I really didn't think I'd earn as much income as I had hoped for this year.  Well, you just never know.  A writing door that I had opened late last year and which had sort of closed for awhile flew wide open 3 months ago and I've been very busy writing articles for up-front pay at a very good pay rate.  This has made all the difference in the world with my writing income.  I work less time writing but am paid 3-4 times more than I was before.  Although this is more like a job - they assign articles and I write them - I am okay with that.  I am, after all, a freelance writer and this is what a freelance writer does.  And since I don't have to spend all my time writing to earn more money than I did before, it leaves me time to work on other projects - so I am happy about that.  That was one of my goals - work smarter, not harder - and I have actually been able to do that this year. 

My New Project

I'm not going to go into great detail because I am still working on it, but I have been working on a big project that I hope, at some point, will begin earning residual income.  If you follow this blog, you know that I do have a few other blogs on different topics that I've been working on for over a year now.  They are all very different but yet could compliment each other so one day I had this idea about combining the blogs so they are still different blogs with different web addresses yet you can link back and forth to each one.  It would be like one big website yet seperate at the same time.  I have made some Google money so far and I hope as I continue working on them that the income grows.  The problem is trying to find time to write all the articles for each blog and keep them all updated.  So this is also what I've been doing with my spare time.

Revivinig an Old Project

My last project has been trying to revive an old project and get it back out in the open.  Ten years ago, I wrote a fun young-adult adventure novel titled Outlaw HeroesAfter sending it off to about 50 agents and the same amount of publishers but getting a rejection each time ("not what we are looking for at this time", "our catalog is full at the moment" etc.,)  I decided to self-publish it and see what would happen.  After it was published, the book did receive several excellent reviews and it even ended up on a national school library list.  Unfortunately, 10 years ago everyone was thick into the Harry Potter phenomonon and all middle-grade books since have been about wizards, witches and now vampires.  My poor little book didn't stand a chance. (Unless I added a witch and vampire to it!)  But now that the last Harry Potter movie has hit the big screen and hopefully after the last Twilight movie we can move on from vampires, I decided it was time to shop my book around again to agents.  So I've been busy doing all that footwork again, finding trustworthy agents, typing up letters and sending packets either by e-mail or snail mail.  I'm can only try and hope for the best - never give up, that should be the motto of all writers.  (By the way, if you know a great agent - or you are one - would love to hear from you. Ha Ha)

Hope your summer is going well and you are also doing what you love.

Happy Writing,

Your Book Starts Here: Create, Craft, and Sell Your First Novel, Memoir, or Nonfiction Book
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