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Studying Creative Writing And Learning To Write Novels, by Steven Lochran

Goldrush by Steven Lochran

More than once I’ve been approached by an aspiring writer asking my opinion about studying Creative Writing at a tertiary level. Given the time and money it takes to attain a qualification, is it worth it?

I should say right off the bat that I majored in Creative Writing. Based on my experience I’d happily recommend it (no, I don’t get a kickback from my university for saying so – though if someone would like to get in touch with me, I have no qualms whatsoever about bribery).

Just because it worked for me it doesn’t mean that I see it as the only way to become a professional writer. There are plenty of authors out there who bypassed tertiary education altogether, dove straight into the business of being a writer and found tremendous success at it. It’s by no means a necessity to make it as a writer.

The benefit to formally studying Creative Writing is that it takes years and years of development and condenses it into an intensive, highly-focused period that exposes the student to multiple forms of writing and reading. The skills you develop through ten years of practice can be distilled down into three, provided you study hard enough, or you invent a time machine, but I’d probably stick with the study option.

When I was at uni, I tried my hand at feature writing, copywriting and sub-editing. I read brilliant books that I otherwise may never have given a chance, and learnt how to deconstruct a text by examining its intentions, its meaning and its execution.

In short, I was guided through the world of being a writer by people who were writers themselves and I was provided a knowledge base that serves me to this day, directly informing the writer I’ve become. But it was a costly experience (which I’m still paying off) and isn’t exactly a luxury that everyone can afford, unless, once again, you’ve invented a time machine (in which case you’re loaded and a Time Lord who doesn’t need my advice).

If you’re uncertain about studying Creative Writing at a university level, you can always look at a short-term course, but even simpler than that would be a writer’s group. They’re easier to find than ever before thanks to the internet, and can provide direction in a way you’d never benefit from on your own. It’s not always easy to hear other people’s opinions on your work, but it’s always invaluable.

If even that level of commitment is a challenge, I’d recommend simply being a student of life. Read a lot. Write a lot. Examine the stories you engage with and analyse what makes them work. Pull apart stories that don’t work and ascertain why. Don’t mindlessly consume. Enquire. Be curious. It’s only through being engaged that you yourself can become an engaging writer.

It’s only a time-flux capacitor that makes time travel possible.

…I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.

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Steven Lochran’s author website: www.stevenlochran.com

Steven Lochran’s bio page

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United States (and beyond)

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United Kingdom (and beyond)

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Australia (and beyond)

Wild Card by Steven LochranWar Zone by Steven Lochran     SparkTarzan: The Jungle Warrior: Bk. 2

Writing Teen Novels
www.writingteennovels.com

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Great post. I’m currently double-majoring in literature and creative writing (different departments in my university – one leads to a BFA and the other a BA).

    I take creative writing courses simply because they push me to produce the best work I can. People say you can’t “learn” to write better, and for the most part, that’s true. As you said, writing is a lifelong journey and takes years of life experience to perfect. But university as a whole has contributed much to my own personal journey and development as a writer. As you said, simply by reading great works and learning how to analyze sharpens your mind as a writer (and a reader).

    Personally, it really depends on your passion and your career goals. If you want to make money, maybe don’t pursue creative writing. But if you’re really passionate about it and are willing to devote hours to it, go right ahead.

    September 3, 2014

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