Monday, July 4, 2022

Do Professional Degrees Lead To Better Novels?

Let me first say that I do believe, the more a writer can learn about the craft of writing, or the publishing process, it does help a lot. But the question becomes, does paying for these services really make you a better writer, or increase your chances of even being published.

I was thinking about this over the 4th of July weekend for several reasons. The first is that I have two different clients that are in the process of working with their latest WIP. One was thinking about getting a professional critique service that would target her writing and look for the things she has been missing. The other had paid for someone to "edit" a previous project. The second is that, outside of my work here at Greyhaus, I do teach courses for the UCLA Extension program in Developmental Editing and also Marketing and PR. But we still have to come back to the questions of: Is it worth it? and will this make my book sell any faster.

Let's take the second question first. Will this make my book be better or sell faster? The answer to this is probably no. Like any other skill out there, it takes time to learn how to do the craft well. I have been teaching for 30 years and even though I came out of two fantastic teacher training programs, I did not walk into the classroom being an expert. The same goes for writing. Ask any author out there who has been doing this for a while, and they will say the same thing. It has taken a lot of growth to get them to where they are now. 

But will those editors and agents sign my book faster knowing I paid for all of these elite programs? Again, the answer is no. We are looking at the book being quality and the marketability of that book. We are looking at your professionalism and whether or not it is worth it to invest in you and your product.

Now, what about that first question, Is it worth it? Honestly, it depends on what you know coming into the business of writing and your inherent ability. 

I want to talk here about those MFA programs out there. Don't get me wrong. These are programs that have great curriculum and instructors. However, with that said, too often, these programs are guiding authors in "textbook" style learning and may not be providing them with "real-world" experience. I remember teaching a creative writing class and the textbook I was given talked to such a theoretical level that the products the students created were not good at all. Yes, they contained those elements of literary devices found in Chapter 4 of the book, but the execution of the writing was not there. 

As a part of the UCLA program, I did work as a guest speaker with one of these groups, and the students in the course were shocked at the things I talked about in the real world of publishing. Was it really true that publishers didn't give new authors 7 figure deals? Do you mean a publisher is not interested in my 400,000 word novella? But there are not books with Alien Vampire Bunnies out there so there is a definite need for my screenplay! 

So, what am I getting to on this? Look, if you don't know anything about grammar, you better learn it. If you don't know about the writing process, you better learn it. But if you want to become a great professional author and sell your books faster, learn the business and think. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I remember reading a book 20 or so years ago that the dialogue was so rough due to a Cockney accent that I struggled to understand the dialogue and gave up.
    I also remember reading a book alleged to have been set in Appalachia. I have lived here my who life, and never have I heard that type of words used anywhere in the region. There is always such a crazy balance between making the book read smoothly and still putting in the flavor for the region so the reader feels transported to a new place from where they live.
    Great advice as usual. I believe the advice is spot on since many times what a writer thinks is their voice is really a reflection of their mile marker on their journey of learning the craft.
    Over the years many of my rejections mentioned a strange order of words. And after reading the comments, I realized they were true. That is how they talked from my little home town, but the rest of the world was not as accepting of our speech.
    Scott, you done good!