If I had to do it all over again, I would have gone to college for a degree in English or Literature and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, instead of the science-laden degree of nursing. The majority of my writing education to date has been largely self-taught. And yet, there is still a lot more that I need to learn.
After all of this, I believe that you can be just as good a writer if you have to learn the process yourself rather than university style. You do have to work a little harder though.
Becoming a Self-Taught Writer
Here are some things I would suggest if you are serious about the craft of writing and educating yourself about it:
- Arm yourself with instruction manuals on anything to do with writing. Start with the basics like a dictionary and a thesaurus. Buy a couple of good grammar books like William Strunk Jr & EB White’s The Elements of Style, or The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus and/or Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty. Writer’s Digest offers a variety of reference books, including the annual Writer’s Market. Read the writing books of those authors whom you admire. Books on writing by Stephen King, Anne Lamont, Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George are all worth checking out. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is a great inspirational work that will teach you about a different dimension of art, writing and the craft.
- Take some classes. It does not have to be gearing yourself toward a college degree but it can be something that brings you closer to your goal of becoming a professional writer. With the ease of the internet, a lot of classes can be taken from the comfort of your own home. Make sure they are reputable: read the reviews or try to get a recommendation. You can take a class on just about anything: from crafting a pitch to marketing your book or how to write a mystery.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. Check out your local writers’ association online or see if there are any groups online in your area. The best writers’ group that I ever belonged to contained members from all over the world. I never met them, but we wrote the same genre and the learning curve was great.
- Get criticism and feedback. Initially, get it from anyone: family, friends and then other writers. You cannot move forward if you do not know what you are doing wrong or if you are not even aware of it. Many times in writing, when others point out something that is not right, whether it be a sentence construction or a plot twist or even a misspelling, nine times out of ten, you smack yourself on your forehead asking why you did not see the obvious mistake.
- This sort of goes without saying but you would be surprised as to how many people out there do not realize that in order to be a great writer, you need to read. A lot. Read for entertainment and instruction. Read it from the eyes of a writer. Look at the plot structure. Study the chapter hooks. Listen to the dialogue (dialogue tags could be a subject all by themselves).
You can teach yourself the profession of writing. People do it all the time.