Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Education: The Secret to Success

Many make the mistake of thinking that anyone can write. Well, yes, anyone can write, but not everyone can write well. The key to success as a writer is education.

We need to learn proper sentence structure. We need to learn the markets and the industry. We need to learn grammar and punctuation. We need to build our vocabulary. We need to know when and when not to break the rules. We need to attend workshops and conferences. We need to read copious amounts of books on the craft as well as read mountains of fiction. And we need to continue to learn throughout our careers.

What are you currently doing to improve your writing? What's your favourite book on writing?

Note: This post is part of the A-Z Challenge. I will be posting Monday-Saturday during April corresponding to the letters of the alphabet.


  1. I enjoy working out of Writing for 100 days by Gabriel Arquilevich. She covers so much in her book, whether it be proper sentences, cliches, how to properly format what you are writing, it just goes on and on. Education really is the key!

  2. Although I know some people who've never finished college but still have writing talent, I do agree with everything you said.
    The only thing I usually don't agree with most blogging writers is going too public. Attending workshops and conferences and similar always seems like stealing ideas from each other. I think that writes who remain more mysterious, developing their skills in a more reclusive way, usually stay more original and more successful later on. Off course this doesn't count if a person is writing just YA or other overly popular genre of books.

  3. I am signing up for some online classes offered by the local college for creative writing!

  4. For me the best way I found that helped me improve my writing techniques were the writing courses I attended. I plan to attend many more and my dearest wish is to pursue a postgrad in creative writing full time - oh if only I could!!! Even if I don't get anywhere with my writing, I thought learning the craft was so good for my soul and my intellect - such as it is! I tend to be very very lazy and complacent but enrolling in these lessons really jolted me out of my bad habits!!

    YAY for your fab E post!! Take care

  5. Education is very important, I keep brushing up through online courses, my local writing association, and hopefully, some real classes in the future.

  6. I like the book Take Joy by Jane Yolen. I also like Old Friend from Far Away by Natalie Goldberg, it's full of great writing prompts.

  7. I have an education in journalism and have taken a few creative writing cources AGES ago. I think I have forgotten most of what I have learned. I got to busy with life, but I think now is a good time to refresh my memory. Also, getting caught between two languages can take its toll.

  8. I would add, we need to submit to critique and not get offended when someone points out a mistake or way to improve. Sometimes that's hard.

    I don't have just one favorite. I can share that I currently have 4 books that I turn to again and again. The Writer's Journey by Vogler, 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Tobias, Self Editing 4 the Fiction Writer, 2nd edition, by Renne and King and 45 Master Characters by Schmidt.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  9. I think reading in your genre is key to improving your writing skills. I also think critiquing other people's work improves your own work. Conferences and on line communities are great ways to build relationships with people, so that you have a pool of people to turn to when you don't know what to do....

  10. mist, sounds like a brilliant book.

    Dezzy, interesting comment. I spent some time thinking about what you said (I even ate some chocolate -- it helps me think) but don't I agree. Workshops and conferences are invaluable. Stealing ideas? Hmm, yes, it does happen, but it also happens when we read. We unconsciously pick up ideas from everywhere. Also, we can learn/teach without giving away all our ideas. Oh, and 'just YA'? Hehe, YA can include literary works and quality (yet original and popular) stories.

  11. Brea, that's awesome. I hope you gets heaps out of it.

    Old Kitty, yep, that's what I found too. I can easily grow complacent with my writing and I find returning to basics helps to jolt me back into being the writer I should be.

    Myne, awesome

    Carrie, I'll have to look those books up :)

    Siv, for sure! It's always good to refresh.

    Nancy, absolutely..critiquing is a form of education in many ways too.

    Sharon, absolutely right.

  12. Great point. We have to keep learning in order to improve our skill as writers.

  13. I'm improving my writing by writing. Alas, most of that these days is blog posts and comments, but I'll take what I can get.

    And since I don't have a favorite book on writing, per se, I'll go with the ol' standby, Strunk and White's Elements of Style. It's not the most exciting to read, and I've probably broken a couple of their rules in this very comment, but it sure is useful.

  14. I don't have a favourite book - but I do enjoy learning more about my craft
    great point

  15. To improve my writing, I blog, enter challenges at, and I am currently enrolled in my second course at the Institute of Children's Literature. My favorite writing book is "Immediate Fiction" by Jerry Cleaver.


  16. I once heard you should read at least a 100 books in your genre before you attempt to write a book. I think we learn a lot by reading other people's work, both published and unpublished. I take notes when I'm reading/studying books.

  17. Great post and so true. I just took a webinar.

  18. I thought I was losing my mind when I read your E post, and noticed it was dated Wednesday. I really though I lost a day and was at work unnecessarily, because I'm off Wednesday. Then I realized that you must be in a different part of the world.

    I do all of the things you listed, except attend workshops and conferences...that will come someday. Great post.

  19. I used to belong to Childrens Writer's Coaching Club. We had teleseminars and professional critiques.

  20. Oh, there's always so much to do to keep up. At the moment, I'm barely keeping my nose from being swallowed in the deep end. Soon, though... soon I can answer this question more positively for my own progress. :)

    East for Green Eyes

  21. Education. You're so right. Ifelt that when I started to write seriously. I then took an extra university course and some creative writing courses but I'd still like to further my education (anything to procrastinate!)


    L'Aussies Travel Blog A - Z Challenge D is for Darfur, E is for ...

  22. Great Post. I have a BA in journalism and another in psychology(it helps with the rejection...not).
    I have been a really bad reader the past few months...I have a huge pile and cannot wait to dig in:)

  23. I'm reading. A LOT. And I''m writing. As for reading, I've set a goal to read 100 books this year...

  24. Ibdiamond, yes indeed

    Nate, Elements of Style is a good one :)

    Michelle, enjoyment certainly helps

    Joyce, brilliant!

    Sharon, I've heard the pros and cons of that, but I do agree.

    Shelley, webinars can be great too

  25. Kelly, hehe, I'm tricksy like that ;)

    Kathy, sounds great

    Rosie, so true, there is a lot

    L'Aussie, lol, I don't see it as procrastination... well, then again, on thinking about it, it could be..hehe.

    Doreen, it's odd but my writing suffers when I stop reading.

    Samantha, that's a great goal :)

  26. To improve my writing, I have a critique group, which helps me figure out where I'm going wrong. My favorite book on writing would be... hmm... I'm not sure I have a favorite. I've read tons of them though.

  27. Honestly, I haven't read any books on writing, but I do read well-written books constantly. I not only enjoy the stories--I study the writing, too.

  28. I've signed up for a Writers Workshop, and every day I try to read one chapter of a writing book. And practice, lots and lots of practice. :)

  29. Indeed there is no end to learning and gaining knowledge. I think reading a wide variety of books can help us become acquainted with different styles of writing and give us additional viewpoints to our own writing.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  30. I have so many great writing books! I love How to Write and Sell Your Mystery Novel best though.

  31. I see a lot of books I have already read on that photo. I like "The First Five Pages" a lot. Thought the examples were clear and concise. Have you read any Donald Maass at all? He's the best.

    I think my biggest weakness right now is dialog. There is no good books on writing dialog I find. I have got a good tip from a writer-friend though. Reading some screen and stageplays. I'm sure it's going to help to get bombarded with dialog like that.

  32. I think this is true for any profession. Having said that, I'm more of a reader... :) Nice to meet you fellow A-Zer! Thank you for your post!

  33. I'm continuing my education by going to an SCBWI conference in May (yay!) and reading writers' and agents' blogs. :)

  34. I am a voracious reader. Recently I was working towards my Masters before we moved. The only problem I have with organized education is the inability for some to remember that writing is an art. Some of the best authors where the ones that went out on a limb trying something new and different. All art is evolutionary not static. I'm not talking about proper English or grammar and such but more about ideas, style, etc. Great discussion!

  35. For me, I love to attend classes, learn.. give me fiction, I can read non-stop, sitting day and night..but give me a subject book... zzzz :)

    I am wired that way..

    Following you from A-Z challenge

  36. Scene & Structure by Jack m. Bickham.

    I attend local writer meetings and my critique group meets 2x a month. I'm reading Nebula and Hugo award winners and best sellers.

    I have a plan for getting into epublishing and am educating myself on it.

  37. The best book on writing is "On Writing" by Stephen King. Absolutely beautiful, funny, informative..

    I also wanted to add that a education in general is a necessity for writing. The more you know about anything in life will help you write better.

  38. Sarah, critique groups are fantastic

    Sarah, reading helps us to see the writing rules in practise.

    Alison, all good things :)

    Duncan, absolutely

    Clarissa, sounds like the perfect one for you :)

    Bz, great to meet you too :)

    Carol, as you know I'm going to one in May as well. I've already signed up for 4 workshops!

  39. Junebug, that's so true. It's good to learn the basics (a must) but then find a way to have the courage to try something new and different and creative.

    Ju, haha yeah some subject books are so dry it's hard to get through

    M Pax, oh! there's a lot of work in epublishing, but I know you aren't afraid of hard work.

    Leslie, yep, that's a good one. And that's a good point about general education.

  40. Ah, you deserve credit for pointing out the absolutely essential nature of writing. Education is certainly a key! Nicely written post!

  41. I've got 2 How to books on the go, Writing the Breakout Novel and Blockbuster plots :O)

  42. I like the book Poemcrazy. It helps you with choosing unusual words in interesting combinations.

  43. Matthew, thanks

    Madeleine, excellent!

    Suzanne, oh, sounds like a brilliant resource.


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.