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S/O of DD wants to be a writer . . . help

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What a great thread. My dd would also like to be a writer. Many great tips and ideas for curricula on this thread. Thank you.


Here is my situation. My dd is not an academic. She says she does not want to attend college, she just wants to write. My response is, "Don't quit your day job!" Now, she is only 14, but I would like her to attend at least SOME college. However, I respect and appreciate that college is not for everyone.


SO, my position is I would like to encourage her to attend a two year program which will provide her with a vocation where she could support herself and then she is free to pursue writing to her heart's content during her free time. I feel this is the compromise. I am secretly hoping she will end up continuing in college, but I desire she cultivate a skill which will allow her to make a decent living.


Any opinions here? Right now I am providing a college prep high school experience for her "just in case". But I wonder, is it possible to become a writer without a four year degree in this day and age? "Look at S.E. Hinton" my dd is fond of saying. I guess I can't argue with that one!


Adrianne in IL

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Sure it's possible that a person might make a living as a writer without a degree, but that doesn't mean it's probable, or even very likely! I'm not sure what kind of writing your daughter is interested in, but here's some things to consider from the perspective of say... wanting to write novels.


First, the ratio of people who would like to be a writer vs. those who actually complete even one novel, let alone multiple novels;


Second, the ratio of those who complete their novel to those who get it published;


Third, those who manage to get one or more novels published to those who actually make a living at it... (Walk through the shelves of your library, and many of those who are successful enough to get published, and even have their novel worth shelf space -- still can't make a living from it!)


She needs a fallback option, without a doubt.


(I have some knowledge of the subject as an unpublished writer myself, and with a circle of friends and acquaintances who are also writers - some published, some not.)

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I guess it depends on whether she wants a career in writing or to be a novelist. I'm an "aspiring novelist" without a college degree. You don't need a college degree to write a book. However, no is going to pay you to sit at your computer and pound our words on YOUR story. I certainly couldn't homeschool or write without the support of my husband who works very hard to have food on the table. Both of those are my passions and at this point neither one brings in money.


You might do a study on what a beginning author brings in as income. I'm sure for many it wouldn't even pay the bills. I'm reading a book now where the author works part-time and writes the other time, but she has another income in the household as well.


I think the argument that I don't want to go to college because I'm going to write could be setting herself up for frustration. Most writing careers are carved out in their free time and then move to full-time occupation as success and money follow.


As someone stated in the other thread the paradigm of publishing and writing is changing. My MIL is published author. She started writing fiction after she retired. One reason she was able to obtain a publisher was because she was willing to do a lot of self-promotion. She has spent a lot of money on traveling, website, conferences, and basically marketing herself. She had the money and the network to do that. If you're waiting on a royalty check to arrive before you're able to do any marketing, well you might not gain an audience at all.

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My sister is a published novelist and the amt of $$ she makes is pitiful. I think she has published something like 5 books and has only made enough to barely supplement her dh's income.


It also took something like 17 yrs and numerous rejections (none of her early books have been published) before she finally got the few published that she has.


It certainly isn't a "career" that one just starts making money b/c they are actively working on it. Same as artists. Some make it........but more don't.

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I have for many years, and have just restarted my business after this hiatus of homeschooling. Tell her to go to college if she has any serious intention of making a living from writing! The way to make a living as a writer is to write for corporations, non-profits, etc. The average in my writers' organization for this type of work is near $100K. However, without a degree in something (science, business, healthcare, whatever) or an extensive portfolio of non-fiction writing, forget it. You have to actually KNOW something to write about.


If she wants to go the creative writing route, and has solid evidence from outside evaluators that she is good at it (like prizes, mentors, etc.), then the route to making a living is a BA in English or Creative writing, followed by an MFA. This gives you the connections (via professors) to agents, publishers, and exposure in all the little magazines that establish a resume. Also, you get a gig somewhere teaching English/writing so you can stay alive while you're writing.


Either way requires college. Or plan on waiting tables forever. The average advance for a book lately is $15,000, with plenty of "art" novels making more like $5,000. The advance is probably all you will ever make. Can you sell 3 $15,000 books a YEAR? And do it year after year after year? Not unless you're Isaac Asimov. Someone just told me that you have a better chance to play in the NFL than to have a best selling novel. I don't know where she got her stats, but sounds right to me.


Not that I'm suggesting she give up writing. But planning to make a living writing best selling books is not a career plan, any more than starting a business without capital or expertise is a business plan. I see so many talented artists (musicians, painters, writers) forced to give up after a couple of years, because they don't get the breaks they're convinced their talent should produce. It's not that they're not good enough, it's that they had a bad business plan.


I'm working on a book proposal on this right now, tentatively titled "What It Takes". Goes out to the first round of agents this week. Wish me luck. If she's interested, tell her to take a look at my writing website: www.gdwrtr.com. She can see my online portfolio for the type of writing that pays the bills.


Also, she might like to look into NaNoWriMo--it started last Sunday, and there is a great teen program within NaNoWriMo, complete with discussion boards, etc.


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Seton Hill has a MFA in Pop Fiction if she doesn't want to get a regular MFA.


MANY Pop fiction writers don't have college educations, and many do. It really all comes down to how bad does she want it-because it's all about staying in the game. Persistence is KEY. And many of my friends who have MFAs admit that their specific education did not help them get published at all because the rules were so different. Every genre has its own rules. If she wants to write pop fiction then I would steer her away from an MFA (creative writing) because she will be looked down upon for her choices. Have her get her masters in soemthing else.


If she hates the thought of school to the marrow of her bones, then shore her up with a solid foundation of the classics, have her know poetry, and read books like How To Read Literature Like A Professor, The Well Educated Mind, Critical Reading for Dummies.


Why poetry? Word choices. It will help her know how to pick the precise words she wants, and give her an ear for sentence cadence.


Have her join the national writing groups of her genre that she likes. They most likely have classes she can take online with published authors. They have chapters she can join that meet monthly for classes and workshops. Have her start reading editor blogs for the genre she likes--and editor blogs beyond that. Have her read agent blogs-that will teach her the protocol, what they like, what they expect, what they are looking for and they'll help her understand the business.


Have her read, read, read, read. Have her write, write, write, write.


Start buying books like:


Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Brown and King

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamont

On Writing by Stephen King

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

The Writers Journey (Mythic Structure for Writers) by Christopher Vogler

Emotional Structure by Peter Dunne

STORY by Robert McKee (This one you may have to walk her through-it's heavy but it's a bible on writing and she'll keep going back to it over and over)

45 MAster Characters by Victoria Schmidt (for the feminine journey as opposed to just the masculine)


Have her KNOW grammar becuase when you write fiction you have to break rules and you only break them well when you know them well.


Start reading Joseph Campbell -The Hero With a Thousand Faces, The Power of Myth, Myths to Live By, and KNOW those books.


Have her know the classics. Tell her I swear on the Bible, The Epic of Gilgamesh is hugely important to the pop fiction writer. :D So is the Iliad, Odessey and all of the books in TWTM. She will see and write these archtypes over and over.


Maybe you want to steer her to interning with a publisher/agent and going through slush piles. But they'll want her to be VERY well read if she's not in school.


PM me if you have any other questions.


(If she wants to make a living doing this, she can, but she's going to have to have 8-10 books in her backlist and solid sales before she can even THINK of really making it out there. That's why most authors have day jobs. But that's not at all a bad thing-it's all fodder.)

Edited by justamouse
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