What recognized qualifications do I need to become a published writer?

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This is a long post aimed at all current writers and those waiting in the wings, so please bear with me.

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A couple of days ago while perusing the latest posts on Facebook, I came across one that my friend and fellow writer, Stuart Aken, had found on a question and answer site called Quora (Google it if you want to find it’s location). Along with a couple of others in the game, Stuart and I added our comments to a query put forth by someone, on the subject of which qualifications were needed to be able to become a writer and to break into the publishing world – Click here to read it.

Together with Stuart’s initial comment on Quora, the ones John Yeoman, Karen Wolfe Whitchurch and myself added on Facebook, hopefully helped to back up Stuart’s views, and to quash the ridiculous notion once and for all.

Yes, you can go to the expense time and trouble to gain as many literary qualifications as there are stars in the night sky. But no amount of academic study will somehow infer that you are a writer. All any formal course related to the English language will inevitably tend to do, is to kill off any talent you may have thought you had, rendering gaining any qualification so-called, counterproductive.

In other words, as a potential writer you are completely wasting your time chasing any form of formal qualification. In fact even considering gaining any on offer under the headings of English Literature, or Creative Writing is guaranteed to be a monumental waste of your time. Why? Because all participating in any course designed to gain these academic qualifications ever does, is to burn the personal views and opinions of your teachers and lecturers into your subconcious, which all published authors, myself included, would argue renders you incapable of original thought, the absolutely fundamental requirement for any writer!

The following statement is a lose amalgamation of what we all said in our different answers to the article on Facebook:

“The best way to break into publishing is NOT to have an MFA in creative writing. Still less, a PhD. Academic laureates have no correlation with publishing success. Still less has ‘good writing’. All any writing course will do for you is to impart your teacher’s views and way of writing on you. Be a reader first. Be an observer and an eavesdropper. Your voice will come.”

And yet so many newcomers to our calling still fervently persist in clinging to the absolute myth perpetrated by those within the industry, who quiet frankly should know better, such as literary agents, editors, publishers and professional reviewers, that you need to be formally qualified, hoping that by doing so the vast majority of newcomers will be disuaded from ever writing anything other than their own names, now and in the future.

Yes I’ll grant you there are two notable exceptions to the rule. The difference being that both of them were brilliant academics in their own right, long before beginning to write. I refer of course to two of my literary hero’s – J.R.R Tolkien and his friend and colleague C.S Lewis. But without a natural bent for storytelling, no one beyond the academic world would ever have read anything written by either of them, other than their academic papers.

Remember this – Storytellers aren’t manufactured, they’re born!!! So let’s hear no more nonsense about which recognised qualification you need! The only way to nurture your natural talent for storytelling, always providing you have one in the first place, is to first of all become widely read. In other words read anything and everything. Peferably books not tweets!

Secondly, don’t believe for one minute that you need the help of any form of so-called professional editing service. If you are any damned good, you don’t!

The other point to remember about employing any editor, is that unless you are extremely vigilant your work will become coloured or contaminated by them. In other words the story is no longer solely your own. Instead it ends up being co-written by both you and them – something to think about!

Some of the more unscrupulous among their number see absolutely nothing wrong in adding their names to your book as co-authors. I tell you this from bitter personal experience. It was done to me years ago with my very first published work, before I finally saw the light and rapidly left the murky world of traditional publishing to become an Indie.

All any of us really ever needs, apart from the courage of our convictions, is a team of reliable beta readers to take a look at our latest MS and tell us whether or not it works. How? By pointing out things that you have missed or perhaps glossed over, as well as the inevitable spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

I’ll spell it out for you one last time if it still hasn’t sunk in quite yet – you have to be born with a natural bent for storytelling to become a writer.

Turning your latest tale into a work worthy of publishing comes much, much later via nothing more or less than sheer bloody hardwork on your part in the form of endless re-writes – aka polishing. I suppose what I’m really saying here is that in the end, to be a successful published writer means quite literally that its all down to you and you alone. So in the meantime get busy reading every book you can lay your hands on, before you even begin to contemplate writing that future best seller. Why? Think back to when you were a child. Before you mastered walking, first you had to learn to crawl – right?

For what it’s worth, as a successful publisher writer, I’ll always tell you to go for it. Even though many online book sites like Amazon are currently choked with literally hundreds of thousands of badly written new titles by wannabes, making it practically impossible for anything we write to stand out from the crowd.

Just remember this – unless you possess a God given natural talent for storytelling, writing ain’t easy by any stretch of the imagination!

Instead it involves a hell of a lot of hard work often for very little gain, except for the personal satisfaction of having written an absolute belter of a yarn. As sure as eggs is eggs, while we all slowly gain a reputation for storytelling with each title we put out, the newcomer won’t gain one first time out!

So for now just take my advice – keep your head down and write, write, write and write some more. Oh, one other thing for those among you who think that writing will ensure overnight fame and riches, bear in mind that 99.999% of all writer’s annual earnings from royalties fall well below the poverty line.

Lastly, the world is full of wannabes who think that by rubbing shoulders with those of us who actually are successful, that they will somehow become writers themselves by osmosis. Just take note of the number of unpublished wannabies who currently inhabit the various social media sites, labouring under the misconception that by adding the word ‘Author’ to their name, it will somehow elevate them within the literary world, without partaking in all of the hard work being a writer entails. It won’t! Like everything else we do, it takes a lot of dedication and self-sacrifice on our part to gain a worthwhile reputation. Insisting on adding the word ‘Author’ to your name impresses no one. If anything it has the opposite effect! Think about it for a moment, it wasn’t the brightest move you ever made was it. Genuine published writers don’t do it. Neither should you.

None of us are in it for the money. Only the absolute joy of sharing our tales with the world through our writing…

😉