I read this really interesting blog post from Writer's Digest about writer's 'rules', if one should try to stick to them or not bother. It's an interesting read for those who have done writing courses.
Here's the link: http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/writing-rules-10-experts-take-on-the-writers-rulebook?et_mid=538945&rid=3009756
Now, after reading that I thought it was a good time to write a post about my thoughts on 'writers education' as one might call it.
Style is not something that can be learned, but it is something that can be fine turned with practice. Writing is a lot more work than most people think, and fine tuning your craft is a life long process. If you look at a piece of your own writing and honestly think 'this is as good as it gets', then you're in some trouble.
What you can learn from classes or courses is important tools for structure, plotting, details about crafting a story that fits into a certain genre (this is especially true for the romance genre), and when you learn about plotting you learn about flow, pacing and other mechanical details that are important in crafting a novel. I have not taken a short story writing course, its something that is now on my to-do list, but I believe that mechanics are especially important for short stories.
While I think, if you really wanted, you could learn a lot from books, the experience of going and being with other writers in that capacity is very important for growth. I would not advice a critique until you've developed a sense of how they operate, because by nature even if these people are your bestest friends it can be harsh and demoralizing.
You can also learn a lot from reading other novels, which is why its so important for a writer to read like its going to kill them if they don't. I learned a lot about plotting from reading Harry Potter, JK Rowling is an absolute master at it. But, I would not trade my writing class experiences for anything, and I learned a lot of very valuable things from taking them. They were courses offered at my local community college, and the age range of people was from 19 to 80, which I thought was fantastic. The range of life experience was incredible.
But, I do believe a writer needs to educate themselves. The proper way to structure a novel is very important. I'm not saying you have to write outlines, the biggest debate among writers, it seems, but you need to know how to make the story flow through from the beginning to the end without running off in too many different directions. I also think you need to educate yourself on what's going on in the genre you wish to write in. Know what's popular, who the 'stars' are, so to speak, what the content of the actual book looks like. Is there a book club section? Did the author offer up some of the research material they used?
You need to know exactly where you're going, the route you are going to take to get there, and the details of the path. And the only way you can do that is through education.
I would love to hear what you thought of the writer's digest article, and what you think about a writers education. So, please, post in the comments section and let's start a conversation!