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How much formal training in writing have you had? Did it help?


Feb 13, 2011
In your bedroom wardrobe...
I got enough Cs to take my A’Levels and then wasted two years, failed my A’s, resat and ended up with a C, D, E.

Hence why I was 38 when I went to uni :D

I’ve often wondered how society would look if education catered more to learning styles and the individual rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach. As an adult I’m motivated and happiest when learning - as a kid I wanted to sit on the lake or river bank. (Part of the reason why it’s so hard for me to not write about river, lakes, the sea in pretty much everything that leaks from my addled mind.



The secret ingredient is crime
Jul 13, 2006
The Cloud
I have an English degree that's about a third creative writing based (did a creative writing dissertation) and a Masters in creative writing (mainly because during my dissertation I suddenly realised script writing is great and I want to learn more about that) but since then I've basically given up the writing and use them only in a work-based capacity.


Only Forward
Jul 14, 2008
English and creative writing at school, to 6th Year, but that's it. I didn't begin writing fiction until 2005

Cory Swanson

Well-Known Member
May 19, 2016
I have two music degrees. Those don't help a lot with writing. However, through sheer determination and a lot of bullheaded naivete, I've managed to get a couple things published.

What I really wish I had was a marketing degree. That's where I'm really out of my element.

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
Apr 11, 2010
Sleeping in Lab
3 years formal torture, some kind of word addict, fond of doubletalkation, usually arbidgen gramatology.


resident pedantissimo
Staff member
Aug 10, 2005
West Sussex
I'm a technician. Everybody knows we're incapable of fitting two sentences together, or making one sentence comprehensible to non-cognicenti - just look at the instruction manual for any high-tech gadget. And as well as being monumentally incomprehensible, I had no language skills at all, in my own or anybody else's. So my destiny was clear the prophecy graved into the university stonework. A hopeless case.

Except I had a father who taught English, used polysyllabic words in most conversations, Wrote bad poetry and parodies of well-known songs and was a pedant. Genetics running nearly true, I am an indifferent pedagogue, but the rest ran true, even to the point of me moving to a non-english-speaking country for more than half of my adult life and learning to think in other languages.

Which leaves me incomprehensible and garrulous, but very grammatically so, with a strong knowledge of my characters' speech patterns (I can generally hear them dictating the dialogue while I write it down (hmm, hearing voices, eh?), while, like the antepreceding poster, being totally incapable of selling anything.

But I don't believe formal education would have changed and of this. My clever sister, the poet, taught creative writing for a while, and read some of my dragon tales, but knew me well enough not to attempt to convert them to something conventional. So yes, apart from being a heavy and rapid reader, I can be considered largely autodidactic.


I have my very own plant pot!
Jan 4, 2018
North-east England
My degrees are in music composition and I've written tons of music, so I've got lots of experience with the creative process and reflective practice. The move to fiction is recent and it's been a learning process, with some things carrying over from music and other things completely new. And like Corey Swanson, I think a marketing degree would've been the most useful (for both music and fiction). Don't think I could summon the willpower to sit through that, though.

The Bluestocking

Bloody Mary in Blue
Feb 20, 2014
The Afterlife
English degree over here (with one creative writing module), plus a few years in publishing (marketing side), and my first career was in public relations where I was constantly writing copy, press releases etc. Worked as a freelance journalist and editor (for magazines etc) for a while. Basically spent pretty much all my higher education and professional life writing a lot and having to develop a sharp, direct, and engaging style (that's what good copy is all about).

So I sharpened my writing skills via my day jobs/careers. You might call it "on-the-job training" and that, I've found, works much better for me than attending formal creative writing classes.

Took me many years but I finally started writing fiction about 3 - 4 years ago. The writing skills I polished over more than a decade stood me in good stead in terms of finally enabling me to write out my stories and give life to my storyverse and characters that were percolating inside me.
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The Anime King
May 1, 2019
A Land Down Under
Experience always trumps education. The more you write and read, the better you will get. A formal qualification can teach you spelling, punctuation and correct grammar, but there is much more to writing than how to correctly spell words... I don't believe any qualification can make somebody a good author who wasn't already instinctively capable of being so.

My experience is I don't really learn anything from formal training that I don't already know or couldn't learn in my own time. It just provided me with the opportunity to practice skills I already had. But I could practice those skills without paying thousands of dollars in my own time, hence why I created an account on this forum. Much more useful than going to a writing school.


Finally published that blooming book!
Dec 2, 2015
Read bazillions of books (fiction) from a young age and started writing then also. When I was older I read various 'How to' books - a lot of those over the years though only about self-publishing in more recent years. Once I started earning, I paid for a couple of evening classes before they cut creative writing from the syllabus, and did a distance learning course run by Strathclyde Uni. Plus went to writers' courses, conferences and a couple of retreats. Was in a couple of writers' groups for some years and have given and received a lot of face to face crit. Now in an Orbiter, which has gone a bit by the wayside while I was trying to finish the book I've just self-published but I will get back to that now. These days I don't bother with the books/courses and the rest of it. The parts that helped the most was having the opportunity to hear/read other people's material and having feedback on my own.


Dec 10, 2012
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
When I started college it was with an English major. After two years and an associates degree I was diverted to a business degree because the business paying my bills wanted my management skills.

However I have been reading lots of fiction since I first memorized this poem for recital.

Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

Back somewhere around 1957 ish


Emperor Xenu's Life Coach
May 15, 2019
Reanimating Richard Nixon
I only learned how to read 3 weeks ago, so...

Kidding. I have a double bachelor's in history/political science. My highest level of English was 200's, and none of it was for creative writing. To an extent, it has helped with the technical aspects of writing. But as far as the creative end, it's not a good background for sci/fi.

Until 3 years ago, most of my writings were more of an observational or documentary slant than speculative, although, polysci's great for helping build a governmental system for a fantasy setting, and historiography's come in surprisingly handy when it comes to building the antiquity of a world.

Long story short, fantasy and sci-fi's been a bit of a big transition for me, like a violinist picking up a Les Paul. But a lot of the tricks and skills I've learned are aiding me in my new literary ambitions.

Looking forward to any advice from all of you, and if anybody needs help world or history building, feel free to ask me.

I'm glad to help explain the actual mechanics on creating a ruthless theocracy or dysfunctional post-Information Age bumbling bureaucracy.

Gotta use that degree of mine for something besides a decoration.


wrap it up already
Apr 10, 2019
Everything I know I've learnt from TV Tropes :p

(Honestly. I bet formal training has its benefits, but as far as information goes the internet has it all - for free. )


Watching you from upside down
Oct 7, 2016
But not face to face peers for writers who thrive on a community ;)
Honestly, I think that's half the appeal of a formal course for me. The other half is quick, repeated feedback from someone who's already been writing for years.

Maybe I just need to drop my job, hang around Chrons 8 hours a day and write my fingernails off. It's not quite face to face, but it would be cheaper.


Member and remember
Mar 25, 2013
Formal education has its merits and they are contained in the word itself. Educare means to lead; more specifically to lead out or through.

So, sure, a person can wander in the wilderness on their own. Maybe they even have a horse and a nice tent and plenty of survival skills. They will fashion their own understanding of the landscape. Maybe, too, they'll just go in circles. Or, to pick another analogy, one way to learn a new city is to go utterly on your own, without maps.

Another way is to have a guide; someone who's been there before, knows the best bars, where the going is easy and where it's rough. It's a different experience, but a person's more likely to learn more quickly. And, having been formally introduced, that person can then go out on their own. Schools were invented early and continue to exist for the simple reason that they work. They don't work for everyone, but then what does?

There's another Latin word that figures heavily into the formula: student. The word comes from studere, which means to be eager. Education works best when it has people who are eager to learn. So, education has to come at the right point in a person's life. It can be the same subject, even the same teacher, but at one age it's wasted on a person and at another age it's a revelation. Humans are funny like that.

To return to the OP: formal training can help, but there's no guarantee. All you can do is give it a shot. Or even a shot more than once. I've had many older students who told me they hated history in their younger years but now found it a delight.


mƎ know duM!
Jun 19, 2018
No one has ever become dumber from being properly educated. Perhaps more narrow minded, yet that is the student's fault, no matter what the teacher taught. I suspect, a wise student, will cross check their teacher's instruction. No matter how knowledgeable a teacher is, how well they convey that knowledge, and how well the student comprehends it, there is always more on that subject to learn.

For the record, my statement regarding a 'lack of education' is not a boast, or conversely, an excuse. It is simply the result of the cards I was dealt... What I do or don't past that, my responsibility, success, or failure.