Tuesday, September 18, 2007

4 Unconventional Classes a Writer Should Take

There's tons of writing advice out there and many of them overlap: read a lot, write regularly, and revise. Anyway, to break out from the norm, here's some classes I wish I was able to take back in high school/college and how it'll help you in the craft. By no means do you need a class per se to learn these things but if you know you're going to pursue writing as a profession early on, you might as well get a head start. Are there any other classes you think a writer should take? Art? Philosophy? History? Science?
  1. Typing Class - Here's one question. How many people use a word processor or a typewriter to write? And at the end of the day, whether you're publishing your manuscript on the Internet or submitting it to a publisher, most (if not all) documents needs to be typed. Are you touch typing or still using hunt and peck? Let's put it this way: the faster and easier it is for you to type, the better you can focus on the actual act of writing. How many times have you experienced that you're not writing fast enough (whether hand-written or typed) to keep up with your thoughts? You don't need to take a year's worth of typing class. Just one semester will do. The rest involves practice and if you're indeed a writer, you'll have plenty to time to do just that.
  2. Marketing Class - Here's the thing, while there are a lot of writers out there, not all of them are published. Give yourself a hand and take some marketing classes. If you're bent on seeing your work in print, you'll need to market yourself as a writer to publishers. If you're already published, you want to market yourself to your readers. If you're venturing into self-publishing, you'll have to do marketing yourself anyway (either that or hire someone). The worst-case scenario is that you'll use what you've learned to find a day job. And who knows, you might end up with a career in copy writing or advertising. But there's also something to learn in terms of the craft. Marketing has a certain economy of words, a way to catch your reader's attention. Do you have trouble thinking of a good title or a compelling introduction? A marketing class might help. Does your novel lack focus? A marketing class might help you identify what needs to be taken out and how to continually drive your thesis. And if you indeed get published, there are times when a writer is forced to read his own work. A marketing background hopefully gives you enough confidence to recite it with gusto.
  3. Research - Not an actual class but if there's any class that should be in any university's curriculum, it should be one that teaches how to research (perhaps there's such a class in library science?). In English class, we were taught the technical stuff about researching (how to use footnotes, how to cite sources, etc.) but we were never really taught as students how to research efficiently. Aside from utilizing the library, computers and the Internet are starting to become a creditable font of sources. As a writer, you'll be writing on a lot of topics that include geography, religion, physics, and characters (and this is just fiction). You can't be an expert in all these areas (but no one is stopping you from trying) so unless you have an eidetic memory, rather than trying to remember all these facts, the best thing you can do is train yourself how to find out the answers. Much like my previous advice on typing, the less time you spend on research, the more time you can devote to actual writing. Sometimes, there's a big difference between typing "University of the Philippines" from University of the Philippines in your Google engine (see 12 Quick Tips to Search Google Like an Expert for an example).
  4. Drama Class - Taking a page from Dean, a good way to learn how to write good dialogue is to write and watch plays. Fiction typically contains dialogue so learning how to write dialogue is an invaluable tool. H.P. Lovecraft got away with bad dialogue but then again, we're not H.P. Lovecraft nor are we writing in his era. It's either drama class or learning how to eavesdrop so take your pick on which is more ethical.

No comments: