millarworld.tv Comics Creators

Are writing qualifications worth while?


#1

Hi All,

I recently joined the forums as I am interested in writing for comics and screen.

My day job is managing a User Experience design consultancy based within a University. To reach my current position I’ve achieved two good degrees related to Multimedia and HCI.

I’d like to change the focus of my career to working as a writer / script reader / editor. Or initially a support role in publishing.

My question is, in order to enter the roles I mention above would I benefit from doing another degree related to writing or publishing? Or can I achieve this just through short courses and self publishing to build up a portfolio of work?

If qualifications would be beneficial then what sort of subjects?

Any opinions would be appreciated, especially from people who have ‘made it’.

Cheers,
Stuart


#2

I failed GCSE English and I can’t spell…yet I write my own comics.
Qualifications are meaningless.
If you have passion and you put your mind to it, you can do anything.


#3

Hi Matt,

Thanks for that. You are definitely a great example of why qualifications aren’t required to write, and write well!

I think the other part of my question is if I want to change my day job to be around publishing / editing would I need to retrain.

As I’d love to work in an editorial role at Titan or Egmont Publishing in London as well as writing.

Cheers,

Stuart


#4

Do it for free.
Work with some indie creators to edit their books.
Then send it to publishers to show what you can do.
Exact same way a writer or artist would approach.


#5

I have a Masters in Creative Writing and went on to teach the subject at university.

Short answer: No.

Less short answer. No, but you’ll learn a bit about the mechanics of writing which you might enjoy but ultimately won’t help you get published.

Less shorter than that last one answer. No: if you’re doing anything with the greater goal of “getting published” you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. A writing course may point you in the direction of interesting texts, and you might be able to trace the footsteps of literary giants, but you won’t automatically become a “better” writer. You may encounter techniques you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise, and your imagination might be pulled into a new shape, but it won’t make you a “better” writer. The only thing that will make you publishable is listening to publishers and re-drafting and editing your work in the way they want over and over and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over
and over again
and over again
and over again.
Writing is about survival, not academia.There are no quick (or longer) fixes. Only hard work and resilience.


#6

Hi Matt,

Good point. I’d definitely be willing to help indie creators out by casting an eye over their work. But then it’s a chicken and egg thing. How can I know I’m giving good advice to the writers if I don’t have the experience or a piece of paper saying I’m qualified to proof read?

Maybe once I’ve produced a few pieces of my own that’ll give me the confidence to help others.

Cheers,

Stuart


#7

The general consensus among writers is that writing courses are kind of a waste of time compared to real world experience. Unless your teacher is Stephen King or James Joyce. King is an interesting example as he worked in a laundrette he was writing Carrie. While he was writing The Shining I think he was delivering takeaway food. I don’t recall him taking many courses, though this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be writing all the time in a bid to improve yourself.

A good general knowledge of literature and/ or movies is the best qualification. You can’t get out of your head what you haven’t put into it. But like music and sports I think writing is one of those things you can or can’t do and if you can then practice makes you better. I’d say just start writing scripts and you’ll know yourself whether they’re working out or not.

Put it this way: I know literally dozens of the world’s most successful writers and I’ve never met one who did a creative writing course. A general English degree yes, but even Robert McKee who does that STORY three day course for a ton of cash - The grand-daddy of these creative writing course - has only the tiniest list of scree-credits…

Someone asked Tarantino if he went to film school. He said no, he just watched a lot of movies.

I think that’s good advice. Just read a lot or watch a lot of whatever field you want to go into and learn from the masters.

MM


#8

Mark’s right – the only Writing program worth it’s salt in terms of giving you a leg-up in the industry is the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and that ONLY applies to literary fiction and is impossible to get into anyway.

A writing degree can impose a certain anxiety about the mechanics of prose/writing that you might otherwise avoid when developing a natural talent through rigour.

My only advice is to listen and learn from those whose craft you love. Follow their guidelines and you’ll both find your voice and develop your talent. Only pay money for a degree if you want to learn about the mechanics and swim in the subtext of canon. Don’t do it as a means to an end. You won’t get there.


#9

@Mark_Millar and @TMasters

Thank you both for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate it. I was considering this PG Cert in Screenwriting as it’s relatively affordable, would help me build a network and be more credible if submitting screenplays.

However your feedback really matches what I was already thinking. I’d rather spend the money I would invest in a HE course on getting my work made. Ironically I have that Story book and found it a hard slog. My girlfriend is always saying stop reading about writing and actually do it!

How about if I would like to transition my day job to working on the periphery of writing so getting into editorial or script reading? Would some short courses in proof reading work in my favour?

Kind regards,

Stuart


#10

Also use things like the Write Offs as an opportunity to put your work out there for critique (like you did with your Doctor Who story) and to develop.


#11

If you’re not confident in your ability to proof read and are dead-set that this is an industry you’d like to work amongst then I would recommend it. Proof-reading can be quite hard to do very well and being an editor is a completely different set of skills than a writer, although they both help and inform each other.


#12

Also remember our Millarworld paid talent search begins again next month. Full details 1st December!

MM


#13

Thanks, that is what I was thinking. I believe I can write well, tell a gripping yarn (when I pull my finger out and write something) and give people good advice on their work. But I don’t know the difference between nouns and verbs and where a semi colon should go. Which is I assume would be highly valued for editorial positions. lol


#14

Thanks Mark. I’m definitely going to enter it this year!


#15

Mileage may vary but I think grammar and syntax are pretty important. There are lots of screen-writers that don’t have a good handle on grammar (or spelling) and they get on fine because punctuating dialogue is really the job of the director. Having an expert handle on grammar probably helps most if you’re aiming to be a prose writer, because it means you can communicate the cadence and rhythm of the words exactly how you mean to; so it might matter a little less for dialogue heavy stuff like comics and film, but still an important thing to know.


#17

I read On Writing recently. He makes all of these points…and he has views on the correct usage (or not as the case may be) of grammar.

It’s a fantastic book.


#18

On Writing is the only book on writing you need to write.

PS This is what I meant with a general English Lit course btw. That’s more usefulI think than being taught creative writing.


#19

On Writing (by Steven King) is a really great book for a commercial writer; it’s full of good tips like not using adverbs too much and avoiding cliches, but also shows you how amateur writers end up falling into those pitfalls.

Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” - is what you might have on hand as an editor - it’s a very brief but exhaustive book on the construction of language.


#20

If you’re interested in writing for comics particularly, I can recommend this:

Moore covers some of the nuts and bolts of writing, but also goes wider with sections about how to channel real-life inspirations into writing, how to be mindful of the larger ideas that fiction deals with, how to avoid writing becoming repetitive and stale, and how much heed to pay to the idea that you are writing for a particular audience.


#21

I think this is spot on. Those courses force you to read stuff that is outside of your comfort zone and think about what you read in different ways.