PubCrawl Podcast: Author Career – Qualifications

This week JJ and Kelly continue their series on Author Career, this time tackling the question of QUALIFICATIONS. Do you need them to be a writer? (SPOILER: No.) They discuss the pros and cons of getting a degree in writing or literature, pursuing an MFA or another sort of certificate, and answer some listener-submitted questions. Also: is the Rock an Elinor or a Marianne?

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Show Notes

  • The best writing teacher is the act of writing itself.
  • Do you need to major in English or Writing if you want to get into publishing or if you want to be a writer? No. HOWEVER, we think it’s useful to take classes that require you to write academic papers because the skill of distilling your argument and clearly defending and providing evidence in support of your argument in a clear, logical, and persuasive manner is useful in nearly every aspect of your life.
    • JJ majored in English, but she majored in it because she liked it.
    • Kelly majored in Writing.
  • Critique Partners vs. Workshops in a classroom setting
    • Our episode on Critique Groups
    • Critique partners are usually self-selected, whereas workshops are assigned. Critique partners often share similar sensibilities, but workshops generally have a broader, more generalized perspective.
    • Workshops can be a taste of what it will be like once you are published in that you will be unable to defend your work. People will get facts incorrect, people will have a bias against your subject matter, and you will not be able to say anything. Once your book is out in the world, it belongs to the readers.
  • MFAs
  • Other classes (not accredited programs)
  • Good Will Hunting it”
    • Reading broadly and writing are truly the best teachers.
    • Reading broadly across all genres and age categories teaches you that the elements of a good story are universal.
    • Craft books are as much inspirational as much as they instructive
    • Revision for Pantsers (Reverse Outlining)

Books Discussed/What We’re Reading

What You’re Asking

What’s readers advisory would you give Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson?

Well, more than a reading list to give the Rock, both Kelly and JJ would prefer to have the Rock read books to them. Like CorduroySense and Sensibility, Bad Feminist, and I Want My Hat Back. Also, both Kelly and JJ are in agreement that the Rock is totally an Elinor from Sense and Sensibility.

Any tips on how to keep chugging along on revisions without losing steam/sight of the story, voice, prose, etc.?

Whoo boy. Well, JJ says it helps to have a deadline! A danger for writers is often overthinking our work, and overthinking leads to doubt. It is good to question yourself, but doubt is something else. Generally, JJ reverse outlines her draft, and in the process of doing so, she develops a good idea of what the “point” of her novel is and it helps keep her on track.

I’m struggling with if my WIP is YA or adult. Any suggestions on how to decide as it drives some aspects?

Honestly, YA vs. adult is mostly a marketing issue. In terms of content and theme, anything goes in YA, the same as adult. It’s generally how the subject matter is executed/treated that differentiates age category, as well as perspective. Adult protagonists (despite actual age) have already developed a sense of self by the time the story begins, whereas in YA, the protagonist is developing a sense of self: hence the “coming-of-age” aspect of YA. This “developing” narrative often lends itself to a closer, more intimate POV and emotional immediacy is a hallmark in young adult.

What You’re Saying

Very informative!
I like podcasts that are discussions and not just one person talking into the void, and JJ and Kelly are great. They’re fun and they have tons of industry experience. The topics they choose are extremely helpful for the yet-to-be published author!

We’re really glad you find our discussions entertaining and informative! This is generally what our conversations are like even when the microphones aren’t on, so we thought we might as share that with you!

Off Menu Recommendations

That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll be continuing our Author Career series by talking about THE BUSINESS OF BEING AN AUTHOR. Stay tuned!


3 Responses to PubCrawl Podcast: Author Career – Qualifications

  1. Amber J. Sep 11 2016 at 8:42 pm #

    Awesome podcast and advice as always =)

    I would like to submit a question for the next week’s podcast:

    I recently saw a reader include this comment in her review about a book that was recently released: “And sometimes great characters like […] get kicked to the side (or out) because author herself starts crushing on some random new character.”

    How do you keep yourself from getting too excited and sidetracked by the introduction of a new character or setting into your story?

  2. lisa ciarfella Sep 13 2016 at 12:10 am #

    So, I’m a current MFA student at University, and last summer wrote a 3 part series and a couple of guest blogs on the trials and tribulations of my experiences…the good, the bad, and the ugly of it! And believe me, I’ve hit all three!

    Would love to have contributed to this post! In fact, I have a short fiction story on the matter out on submission right now. Darkly comic, but brutally honest!

    Bottom line? The MFA road is paved with large cobblestones, and definitely not for the faint of heart!

    Let me know if I can be of help on this if you do another post on the subject!

    • Rachel Linn Sep 15 2016 at 9:48 am #

      I wanted to throw in some advice about graduate school. JJ mentioned that graduate programs are all expensive and attending is a sign of privilege. I think this is a New York-centered bias, as many respected programs are free. In fact they pay you. I was paid a modest (but livable) wage at a university with a respected writing program, but it wasn’t in New York City. If I wanted to go to Columbia or something of that ilk, then yes that criticism would be valid.

      My advice is to research programs with your goals in mind. If a program is producing writers who win competitions and get published in your field, it is worth a look even if it doesn’t have an Ivy League name. Next, I would find faculty members whose interests align with your own goals. In graduate school you work closely with an advisor, and they will inspire you or derail you depending on their field, contacts, and temperament. Third, if you are tempted to take out loans, do the math first. If you calculate it will be $500 a month for the next ten years to get your glorious degree from Yale, realize you won’t be working as a writer when you graduate. You’ll be too busy paying that loan. If the trade is worth it, more power to you my friend.

      If the idea of spending every day focused on honing your craft with mentors you respect and peers that drive your passion for FREE, graduate school may be a good choice. Just make sure you pick the right school for you, not the shiniest one.

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