A couple of weeks ago I posed the question “Can creative fiction writing be taught. This was a discussion within our writers group prompted by a newspaper article by Tegan Bennet Daylight.
I recently spoke with popular crime writer Felicity Young to get her thoughts on the subject. Here’s what Felicity had to say
Can fiction writing be taught?
My answer to that is Yes. And No.
I think this topic is thesis-worthy! I’m afraid my comments barely skim the surface, but here’s a start:
A fiction novel is the sum of many components, and it is my belief that a great many of these can be taught. These are what I consider the tools of the trade, the craft of writing, ie the skills and writing techniques we start learning when we are at school. The craft consists of things like spelling, grammar and sentence structure, progressing to the analysis of the novel itself eg plot construction, characterisation themes, points of view, formatting etc. And when you have mastered all that, even those troublesome proposal emails you write, can be taught.
After school, people who wish to write creatively often go to uni, participate in writing workshops opt for self help books or teach themselves through there own analytical reading. In other words, they work hard to hone their craft.
Drive and commitment
This brings me something that I think can’t be taught, and that is drive. You can have all the craft at your fingertips plus the imagination of a JK Rowling, but if you don’t have the drive to further your learning, or get back to it after your tenth rejection letter, then you probably won’t succeed as a fiction writer. I don’t think anyone can teach someone else drive. That is something that has to come from within.
I’m not sure if you can be taught to have an imagination either. If you were imaginative child, you will probably be an imaginative adult. You might just need some help in re-releasing that imagination that was stamped out of you as you grew up — and there are plenty of courses around that offer that.
So there we have it. The greater part of fiction writing (in my opinion) is the craft and that can be taught. But drive and the imagination are also essential components and much harder to teach. Unfortunately, when it comes to these, I think you either have ‘em or you don’t.
So there you have it – bottom line – yes creative writing can be taught and then, as the writer, you need to make it happen, which means write and keep writing. Voila – you have a manuscript. That’s the first bit done and then the editing and rewriting begins. The first draft is the all important step because then you have something to work with. As we say in the industry “you can’t edit a blank page”.