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Mata Hari
10-21-2009, 03:08 AM
Are truly good writers good at all the different disciplines of writing? Should a novelist be able to write good poetry? Should a journalist be able to write a novel?

Would either of these people be efficient at essay writing and technical manual writing if they had the proper training?

I ask this question in part because I loathe essay writing, and I am terrible at it. But I FEEL like I should be good at it, and that it should come easily to me because I spend a lot of time writing creatively. I know this is illogical, but I'm sure a lot of you would feel the same way. Essays and novels are apples and oranges, but in the end they're both still fruit.

(P.S. I loathe essay writing so much that I try and make it interesting for myself --- I recently decided to give a satirical twist to my essay for a political science class. I endorsed and praised the bloody rule of a tyrannical leader. Not only did I not achieve the overall shock value I was hoping for, but I didn't even manage to communicate that the essay was a satire --- the Prof's comments seemed generally shocked, and he even wrote "I can only hope you were trying it achieve irony". Oh boy. Embarrassing.)

geardrops
10-21-2009, 03:28 AM
Should they be equally good at all forms of writing? No.

Should they try many-to-all forms of writing to expand their craft? Yeah, probably.

icerose
10-21-2009, 03:34 AM
Unfortunately we can't wish our way out of essay writing. But no. Just because someone is a good writer doesn't mean they can whip out a technical manual or a sellable script or an article. These are all separate parts of writing.

It's like telling a sculpter to make an amazing painting. They're both art. Doesn't mean the skills extend to both realms.

Can a writer learn different forms? Absolutely.

Should you buckle down and do it for a grade? Definitely.

Mata Hari
10-21-2009, 03:53 AM
I agree with you, and yet truly talented artists are usually talented in more than one area of art, or even more than one area of any type of visual expression. It's rare that a painter is JUST a painter. Picasso would be a prime example, but on a smaller scale you probably will never encounter a good draftsman who can't sculpt at least passably (and I would venture to say that a good draftsman would 9 times out of 10 be a GOOD sculptor).

In contrast, I wonder why it's rare for a novelist to do anything in writing but write novels... ?

icerose
10-21-2009, 03:56 AM
I think it's less rare than you think. Many novelists here write short stories, poems, articles, blogs, the list goes on.

Jamesaritchie
10-21-2009, 03:58 AM
In contrast, I wonder why it's rare for a novelist to do anything in writing but write novels... ?

I think it's rare for a novelist to just write novels. Most I know also write short stories, articles, and essays. Many write nonfiction books, and more than a few write screenplays.

From my experience, a really good fiction writer can write pretty much anythng well, but a nonfiction writer often has no clue how to write fiction.

Libbie
10-21-2009, 04:12 AM
I didn't vote, because once I saw your options they threw me off.

I do think that "good writing" is something anybody can learn, if they have the desire to learn it and the personality to be a productive and effective learner.

That being said, who has the desire to become really good at all types of writing? I mean -- fiction, memoir, nonfiction and all its various subgenres, poetry, stage, film, technical writing -- oi!

I don't want to be good at it all, even though I'm fairly sure it's possible for a person to be. I'd rather focus my energy at becoming really excellent at just one or two.

William Haskins
10-21-2009, 04:16 AM
stephen king wrote the user manual for my vacuum cleaner.

scared the shit out me...

Tara Stone
10-21-2009, 06:53 PM
I'm much better at fiction writing than I am at nonfiction writing. When I was younger, people used to suggest that I work for a newspaper when I grew up because I loved to write; that always confused me, because to me those two types of writing are completely different.

scarletpeaches
10-21-2009, 06:54 PM
I get people saying to me all the time, "Why don't you write short stories? That'll help you get published."

"Uh...because I'm a novelist."

"But they're stories."

"You really have no fucking idea, do you?"

Different forms of writing are entirely different animals. Should I write those different forms? Christ no. Can I? Hell yeah.

I just have no interest.

Neither do I have an obligation.

thethinker42
10-21-2009, 06:59 PM
I'm definitely not. I think I'm good at romance, erotica, even some fantasy/SF...but only novels and the occasional short story.

Poetry? God no.
Screenwriting? Maybe, never given it a lot of effort.
Technical writing? Kill me now.
Ad copy, brochures, websites, etc? NO.

But a novel? Yeah. I can handle a novel.

Shadow_Ferret
10-21-2009, 07:07 PM
I like to think I can write fiction. And I believe I'm a decent non-fiction writer, depending whether I'm interested in the topic... but poetry? Forget it. I haven't a clue. And I know nothing about screenwriting. I'm horrible at copywriting.

So, no I don't believe that being a writer means you can write anything. Like anything else in life, some things you excel at, others you struggle with.

the addster
10-21-2009, 07:11 PM
I suck at romance and erotica. It's laughable, I do write it sometimes, but end up marveling at my ineptness.

I wouldn't even venture near sci-fi or fantasy. Why should I? To be honest neither genre particularly interests me and their are a lot of folks who are good at writing that stuff.

Poetry, I can do it, but I don't particularly enjoy it.

Technical writing? ROTFL, I wouldn't have a clue.

I'll stick with non-fic and memoir, a short story from time to time, and maybe someday try a novel. Thanks. It's enough.

The Lonely One
10-21-2009, 07:35 PM
I asked in the Uncle Jim thread why I could pop off 2,000-3,000 word stories like pez from Boba Fett's neck, but had trouble reaching word count in a novel or approaching the process differently.

He said "maybe you aren't a novelist."

I was all like, huh, I never thought of that.

I'm still hoping I can be a novelist, though.

The point is I thrive in the short story world, which a lot of novelists seem to not want anything to do with. We each have our areas where we shine.

Shadow_Ferret
10-21-2009, 07:39 PM
I write both short stories and novels. I don't see what the difference is myself. If I can't sustain the idea, it becomes a short story. If I keep writing on and on, it becomes a novel.

ChaosTitan
10-21-2009, 07:57 PM
Should they be equally good at all forms of writing? No.

Should they try many-to-all forms of writing to expand their craft? Yeah, probably.

What she said.

I've tried all sorts of writing, but I think I'm best at novels and screenplays.

Short stories - still getting a handle on, and getting better
Poetry - I can't write good poetry to save my life
Technical writing - nope
Essays - I can write them, but it's not a favorite thing to do
Journalism - I got a C- in my only journalism class, so nope. Not my style

Bubastes
10-21-2009, 08:09 PM
What the others said. I'm good at long short stories and I'm starting to get the hang of novels.

Technical writing - surprisingly, I'm good at this (it's the first kind of writing I learned how to do). It doesn't mean I enjoy it, though.
Essays/memoir - I'm okay at this, but I don't enjoy it.
Screenplays - no clue where to start.
Poetry - my attempts would make your eyes bleed.
Journalism - I can do it to some extent on limited topics.

Misa Buckley
10-21-2009, 08:21 PM
I've written article essays, but it has to be something that interests me.
I've written short stories, but they're all under the fanfiction banner.
I've written poetry. I've had one published in an anthology.

But what I enjoy writing most is novels. Okay, I've not finished one yet, but that's a goal I'm working towards.

KTC
10-21-2009, 08:35 PM
I am by no means a good writer. Let me get that out of the way first.

I came to writing in 2003 with a lifelong desire to do it...and a lifelong belief that I couldn't. I held writing in too high esteem to consider myself worthy.

After fighting against my creative urges for forever, I came to it with three goals. I decided to just go into it full-on passion.

Goal #1 - (The only serious goal, really) Get a novel published

Goal #2 - Get published in as many ways as possible...just to see if it was possible to get into a whole bunch of different types of writing.

Goal #3 - Always have fun...up to that point, I was creatively miserable. I was opening the floodgates and promising myself never to close them again.

My first submission was for a national newspaper. A first person essay. It got accepted. I thought, "Wow! This is cool. What else is there? What else is there!" The next week I found out about a radio publication. I submitted a memoir piece. The next week I was in Toronto at CBC Radio...recording the memoir piece for a future national airing. I thought, "Wow! What else!"

After those, I tried to find anything weird and normal...just anything. Just to add more to the list of ways I got published. They now include:

-radio ads
-advertorials
-memoir
-articles ranging from dog poop to interior design to optometry to all sorts of medical topics to baseball to hockey to etc, etc, etc.
-regular columns for writers, for hockey parents, for family life
-poetry
-company profiles and materials
-travel
-speeches
-biographies
-web writing
-plays
-short stories
-humour
-press releases


Goal 2 is getting there. There are still a few types I can think of that I don't have covered.

Goal 3 - I'm happy to say that I have that one covered. If I wasn't having fun, I would stop writing.

Goal 1 - The only one I cared about. NOT SO MUCH. I'm still trying, though. Never give up.

I am not a good writer. I try to understand what is needed and I try to fulfill that need for the target market. Just as I would figure out how to fix my dish washer if it suddenly broke down. I don't think that makes a person good as much as it makes them capable.

Mr Flibble
10-21-2009, 08:38 PM
The phrase 'Jack of all trades, master of none' springs to mind. :D

Novels are my preferred medium. I quite like shorts too and I'm trying a novella. By that's just a matter of length, not style or much difference in craft ( except for pacing) Poetry - well I'd like to able to but....

But journalism say is sooo different to fiction, why should you have to be good at both? Or take the humble query - there's plenty of people who can write a great novel, but can't write a query / blurb to save their lives without a lot of help. It's a completely different set of skills to writing a novel

Which is why publishers employ blurb editors :D

That's not to say you shouldn't try, as a learning experience. Just that you can't expect to be good at everything.

scarletpeaches
10-21-2009, 08:40 PM
I am by no means a good writer. Let me get that out of the way firstWell that's the biggest heap of shite I've heard in a long time.

C.M.C.
10-21-2009, 08:53 PM
I would say no without equivocation. Even as someone who would consider myself a good writer, there is plenty out there that I would be terrible at. I would find it impossible for someone to be able to write in every form equally well. It's like asking an athlete to be a professional in every sport. It's not going to happen.

AnonymousWriter
10-21-2009, 08:55 PM
I am by no means a good writer. Let me get that out of the way first.


How can you torture us all with your massive list of publications, then say you're not a good writer? :ROFL:

Shadow_Ferret
10-21-2009, 09:20 PM
But journalism say is sooo different to fiction, why should you have to be good at both?

Actually, one of my journalism profs always said, "Journalism is literature in a hurry."

The only reason I'm not a newspaperman today is I'm too shy to talk to people. Kinda hard to dig for a story that way.

Lady Ice
10-21-2009, 10:09 PM
The sports analogy is good. There are cross-overs with skills in sport but the qualities vary in importance.

Different skills are needed for each form:

Journalism: Very good vocabulary. Knows which word to use to get desired effect. Observant. Empathetic. Politically minded.

Poet: Love of language; enjoys word play and rhythm. Ear/feeling for rhythm. Pictures and feels things vividly. Very in touch with their emotions. Observant but of people's quirks and emotions not political viewpoints as a journalist might pick up.

Novelist: All depends on the genre, really- so ability in your chosen genre. You are a cross between journalist and poet; the ratio depends on your writing style.

Short story: You can create vivid impressions with just a few words. You get down to the core of the story and are very observant.

Playwright: You know how the theatre works. You are good at dialogue and very good at subtext. Can show feelings and tension through stage directioned movement. Understands dynamics between people. Cross between a poet and journalist. Not easy to transfer from play writing to novels as novels are much longer and you can feel as if you're just putting in filler.

Screenwriter- Like a playwright, except you know how films works. Can picture things vividly- use an image shorthand. Good at action and good with dialogue.

KTC
10-21-2009, 10:26 PM
You are a cross between journalist and poet; the ratio depends on your writing style.

Ooh. I like that.

maestrowork
10-21-2009, 10:36 PM
The basic skills are similar, but writing is more than just apply X to Y. Nonfiction is different from fiction, for example, and within each there are different disciplines (e.g. journalism vs. creative nonfiction) and genres (horror vs. romance).

In some way, it's like asking are athletes good at all sports? If you ask Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps, they would tell you, "No."

And don't even THINK about whether you should be good at every type of writing. Just write what you love and love what you write and let the rest sort itself out.

KTC
10-21-2009, 10:49 PM
And don't even THINK about whether you should be good at every type of writing. Just write what you love and love what you write and let the rest sort itself out.

That's my goal #3

Cassiopeia
10-21-2009, 11:30 PM
Are truly good writers good at all the different disciplines of writing? Should a novelist be able to write good poetry? Should a journalist be able to write a novel?

Would either of these people be efficient at essay writing and technical manual writing if they had the proper training?

I ask this question in part because I loathe essay writing, and I am terrible at it. But I FEEL like I should be good at it, and that it should come easily to me because I spend a lot of time writing creatively. I know this is illogical, but I'm sure a lot of you would feel the same way. Essays and novels are apples and oranges, but in the end they're both still fruit.

(P.S. I loathe essay writing so much that I try and make it interesting for myself --- I recently decided to give a satirical twist to my essay for a political science class. I endorsed and praised the bloody rule of a tyrannical leader. Not only did I not achieve the overall shock value I was hoping for, but I didn't even manage to communicate that the essay was a satire --- the Prof's comments seemed generally shocked, and he even wrote "I can only hope you were trying it achieve irony". Oh boy. Embarrassing.)Hello :)

I think the answer to your question depends on the individual. Some can write across all genres, some can not. Why that is, I'm not particularly certain. But what I am certain of is that anyone can be competent and considered "good" at anything they set their mind to doing.

Should you do that? Depends on the person. For myself, I write in different genres. I'm studying for my BS in communications so it might go without saying that as a specialist, I am required to bridge multiple platforms in writing.

I have found to my dismay that creatively writing during a term is daunting at best. Yet, I fight to do so. It's all in what an individual wants to do and to what end they would endeavor such a thing.

Can one be a great writer in all genres? Well now there's something to contemplate. I think some can but I imagine they would be those who plug away at their craft every single day without fail or distraction.

I also think that it is more likely a person will have a preference and show more aptitude in one area of writing than another.

As for your essay writing dilemma; I once wrote a paper for my film production class in which I was to analyze Howard's End. My professor came back with the comment, "I can't say I agree with any of the argument put forth in your paper, however, you've done such a good job in backing up your theory, I must give you full marks."

So, when writing an essay, it matters more that you can back up your hypothesis, than agreeing with your professors.

KTC
10-22-2009, 12:43 AM
I'm studying for my BS in communications

I don't know why, but this made me giggle just a little. (-;

KTC
10-22-2009, 12:45 AM
As for your essay writing dilemma; I once wrote a paper for my film production class in which I was to analyze Howard's End. My professor came back with the comment, "I can't say I agree with any of the argument put forth in your paper, however, you've done such a good job in backing up your theory, I must give you full marks."

So, when writing an essay, it matters more that you can back up your hypothesis, than agreeing with your professors.

I remember this about my high school essays. I loved that. When the teacher would disagree so emphatically with me, but still give me full marks for the essay. That was so cool.

Cassiopeia
10-22-2009, 12:47 AM
I don't know why, but this made me giggle just a little. (-; My son and I often discuss to our own amusement, the irony of it. ;)


I remember this about my high school essays. I loved that. When the teacher would disagree so emphatically with me, but still give me full marks for the essay. That was so cool.
It so rocks!

maestrowork
10-22-2009, 12:50 AM
It's not to say one can't learn the skills to be proficient and competent. In my youth, I was not a very good nonfiction writer. I balked at all the details, formality, voice, etc. I also hated it; I'd rather write fiction and poetry.

But through college, I learned to write damned good essays and articles, not to mention business letters. And in my professional life, I even wrote and published technical documents, white papers, speeches. I even edited my colleagues' work. So, yes, one can learn to become proficient. You can transfer some of the skills and learn a few new tricks. But my heart will always be in fiction.

Cassiopeia
10-22-2009, 12:52 AM
It's not to say one can't learn the skills to be proficient and competent. In my youth, I was not a very good nonfiction writer. I balked at all the details, formality, voice, etc. I also hated it; I'd rather write fiction and poetry.

But through college, I learned to write damned good essays and articles, not to mention business letters. And in my professional life, I even wrote and published technical documents, white papers, speeches. I even edited my colleagues' work. So, yes, one can learn to become proficient. You can transfer some of the skills and learn a few new tricks. But my heart will always be in fiction.and that's the whole crux of it really. Where our heart leads us.

CaroGirl
10-22-2009, 12:54 AM
I write a damn fine software user manual, if I do say so myself, and get paid well for it (even though, sometimes, doing it makes me want to slit my wrists).

I've written loads of short stories but they're never quite good enough to get published.

I've published journalistic articles, but, like the Ferret, I didn't pursue journalism because I don't have the personality for it.

Now, I'm hoping novels are where the talent really lies. We'll see.

KTC
10-22-2009, 01:01 AM
I've published journalistic articles, but, like the Ferret, I didn't pursue journalism because I don't have the personality for it.

I hate interviewing. It's just not me. I did it quite a few times, then I said, "I was in this for the fun. I'm not having fun when I have to interview people." I met a few cool people...but I'm just not good in interviewing situations. So after a few under my belt, I let that one go.

Shadow_Ferret
10-22-2009, 01:19 AM
It's not to say one can't learn the skills to be proficient and competent. In my youth, I was not a very good nonfiction writer. I balked at all the details, formality, voice, etc. I also hated it; I'd rather write fiction and poetry.


I took several non-fiction writing classes in college. One was "Writing for the Humanities" and though the teacher admired my writing, she always complained that she could hear my VOICE no matter what I tried to write. I guess I couldn't make it formal and vanilla enough.

Matera the Mad
10-22-2009, 07:11 AM
People get good at what they are interested in. A fantasy writer may or may not want to write technical manuals. On the other hand, there are writers of technical manuals and scholarly tomes who should have had their brains pounded the way some of us novelists have. *snerk*

Xelebes
10-22-2009, 08:38 AM
I write poetry and short stories. Tried the novel but no so much luck. In factI don't think I like the novel form that much.

Kenzie
10-22-2009, 09:07 AM
No, not automatically. But I think knowing the general mechanics would mean other forms were easier to learn.

Mr Flibble
10-22-2009, 10:35 AM
Journalism: Very good vocabulary. Knows which word to use to get desired effect. Observant. Empathetic. Politically minded.



You forgot the main thing for a good journalist : Doesn't make stuff up

Which is why I could never do it. I'd want to bung something just for giggles

Nivarion
10-22-2009, 11:15 AM
Are good writers able to write all forms of writing? Yes.

Should good writers write all forms of writing? They should try a few.

Are good writers good at all forms of writing? Solid no here.

A good writer would be able to arrange the thoughts and idea, to get the point across in any form or writing. That doesn't mean that they will do it in a way that is good in that genera.

Like if you had a journalist write a fantasy story. He'd write it well, get the who what when where and why's down perfect. But he'd be prone to not insert enough voice, or to not capture the feel of the story.

Doesn't mean he would. But its a possibility.

Linda Adams
10-22-2009, 02:41 PM
I think it really depends on where you start out. I've done poetry, short stories, screenwriting, articles, journalism, technical writing, broadcast journalism--all with a fiction base (I wanted to write novels). The things I learned in fiction I was able to carry to other forms of writing. But they aren't all the same--in many respects, I wish I hadn't been all over the map. I wanted to write novels, and I needed to work on those skills, not on articles or short stories. I ended up with a lot bad habits that I still have fight with. And I can't use any of my credits in queries because they're too all over the map and aren't even relevant to what I'm writing now.

On the other hand, I used to be in a critique group that drew published non-fiction authors who wanted to write novels. One was a reporter who'd been published for thirty years, and others were on the best seller lists. Not one of them got past three chapters before quitting the project and dropping out of the group because novel writing has such a difficult learning curve. I can see how they had such a hard time because of all the difficulties I've had--the same skills don't work from type to type, and in some cases, make for bad writing. A reporter, for example, might tend to report on what happened rather than show a story. A short story writer might have trouble with subplots or novel length. A screenwriter might have trouble with narrative.

john barnes on toast
10-22-2009, 03:22 PM
In some way, it's like asking are athletes good at all sports? If you ask Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Michael Phelps, they would tell you, "No."



true, but by the same token there are natural athletes that could turn their hand to many sports.
Michael Jordan, I believe, is a very competent golfer, and in another life may have been a professional. Similarly, the stories of professional sportsmen having had to choose between 2 sports are common.
Here in England it wasn't unheard of for people to play both professional (and even international) football and cricket—two sports with widely differing skill sets.

In the same vein, I think it's true to say that are some 'natural' writers (and by natural I don't mean they don't have to work damn hard at it) that could turn their hand to multiple disciplines with great effect (I would say that a really great novelist would be capable of at least writing very good reportage)

Even so, I would concede that there are fields within writing, even within fiction itself, where people's inherent skill sets will naturally gravitate toward.
I think I'm right in saying that few writers (if any) who are considered amongst the world's best novelists, are equally heralded for their short stories, and vice versa.