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View Full Version : Robert McCrum On Creative Writing Classes



gothicangel
02-22-2011, 12:40 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/21/teaching-creative-writing-classic-fiction

The Prize for best comment goes to this one:

"Another Americanism the English can do without.
Robbie Burns werent taught it."

I don't know what's worse, the atrocious writing or the ignorance of literary figures [Burns was extremely well read, and was moving in circles in which he met writers like Walter Scott at Edinburgh University.]

LaceWing
02-22-2011, 01:14 PM
I never made it to the comments. For the last few hours I've been reading the opening pages of Orlando at google books and all the material at shmoop.com. I really regret not having read this before.

Big thanks to Authorscoop.com for starting tonight's trek.

~

Generally, I think writing can be learned with guidance. Not quite the same thing as being taught. So, for Crum to list texts to learn from seems like just the right thing to do.

gothicangel
02-22-2011, 02:29 PM
I never made it to the comments. For the last few hours I've been reading the opening pages of Orlando at google books and all the material at shmoop.com. I really regret not having read this before.

Big thanks to Authorscoop.com for starting tonight's trek.

~

Generally, I think writing can be learned with guidance. Not quite the same thing as being taught. So, for Crum to list texts to learn from seems like just the right thing to do.

Agree. I thought the list of texts at the end was fantastic. I'm intending to go back and read them tonight.

leahzero
02-22-2011, 02:41 PM
Interesting article. Can't bear to read the comments.

McCrum's advice seems to boil down to "read more." Which is, as far as I'm concerned, the absolute best writing advice, bar none.

artemis31386
02-22-2011, 03:45 PM
Agreed. Reading is the best way to learn.

Jamesaritchie
02-22-2011, 07:10 PM
I wanted to stop reading when the article said Strunk and White's The Elements of Style was published in 1918. Not true.

Strunk published a book called The Elements of style in 1918, but it had nothing to do with White until the 1959 edition, some thirteen years after Strunk died. Any version before 1959 is not the same book, it simply bears the same name. White was a wonderful writer and stylist, and it's his edition that became known as Strunk and White's The Elements of Style.

Reading and writing are the main tools of any writer, but this article is, like just about every other writing article in The Guardian, pure bunk, based on a seeming ignorance of America, and of actual writing classes.

I really haven't met very many people in my life, including those who run writing classes, who believe writing can be taught. But, really, it's talent that can't be taught. All good writing classes emphasize the very things this article asks for, and the very thing those who dismiss writing classes preach. Writing classes teach much reading, much writing, and critiquing. The same things pretty much every writing forum preaches relentlessly.

But good writing classes teach organized reading, enforced discipline in both reading and writing, and critiquing by those who are actually qualified to critique. All very good things.

DeleyanLee
02-22-2011, 07:17 PM
What I'm getting out of what you said, James, is that there are too few good writing classes out there. Which I agree with heartily, since that's been my experience for the last several decades.

gothicangel
02-22-2011, 07:25 PM
What I'm getting out of what you said, James, is that there are too few good writing classes out there. Which I agree with heartily, since that's been my experience for the last several decades.

I think if the was one thing I did that improved my writing, it was taking my English degree. It forced me into reading books outside of my comfort zone. I would recommend Lit classes over Creative Writing to new writers.

DrZoidberg
02-23-2011, 12:28 PM
I'm going to interpret "creative writing classes" as learning to write by other means than just reading and doing it. I've listened to quite a lot of lectures on litterature analysis and that has helped me a lot. As have books on writing, like Strunk and White's book or Stephen King's On Writing. I've done a huge variety of writing excercises and they have helped me immensely.

I'm going to take the pragmatic aproach. If it works for you, do it. If not... then don't. All that really matters is the result.

AlwaysJuly
02-23-2011, 06:04 PM
His list really seems to mirror one aspect of the writing class I took. We read selected short stories and excerpts of novels which we discussed in class, with our teacher pointing out the techniques the writer used if we missed any. We also discussed different elements of plot, dialogue, etc., and we critiqued each other's work. You can't teach "talent", but I don't see why that wouldn't help any novice willing to apply and experiment with techniques to become a better writer. Talent's kind of a crock, anyhow.

I think that reading extensively, and writing, on your own is key to learning to write well, but writing classes certainly can help, perhaps condense the process a little.