Who needs a writing degree anyway?

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Chronicles of Mar Word Count: The same as last week.

When the time came for me to choose a university degree, I weighed up the pros and cons of every option available to me, as one should when making a decision of such obvious importance. I knew, thoroughly knew that I wanted to be a writer. But, back then, as someone who’d just discovered Hunter S Thompson’s wonderful world of gonzo journalism, I had moved on from the childish dream of becoming Stephen King. No, I was going to be a JOURNALIST. 

I was going to crack the biggest stories of the day while receiving free albums and books and possibly taking mescaline. I wasn’t really sure. But journalism, that was the thing. I believed it in my very core. I was going to do IMPORTANT WORK. This was before Leveson, naturally. These days that title is lodged somewhere between Phil Collins and Piers Morgan.

Now, you’re probably thinking that, naturally, I took the course that aspiring journalists the world over had done before - English Literature. But no. This was the late nineties, and we were all dazzled by the bright lights and heady excitement that was… Media Studies. So, off to the north I popped, and did my Media degree.

I’ve barely used it since. After all, one doesn’t really need to be able to interpret the Frankfurt school much in order to do a boring desk job. Now, as a wizened old man looking back through tears of regret, I keep looking back at that little idiot with the terrible curtains and think - why the hell didn’t you do an English degree?

Now, I can’t go back to university to do a literature degree, or heaven forfend a creative writing degree, what with the having of the kids and the crushing responsibilities of actual adulthood, plus my burgeoning career as a sub-mid-list indie author to prop up. But, heavens to Betsy, I sure would like to.

Luckily, I live in the period that is now. Since I finished working on the two arcs I had been working on, I’ve given myself a few weeks off to try and do some digging into craft. I’m less than a week in, but the resources I’ve found are overwhelming.

Now, I’m not about to say to any young aspiring writer that they don’t need to go get that degree they were planning on ploughing themselves into debt for. But for those of us for whom that’s not an option, there really is a wealth of knowledge out there for you to marinate in, trying to absorb as much of it as you can. So, here are three great things I’ve found so far.

Skillshare

This is a series of online courses, with a free period that I’m currently burning through like it’s kindling. So far I’ve done a fantastic course by Daniel Jose Older on storytelling fundamentals, one on Journalling by Emily Gould, and one on writing for Wattpad by Rebecca Sky, each of which led to copious pages of notes being hastily scribbled over less than an hour. And, hey, if you go sign up with this link, they'll give me a few more free months. Free months are good.

Youtube

Now, I don’t want to blow your tiny minds or anything, but there’s this new site called Youtube, and it has videos on it… yes, okay, I know this is hardly going to be revolutionary news, but there’s a ridiculous amount of free writing resource available these days — from Brandon Sanderson’s 12-hour masterclass on writing to the excellent 10-minute bites of truth dropped by Jenna Moreci each week.

Story Grid

This hyper-analytic approach to self-editing by story guru Shawn Coyne has completely blown my mind over the last few weeks and months, as I devoured all the videos on his youtube channel, wait patiently to see if my lovely wife will buy the book for my birthday, and burn through all the podcasts he does with Tim Grahl. If you want to get deep under the hood of storytelling, this is the place to go. 

It's ridiculous, really, to have such abundance of free learning all around us. Whatever you want to do with your life, or whether you just have a broken toilet, chances are you'll find someone online willing to teach you how to do it (or fix a toilet). You might not get a piece of paper at the end, but at least you'll know how to do it.

So, while I take a break from writing, I’m filling the void with, um, more writing. Anyone would think there’s something wrong with me. And since I'll be doing more deep dives, what online resources could you not do without?

Before I away, I’ve put together a bookfunnel giveaway that’s running for the next two weeks of over twenty free horror books, of which Blood on the Motorway is one of the chosen (helps when you get to be the chooser). Go check out the page if you want to get some free ebooks, there’s some cracking reads in there. Oh, and tell all the people you’ve ever met about it, too. Cheers.