Jun 24 Written by 

School Can Help You Write a Good Novel

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There's a myth that writing a novel is very easy. In Peanuts we saw a dog writing a genre novel. Erase that idea; you are now in the Sanity Bubble. It's novelists, the long-distance runners, who most need education in the craft and the business.

For my payment of $99, two prolific romance novelists, Bobbi Smith (54 books including NYT bestsellers) and Mia Marlowe (12 books since 2006), discussed all day, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., novel writing and publishing, covering so many topics efficiently and with satisfying thoroughness. I wished every aspiring novelist, genre or literary, could have been there and learned the basics of the craft in a single, well-organized day. Creative writers today need as much education as they can get. So I took voluminous notes on characterization, plotting, point of view, the traits of a protagonist, and more. This was at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, part of the school's noncredit Chancellor's Certificate program in creative writing. It doesn't matter if you're "genre" or "literary."You don't have to earn the certificate; go casually to the half-day ($65) or full-day seminars which interest you. They are always on Saturdays. This is darned cheap for formal education by experts. (I teach, semi-annually, its half-day seminar on copyright and libel; a whole bunch of people teach a whole bunch more.) If you don't have such seminars anyplace nearby, try an online course; I've heard good things about the online courses and workshops run by Writers Digest. Those cost $350-$450; another reason to take a $99 day at a local seminar.

There's no writer too smart, too good, or too talented for courses, seminars, writers' organizations, and workshops. Every pro should be always learning and making contacts and friends. If you don't believe this, or if you think you're above this, prepare to learn the hard way.

Catherine Rankovic

Writer, with 30+ years' writing and publishing experience, 20+ years' teaching experience. Last book read: Mrs. Lincoln by Catherine Clinton.