Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Writer’s survey

At The Writer’s Cooperative, results from a survey taken by 700+ writers. Have you published a novel, are you working on a novel right now, did you study creative writing, are you part of a writer’s group online, off line, etc.

It’s mildly interesting. The most interesting thing to me is that a pretty large minority of respondents said they actively write on multiple devices. This seems strange to me. I would be annoyed if I had to continuously merge one document with another, or worse, one type of file with another.

A majority of respondents use Word. Well, sure. Why not? Everybody’s got it on their computer, everyone already knows how to use it, when you send a copy to somebody as a Word attachment, they’ll be able to open it and read it and it will look right without having to fiddle with it. Or if they want to change the font or spacing or something, that’s easy and they already know how to do it.

(I know “everyone” is a tiny bit of an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s a huge exaggeration for people who have finished a novel.)

The survey was done by people who develop software for writers. Tough gig, probably, when dedicated software meant specifically for writers strikes me — and I’m sure I’m not alone here — as totally unnecessary. I’m sure I’m not the only one who steps back from learning how to use a new program when I already have a perfectly good program in Word.

Strangest comment, imo:

A number of writers are hesitant to study creative writing, seeing it as an art that should not require outside teaching or mentoring.  What they often forget is that in every other art form (painting, sculpting, music, etc.) it is normal and even expected that beginners will learn the basics of their art in a college setting or from an expert. Why should novel writing be any different?

The question did not ask anything that would allow evaluation of writer’s attitudes toward creative writing classes.  It was just a straight up Did you study Creative Writing.  Also, I think the authors of the survey might take note of the large proportion of writers who did not study Creative Writing and re-evaluate their assumption that these classes are helpful.

Especially since Creative Writing programs are famously hostile to genre writing. I don’t know if they really are; I never took any creative writing classes, as far as I can remember. But to the extent that they assume Literary Is It, of course they will turn off everyone who doesn’t like Literary.

Still, it’s always interesting to see results from surveys like this, even if the survey seems to have some flaws.

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8 Comments Writer’s survey

  1. Megan

    Oh, I took a minor in Creative Writing in college and I can confirm at least where I went, the professor refused to acknowledge “genre” was even a thing. Hated fantasy/sci-fi and continued to insist the one story we studied that had a fairy tale/fantasy premise (guy who can fix anything, where “fix” includes “making people not dead”) he tried to call not-fantasy.

    When your environment is such that writing stories about adultery are more acceptable than writing about magic, yes, I think it’s a waste of time.

    That said, my high school creative writing teacher was amazing and encouraged everyone to write in the genre they wanted, while still pushing us to improve craft. If more teachers were like him I would reconsider. As is, I feel like I’d evaluate any classes very carefully before trying to do another one.

  2. Pete Mack

    You don’t have to merge files anymore to write on multiple devices. You can store documents in the cloud (which also guaranteed backups) and have them available anywhere. I use it for just about all important documents now. The backup feature is just too important to do without. (Note: it is really easy. “The cloud” looks like just another disk drive.)

  3. Elaine T

    I can see the use of grammar courses, but have heard very little of college level Creative Writing courses that are actually useful to someone wanting a career.

    And a course that went over the business aspects of being a writer and (maybe) making a living at it would be a good idea.

  4. Allan L Shampine

    My older daughter is majoring in Creative Writing at Columbia in Chicago right now, and they actively encourage genre writing. They offer a lot of classes focusing on specific genres, in fact, and even many of the other classes have genre spins (e.g., she’s taking Chemistry of Science Fiction this semester).

  5. Rachel

    Pete, I’m sure that’s true, but I don’t care. Sheer inertia is sufficient to prevent me from changing how I do things unless changing things is utterly required. I save to a different flash drive several times a day when I am working fast, so I feel pretty secure.

    Also, remember I have very, very poor internet access for more than half the year. My devices are not going to be able to connect from my home until mid-November.

  6. Rachel

    Allan, good to know it’s not all genre-hatred everywhere. That’s probably a good way to sort the programs: the ones that have genre-specific classes must not be death on genre writing.

  7. Rachel

    Oak trees. Hickories. I live in the middle of the forest. Internet access is pretty bad out in the middle of the road, but it is absolutely terrible in my house when the trees are leafed out. From the time the leaves fall (mid-November) till they fully leaf out (mid-May), it’s possible for me to connect without going outside … most of the time … from certain rooms.

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