Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Studying to become a writer

by Rob - April 12th, 2006.
Filed under: Uncategorized.

Got asked by a friend what advice I’d give his daughter on what to study at university or college in order to become a creative writer or journalist. Here’s what I had to say:

My advice for someone who wants to actually make a living in creative writing (in general) or science fiction (in particular) is NOT to study those things at university. Study anything else instead — seriously. Most creative-writing programs graduate people who at best will place stories with publications that “pay” in copies. And there are NO good undergraduate programs for SF writing. If your daughter wants a good grounding in writing SF, she should go to the six-week Odyssey, Clarion, Clarion West, or Clarion South workshops:

Clarion West
Clarion South

After getting an undergrad degree in something else (psychology is an excellent area of study for a writer, as characterization is nothing but the art of dramatizing psychology), she might want to consider what is, as far as I know, the only program in which one can do a master’s in writing commercial SF:

Seaton Hill

Journalism is another matter: many newspapers or other media outlets prefer to hire people with journalism degrees. But for creative writing, you need not just to be able to write (which is all a creative-writing program purports to teach you) but also have something to write about (which a good liberal-arts or general-sciences education will give you).

(For my own part, I have a degree in broadcasting, and took courses in psychology, sociology, English literature, and history of drama.)

I wish your daughter the best of luck!



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