The simple answer is no. Does that mean writing courses are a waste of time? Or that getting an MA or a PhD in creative writing is a fool’s errand? Of course not. Classes can teach good writers to become better, but classes will not turn a good writer into a Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway. Great writing requires a certain native ability, which is rare.
However, that does not mean aspiring indie authors should give up. While truly great writers are few, there is ample room in the world for really good writing, the pursuit of which should be the goal of every self-published author.
How then does a new writer judge the value of a writing course? Well, to begin with they need to understand what their objective is. If it is to become fluent with the basics of style, syntax and word usage and, thereby, feel more comfortable integrating these into a clear and cohesive story, then do it. Or, if it is to enjoy the sense of camaraderie of classmates and gain the constructive criticism of a good teacher, then proceed. But if it is to short circuit the hard work that is the sine qua non of good writing, then their time would be better spent sitting alone, in front of that unforgiving keyboard and writing. And when they are not writing, they should be reading. And then writing again. And so on, and so on.
Now some of you might ask, how do you know whether you possess that certain native ability I mentioned above. Well, let me share with you what an eight-year-old girl, who is the daughter of one of our readers, did at recess the other day. She began to write her first novel, titled The Seal and the Merdog Named Midnight. Yes, at recess. Not as a class assignment, simply because she loves to write. Here is an unedited excerpt:
There I am sitting on a rock. Me. Emily Moon and yes, I am a seal. It is a dark but not stormy night. Emily starts waddiling to the sea. One fin half in the sea but then she turns around and hears a scaterring noise. It scares her depply but a little sound will not scar her. She keep waddling into the ocean. Then she hears a crack. She turnes around again this time futher in the sea. A second later a weird dog like thing comes running in. “Hey!” Emily says. “Who are you?” A few seconds later a reply comes. “I’m Midnight the Merdog”. As Midnight is coming closer Emily says “Ooh Midnight that is such a nice name.” “Thanks” Midnight says, and as she is saying it, Emily quitly keeps says “Midnight, Midnight, Midnight, then she stoped.
Native ability? Of course it is too soon to know. But as an indie author, I can tell you that I never skipped recess in the 3rd grade to start writing a novel.