Friday, April 30, 2010

Can Technical Writers Write Novels?

My friend Jimmy Clark posted this comment in Facebook:

I'm enjoying following your blog, Sid. Everyone who is good at technical writing dreams of writing a novel some day. Do you think this skill is transferable to writing fiction? Do creative writing classes help a lot. Thanks.

Here's my answer:

Thanks for the comments, Jimmy. Yes, I think technical writing skills easily transfer. It is communicating and technical writers know how to do that. Guy Perry, a friend who is a technical writer, helped me with the first draft of this book. It was amazing how much he improved it. I remember thinking at the time, how easy it would be for him to write a novel.

I took online classes from Writer's Digest. I started with basic creative writing, then short stories, then novels and advanced novels. I took the advanced one four times. It was mainly a way to get your work criticized by a professional novelist as well as classmates. Classes helped keep me on a schedule.

I took my classes through Writer's Digest's writers online workshops. See: I checked it today and they are changing their name to Writer's Digest University. Writer's Digest has been around a long time in magazine format. I took correspondence courses from them years ago, before computers. They are reliable. Getting the right instructor makes a big difference in what you learn. Check out the instructors carefully. Don't just look at their bios. Check the books they've written. See if they have been successful or not. It is hard to find a successful author who also teaches, but they are there. My instructor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, didn't seem to teach for the money. I think she just loved the interaction with students. However, she is no longer on the author list at Writer's Digest. She is now teaching online classes at

Thinking about Guy Perry, and how he helped me with the first draft of Where Love Once Lived, reminded me he wouldn't take money for editing my manuscript. When I insisted, he suggested making a contribution to my church, San Gabriel Presbyterian in Georgetown. That's what I did. And, since Guy is also a singer and long-time member of the Austin Lyric Opera Chorus, I knew he would approve of designating the donation to the bell fund. We now have a wonderful bell choir thanks in part to Guy and my need for an editor.

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