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Essential Advice and Book Titles for New Writers
Starting college can be really stressful. I've been there and done that. Here are some things that helped me succeed as a writing major, and hopefully will help you too.
1. Balance classes you want vs Classes you need
If you are really passionate about creative, magazine, or travel writing, I have some bad news. Chances are extremely slim that you will land a job in one of those fields after graduating. The three fields you are most likely to get a job in are public relations, journalism, and technical writing. Pick which one of those you hate the least and take classes in that. As tempting as it is to just take a bunch of creative writing classes, you really need to strike a balance between classes that will help you get the career you want and classes that will get you a job after school.
2. Get Lots of Second Opinions
Getting something you worked hard on peer edited can be a frustrating experience if the person doing the editing is a pretentious idiot. Don’t let that dissuade you from getting second opinions on your work! Most professors will gladly take a look at your writing before you turn it in. Check to see if your school has a writing center, and if so, go to it. You can even ask junior and senior writing majors if they would be willing to help. And don’t limit yourself to just “writers.” English literature majors and professors are amazing and can also help you. Don’t be prideful about being a writer. Whatever you write needs to get edited by someone besides you.
3. Get Published
Join one of your school’s publications. Become an editor if possible. If you are interested in a more creative path, see if your school has a theater club and if they would be interested in performing something you wrote. If you graduate without published works in your portfolio, you are basically dead in the water.
4. Books on Writing Are a Must
This may sound weird, but reading about writing is essential. Here’s some book titles I highly recommend any new writer pick up.
a. AP Style Guide
Even if you have no interest in journalism, definitely get the AP Style Guide: the more recent the addition the better. Chances are you will have to take a journalism class at some point. If journalism is a career path you want to pursue, make sure you are keeping up to date on the latest editions.
b. Write More Good: An Absolutely Phony Guide
You might as well get the satirical guide as well. The better you get at writing and editing, and the more grammar rules are shoved down your throat, the more hilarious you are going to find this book. Your professors will probably love it too.
c. The Elements of Style by Strunk and Wright
The end all, be all guide to writing. It covers everything from grammar, to sentence structure, to word choice. It’s pretty small too, so you can easily keep it with you wherever you go. If you are only going to get one book on this list, this is the one to get.
d. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This wonderful book offers practical advice for any writer like where and when to write, how to listen, how to get into and stay in a state of flow, and wraps it all up with teachings from the Buddha. I found it an inspiring read, and hopefully you will too.
e. Pocket Dictionary
Trust me on this. You never know when you are going to need to look up the definition of a word. You’ll also impress your professors if they see you taking one out during the free writing time they’re bound to give you.
f. MLA Style Guide/ APA Style Guide
Do not trust college Internet connections! You do not want to be stuck with no Internet and desperately needing to look up how to correctly format your paper. You can also add pages from Purdue OWL to your Reading List since you can still access it without an Internet connection. But definitely buy a physical book just in case. As a writing major, you are going to need the MLA guide, but depending on what you minor in, or what general electives you take, you might want the APA style Guide too. Going back and forth between the two styles is jarring, so having a physical book to refer back to is really helpful.
Well there you have it. Hopefully these tips and book titles will prove useful. Feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments.
Good luck with school!