Gary's utter lack of qualifications

Let me state my qualifications for writing historical novels: none. Zero. Nihil.

I have never taken an ancient history course, neither at school nor university. I actually did want to do ancient history at school; I was fascinated by it even then, and also archaeology and palaeontology. Unfortunately my school's timetable had a total clash between the top level mathematics course and ancient history. It had never occurred to them someone might want to do both.

There was never any doubt how that clash was going to get resolved. Maths and science was my future; history was just for fun. Rather ironic I'm now making money from the just for fun bit, but for a few decades beforehand I was earning a fine living from the technical side so it's all come out right.

What I did do was read both Herodotus and Thucydides end to end in my spare time before I was 17. Also Tacitus, Polybius and Plutarch. Since my memory is excellent (he says modestly) I probably could have passed the ancient history exam anyway.

For that matter, I have no writing qualifications either. When I got on the social networking sites, after I'd signed with Janet, people would talk about having an MFA and I had to look up what it meant. English was my worst subject at school.

So if you googled your way here looking for an official, university-approved author with vast qualifications in his subject matter, you've definitely come to the wrong place. This is very much Gary doing it seat of the pants, and having fun as I go.


Mimzy said...

Boo official things! As this chart shows, unofficial things are officially more fun. It's been proven. With SCIENCE!

Where's the chart? Uhhh.... Well.... I must have left it in my other pair of pants. Yeah....


Carrie said...

You are an inspiration and an example for those of us without those high-earned qualifications. I'm really glad it's working for you.

Tabitha Bird said...

official somifficial! I like that you have nadda zip in the bank of writing or history degrees. Me either. Though i read a heap too. I'm guessing that counts. I am also guessing that practicing what you love can pay off. So I'll keep practicing...

LOL your comment re boxing :)

Gary Corby said...

You're all very kind!

I thought I better pop that disclaimer post in because I am seeing a fair number of hits on the site from people obviously googling their history assignments.

Yamile said...

Ditto Carrie. You are an inspiration! Sometimes
it does seem like the authors being published
have a writing degree under their arm. My degree
is in Economics, but I write YA fantasy now.
I guess after studying economics I seriously needed
my own little world to escape to.

scaryazeri said...

I have a question though...a friend of mine suggested I needed some form of training though, and said why dont you attend a writing course?

Having already wasted my life on:

a) 6 yrs of architecture
b) 4 years on a DA MBA course...

I feel stupid enough to go off and pay more money on yet another "course"
But then maybe there are some really good ones to attend?

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Yamile!

Scary, I'm the last person on the planet who should be advising about writing courses.

I'm told there are a fair few MFA graduates feeling upset because no one wants to publish them, but having said that, Kyle Minor is a brilliant writer, ten times better than I'll ever be, and he teaches an MFA course.

Maybe you should ask for opinions at somewhere like Absolute Write?

Bill Kirton said...

I should have checked this quote before offering it but I'm lazy. I'm fairly confident, though, that it was Rousseau who wrote, at the beginning of The Confessions, 'Commençons donc par écarter tous les faits car ils ne touchent point à la question'. (Let's start by setting aside all the facts because they have nothing at all to do with what we're about to discuss.) So you're in good company Gary. (Not that you claimed you were ignoring facts, but it gave me the opportunity to air my erudition.)

Gary Corby said...

Very erudite indeed, Bill. Anyone would have thought you were an expert on French literature.

If you're still reading this thread, do you by any chance have a view on scaryazeri's question?

(For those unaware, Bill is a published writer who until he retired taught creative writing and French.)

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks for the plug, Gary.

Scaryazeri's question would need an extended debate really but my quick(ish) response is: first, who is this ‘friend’ and what are his/her qualifications as a literary critic? What exactly does he/she mean by suggesting you’re not ‘trained’? Is it even possible to ‘train’ someone to write? I think if the impulse to write is there, that’s the main qualification to do so. We all learn as we write, we refine and adapt our style and vocabulary to each subject.

If I’m asked for one piece of advice to offer would-be writers, I usually say ‘Trust your own voice’. By that I mean don’t get fooled into thinking there’s a ‘right’ way to write. It’s better if you can spell and if your grammar’s not so feeble that your sentences are incomprehensible but outside those ‘restrictions’, any mode of expression is legitimate. If it’s way out of line with ‘normal’ speaking and writing, you may find it hard to get an audience but the important thing is not to think you need big words, flowery phrases or ‘writing’. Read Elmore Leonard’s 10 ‘rules’ for writing – they’re amusing and to the point (and valuable).

I’m wary of creative writing courses. I’m sure there are some brilliant ones, but there are also plenty which indoctrinate their graduates into parroting stuff about shifting points of view, not starting paragraphs with ‘And…’ and all sorts of other things that have little to do with creativity.

Apologies for making this a bloglet rather than a comment but, as I said, it needs a debate rather than an answer.

Alex Moore said...

what an awesome post and grand adventure!

i realize this is no doubt heresy (coming from a teacher, even), but i've found that self-education is often more thorough and more deeply grasped than anything attended for purposes of degrees or fulfillment of social commitments.

motivation is the key.

and nothing against degrees. but i do feel a certain disdain for those self-righteous individuals who batter others about the head with them :P

scaryazeri said...

@Bill Kirton: Fantastic. Precisely what I thought.
thank you for taking your time and sharing this.

Gary Corby said...

I tend to agree with you about the self-education Alex. Personally, I don't know something until I've worked it out for myself. Nothing to do with the teacher, my brain just doesn't work that way.