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The Art of Story Writing : CHAPTER XIV Literary Schools

by Nathaniel C. Fowler, JR   

CHAPTER XIV Literary Schools

THERE have been established various schools, or institutions, which claim to be able to teach the art of literature. Some of these are conducted on the correspondence plan.

I think that it is exceedingly doubtful if any one can obtain a working knowledge of the art from any school, and especially from a correspondence course.

Contact with literary workers and with the public at large, and the reading of good books representing successful literary styles, will do more, I believe, to aid the would-be litterateur, than can any so-called institution, though alleged to be able to teach the art.

I am afraid that some of these literary institutions were established for revenue only, and are purely commercial enterprises. Their claims look well upon paper, but I think that few of them can be substantiated. I do not see how any one can learn to write, as he would learn book-keeping, or stenography, or arithmetic, or geography, or any other concrete art or science.

So much depends upon contact with conditions and persons, and upon the special ability of the would-be writer, that it is extremely doubtful if the art of authorship can be imparted academically. Nor does it seem to me probable that much of anything worth while can be given by mail.

The literary correspondence school, like other correspondence schools, depends for its profits upon a large number of pupils. It seems to me obvious that little personal attention can be given to any one member at the fee charged for enrollment. Therefore, I am constrained to believe that the service rendered by most correspondence schools is largely automatic, and that the pupil can obtain as much from a good book or books, and very much more by contact with those of the craft.

Instead of connecting one's self with a school, I would advise the would-be writer to read everything written upon the subject, of course, taking into consideration that most books upon literature represent the personal opinions of their writers, which may be overdrawn and biased; but from several books, if read intelligently and discriminately, the reader may obtain a general insight into literary matters, and into the construction of literature, which will be of benefit to him.

I would advise him, however, to read these books, and all other books, with the cooperation or assistance of one or more men or women who have won literary reputations. By contact, both with books and with those who make books, he may, if he will, obtain a fair grasp upon the situation.

Then, he must learn to write by writing; he must practice while he is studying. His first efforts may amount to little, but if each one shows some improvement over its predecessors, he may, in time, obtain result. Under no circumstances should he attempt to learn how to write as he would master the multiplication table or history. It is impossible to become an author by rule, or by following blindly any regulations which may be formulated by those who think they can teach the unteachable.