Do you need a degree to be a writer? Or what most people mean is do you need a degree to be an author? The answer to that I must admit I cannot answer, please do not despair though and please read on, you might learn something.
Many people ask this question. In this day and age it seems you need a degree to do just about every job going so why should writing be so different? Some people think this is the reason they have not been picked out of the slush pile and if only they had studied writing, and assuming their writing was EXACTLY the same despite this, they would still get published. They are simply not publishable because they have no post nominals.
The basic answer is ‘No, you do not need a degree to be an author’, what you need is the ability to consistently write a large ammount of decent prose, edit it time and again and put together an enjoyable, thought provoking and enthralling story. Some people naturally have the ability to do this, natural story tellers if you will BUT remember that in life one thing is almost always true. NATURAL TALENT NEVER BEATS HARD WORK. Let me give you an example if writer A can write a novel that is 70% perfect (note: writing is art and as such nothing can ever be perfect, this is purely an over simplification to get my point across) and writer B can write a book that is only 40% perfect. If writer A rests on their laurels and does nothing everything they write will ultimately be, at best, 70% perfection. Writer B on the other hand accepts their short comings and studies, they train and work with more accomplished writers, they improve their grasp of grammer and broaden their vocabulary. They will go on to write something that is 50%, then 60% and maybe one day even 71% or more perfect and thus will become the better writer.
Then simple fact is when you start writing you probably think you writing is way better than it is, it has less flaws than it actually has and the characters are much more emotionally involving than they really are. You don’t care if everyone online says they wrote five or more novels that weren’t picked up before they learnt what would work and get published, you can hit the bullseye with your first book. Nine times out of ten though you think this, it isn’t true. Eventually you will either give up after two books and reside to never be published or keep going and maybe after five, maybe after seven and maybe even after ten or more you will eventually improve to the point where you are publishable.
One way to improve your chances is to get a degree, maybe even a masters degree if you are willing to go that far. If you work on your writing full time for three or more years you can guarantee you will be better than when you began, that is even if you didn’t have the input you have from talented professors and writers while doing a writing degree.
So to drill down the point I am making here, no you don’t need a degree, but it certainly helps.