An excellent question was sent to me on twitter today via @SarahWilli308 as to why I didn’t major in English if I’m such a great writer. Well, first of all, let me say that I hope you guys think my writing great. I so want you to enjoy my stories! Second, I didn’t major in English because I had no idea that I would one day write books.
I think most people know that in college I started out in Musical Theatre and ended up in History with my goal being to go on staff with my campus church. Several things happened to change that— the big one being Callaway sweeping me off to Blacksburg so we could get married and have babies— but my last stop before becoming an author was being a homemaker and scooping ice cream part time. It was kind of soothing, the pace of my life. I have no complaints.
But! I do want to say that my degree in History has been very good to me. I did a lot of reading, writing, and researching for my major. I don’t know much about the arc of a story or adding in plots, but I did study a lot of real life stories that had their own twists to them, and that has helped me shape my books. I’ve been fiddling with the history in The Selection as well as some projects for the future, and knowing how to find that information and align it has been kind of crucial. All in all, I’m glad that I studied what I did, because if I majored in English there’s a very high chance that I would have been burnt out on reading and writing and might never have pursued it at all.
So I got to thinking… What majors besides English might be good for people who become authors? Here’s my short list:
Communication. Well, maybe. This was my major for a whole semester, but things were never properly communicated to me, so I got out. Yeah, that’s for real. But if you happen to be one of those authors who speaks at high schools, libraries, and conferences, knowing how to do that is a good idea.
Theatre. I think this is obvious. Plots, characters, setting. You can study it in 4-D! Also, you get your hands on scripts, which might be good to understand if Hollywood comes to woo you.
Accounting. You think I’m crazy, and that’s totally cool. Here’s the deal, I’m only halfway through the experience of my first book, and the math is way intense. You have your advance and 15% goes to your agent, and then you have to do special taxes because you’re considered self-employed, and then you have to set budgets for the rest of it like living expenses and swag and going on trips to promote your books and OHMYGOSHTHATSALOTOFNUMBERS. So, yeah, if you have math down, you’d be five steps ahead of me.
Psychology. Talk about being able to get into your character’s head. Sheesh.
Anthropology. This is all about understanding humanity. If you really get people and can make your characters feel alive, feel very human, then you have a great start at making readers connect with them. To me, that’s kind of the point.
Physics. Okay, I’m totally lying on this one. No idea.
What about you? What did you study in school? Has it contributed to your writing?