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chapelhell


Aug 9, 2009, 12:32 PM

Post #501 of 710 (9309 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] What to submit [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
This article seems to contradict the notion that you should submit more than one story in order to prevent the impression you're a one-trick-wonder.


My WAG is that going with one strong story is indeed better.

It doesn't make sense for an admissions committee to be concerned that you will prove to be a one-trick wonder if you submit only one story; why shouldn't they be concerned that someone who submits two stories is merely a two-trick wonder?

Seems to me that admissions folks have to operate under the assumption that the people they admit will be able to produce more than one or two good stories in their lives. (Rarely, of course, that assumption turns out to be false -- I've heard of cases of students freezing up and dropping out after their first semester, and then there are the somewhat more numerous cases of students NOT dropping out but producing only utter garbage that saps the will to live of their fellow workshop participants).

-


(This post was edited by chapelhell on Aug 9, 2009, 12:38 PM)


Woon


Aug 30, 2009, 7:07 PM

Post #502 of 710 (9154 views)
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Re: Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

What are your views on the propriety of submitting the same set of writing samples two consecutive years?

I applied to a handful of schools last year and was roundly rejected. I will be applying this year but wondering if I should submit the same set of writing samples. I really believe in them even though they garnered nothing but rejections last year.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Aug 30, 2009, 7:38 PM

Post #503 of 710 (9142 views)
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Re: [Woon] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

If they brought you rejections, why on earth would you use them again? Decisions are based almost entirely on the writing samples, you know.

Why, for that matter, would you show a program that your writing has not progressed at all in the last year?


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

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aiyamei

e-mail user

Aug 30, 2009, 8:10 PM

Post #504 of 710 (9129 views)
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Re: [Woon] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

While I completely acknowledge the fact that extremely good writing samples are routinely rejected senselessly (and every year also brings us stories of someone being rejected by dozens of 'second tier' schools only to then be admitted by Iowa, and all on grounds of the same writing sample), I still question how any red-blooded writer could look at work from a year ago and think of it as perfect -- totally regardless of whether it brought them acceptance or rejection. I would actually find it much more convincing if the work were from twenty years ago. If it's super old, the work tends to have a sheen of strangeness, and lots of writers might not have any desire to tinker with it. But a year ago?? Get working! There's no way you can't make it better.


Woon


Aug 30, 2009, 8:24 PM

Post #505 of 710 (9126 views)
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Re: [aiyamei] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, of course. I don't mean to suggest I will send the same writing samples in the exact same shape as last year. I am tweaking them to make them better.


WanderingTree


Aug 31, 2009, 11:53 AM

Post #506 of 710 (9085 views)
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Re: [Woon] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with Pongo about not sending the exact same portfolio (not to say that those stories couldn't have gotten you in last year given the subjective nature of admissions). I mean, people have gotten into even top flight programs with the same stories, but it just seems risky to me. If you're really confident about your stories from last year and you've edited them significantly, I'd say maybe include one from last year and one new story.


WanderingTree


Aug 31, 2009, 12:35 PM

Post #507 of 710 (9075 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

There's a difference btw. a story you wrote last year and a story you've been working on for a year. I'd consider sending the latter but definitely not the former.


rue721


Aug 31, 2009, 1:40 PM

Post #508 of 710 (9061 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

I also see the gleam of "strangeness" on some of my old (two-, even four-year-old) stories, and think that makes them better than my current ones.

They (probably) aren't. I'm just far enough away not to remember all the work and half-fixed mistakes in them. And they have nostalgia as well as relative freshness on their side.

I have one two year old story that I like a lot-- in terms of voice and aesthetic. But it's got *no* plot. So I'm reworking that story (read: making it into an actual *story*) now, in hopes of it becoming half of my sample.

As for the other half: I'm churning out short story drafts right now, hoping to get one with enough spark to polish into a full-blown, quality piece that people will actually want to read :)

In this thread, the advice has come up lots, but it's been really helpful for me, and might be worth repeating: you're too close to see your stories in the way an audience would. You might get more of a "audience experience" when you read older, half-forgotten stuff, but those stories still not fresh and foreign in the way they are for someone who has no idea how your mind works, or who has their own completely separate/different point of view.

And when you come down to it, why specifically do you think those stories are strong?

Are you sure you don't like those old stories because they were the product of a (now long-ago) breakthrough? Because someone you liked or admired was impressed by them at the time? Because they were so much fun to write? In other words: do you love these stories for sentimental reasons, as opposed to technical ones?

I'm not saying this to be condescending-- I've wrestled with this issue. The stories we like best might be our writing sample front-runners for the same reasons we'll never throw out our ancient copies of The Secret Garden (insert your own childhood favorite) even if we'll never read it again. And because we genuinely do love these stories, it's hard to see whether other people will love them, too.

That's why I'm working with a story that *doesn't* seem perfect, and that *wasn't* a breakthrough, or anything significant in my life at the time it was written. That's also why I'm forcing myself to send new work. Everyone talks about her novel as her "baby" etc, and that love is real-- which is why it is so blinding and dangerous.


WanderingTree


Aug 31, 2009, 2:12 PM

Post #509 of 710 (9050 views)
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Re: [rue721] Submitting same writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

I think another thing to remember is to WORKSHOP and have your portfolio stories CRITIQUED by at least a few people (anyone you have but if you've got writers and editors that have been around the block a few times even better)

(This post was edited by WanderingTree on Aug 31, 2009, 2:13 PM)


gg.scholastica
Gena Goodman


Sep 6, 2009, 1:56 PM

Post #510 of 710 (8935 views)
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Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay y'all, I'm in the midst of picking my writing sample piece/pieces and have run into a problem. All of the possible (three) stories need hefty revision before they're "ready". I'm planning on re-workshopping once most of the revisions are finished, but I won't have time to revise all three to my satisfaction before I need to send one off. I know revision is fairly different for everyone, and it is close to impossible to choose without knowing the stories, but could I have your opinion on which stories my time would be best spent?

I have:

1) A novella (~70 pg) which I could take a selection out of and revise to make it more "self-contained". It's my most recent work.

2) A rather non-traditional short story (22 pg) that has substance (as in: plot, meaning, depth) but would need a lot of revision for readability. Repetition alleviated, uncontrolled stylistic flourishes tamed, etc.

3) A short story (25 pg) with flowing prose (better writing on the sentence-level and well-manicured imagery) but has plot/cohesion/pacing issues.

Perhaps this is simply a battle of revising newest work vs. deepest work vs. prettiest work, and its implications in the application process. And no, I'm not sure which is my "best" work, and opinions from trustworthy readers have sadly incurred no consensus (in their pre-rewrite form).


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 6, 2009, 4:27 PM

Post #511 of 710 (8914 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's what I recommend:

make sure your writing tells a story, not some drawn out epic that you try to squeeze into a few pages. I've read a lot of unpolished work that has great flowing prose but isn't really about anything. That, or short stories with a plot that should be developed into a novel. Your sample should read like a short story no matter what (even if it's from a much larger work), and the reader shouldn't have to read for several pages to know what's going on or to know the characters. Also, make sure your characters seem real and convey real emotion. I don't necessarily have to look up to them, pity goes a long way too.

Basically, what I'm saying is pick your writing based on the story it tells and the emotion it conveys, nothing else is as important. I'm not trying to belittle your writing experience, you most likely know this already, but I know that I sometimes need to be reminded of it too! Good luck!


__________



Sep 7, 2009, 3:51 AM

Post #512 of 710 (8876 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

I tried asking these same questions off and on for a year or two...

...and send your best work is still the best answer I got.

If you're in a college workshop, your best strategy would be to politely hound your professor. They're required to dedicate a certain amount of time to office hours. Use them.


six five four three two one 0 ->


belgium


Sep 7, 2009, 8:25 AM

Post #513 of 710 (8861 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

My take would be to concentrate on the piece that you think best represents where you want to go as a writer. If your end-goal is to be non-traditional, work with that one. If you want to work more with traditional stories, option #3 will be better for you.

Remember, you don't just want to get into a school for the sake of getting into a school. You want to get into the schools that will best be able to take you where you want to go!



Ridiculous Words


bighark


Sep 7, 2009, 8:46 AM

Post #514 of 710 (8856 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

If you were in my writing group, I'd tell you to edit 1,000 words out of samples #2 and #3 so you could send both. You'll show range, and the editing will make both pieces better.


gg.scholastica
Gena Goodman


Sep 7, 2009, 9:16 PM

Post #515 of 710 (8798 views)
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Re: [bighark] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the responses, guys!

kbritten-- don't worry, I'm taking your advice in the way I believe it was intended; definitely not offended.

Junior Maas-- yeah, the "best work" dictum. Unfortunately, I never developed a good working relationship with any of my CW professors-- they respected my work ethic, but not necessarily my work. I might, however, get back in touch with some Lit professors. Thanks for the advice!

belgium-- very true. But what if you feel each piece is derivative of different goals? Personally, I love both the more-traditional and less-traditional (both of which are pretty far from the "state of the art", I suppose). I just worry they'll see something... like a intentionally shifting/morphing POV and assume it an accident, hence a show of poor editing. Finding the balance between edgy and amateur is proving unsettling.

bighark-- Very possible, except for the programs that only accept ~20 pg. Even cutting 1,000 from each wouldn't save them then, I fear. And I've heard contradicting opinions about sending "variety" vs. one long cohesive sort of piece. But at least we all seem to come to the consensus the novella extract should be left out. Which, in terms of time allocation, is a good thing.

Thanks again, everybody.


kbritten

e-mail user

Sep 10, 2009, 2:59 PM

Post #516 of 710 (8715 views)
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Re: [gg.scholastica] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

I am having trouble finding some valuable and constructive criticism for my writing sample. I teach high school and there are two teachers at my school that I would love to read my work and offer feedback, but I'm worried they're too busy to take on extra work. There aren't any workshops being offered at the local college and honestly, I don't have the time to take a night class. I emailed a professor at the same school who has an M.F.A. from Iowa, but she said I could only stop by during her office hours, which conflict with my work. Online forums suck and I don't have $350 for Seth's consulting. Any advice???


unsaid78


Sep 10, 2009, 3:54 PM

Post #517 of 710 (8705 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

I used urbis.com to get additional feedback on the pieces in my writing sample (I still pre-workshop my pieces on the site too).

It's not a forum, you submit your work and it ends up in a queue where members can review it and leave feedback. You have to give feedback yourself first and build up some points so you can "pay" for critiques from other people. So it's free except for having to give feedback to get it, which is fair.


www.mfachronicles.blogspot.com - Follow us as we begin our 1st years in MFA programs!


WanderingTree


Sep 10, 2009, 4:55 PM

Post #518 of 710 (8692 views)
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Re: [kbritten] Attempting to ration my time [In reply to] Can't Post

Kbritten,

You might want to give zoetrope.com a try. A lot of people run away after barely being on the site without realizing that many, many accomplished writers have been and continue to be active on the site. People that have gone on to be NYT Bestsellers, win Pushcarts and O. Henry Awards and many editors of both print and longstanding online magazines. The thing about the site is that you really have to give as much as you take and treat the site like a community. Look at the member bios, read and critique the work of others and engage in conversations. Will you get some less than stellar critiques? Yeah, probably. But you also have the opportunity to get critiques from some of the best writers around.


CMQ
Chelsea


Sep 21, 2009, 10:51 PM

Post #519 of 710 (8482 views)
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Advice on WS [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all,

Had a quick question re: my writing sample - though I'm sure I'm not the first to ask...

I've heard from just about everyone, and its very sound advice, to be sending off my best work. Keeping that in mind, two of my poems were published while I was an undergrad. My dilemma is, many of the schools I'm applying to ask for a recent version of my resume, which cites both published poems and the magazine. That being said, is it terrible to include those same two poems in my writing sample bc they've already been published? My worry is it may come off as "lazy" though I do believe both poems are sound, well edited examples of my ability as a poet.

Any & all recommendations much appreciated!


WanderingTree


Sep 22, 2009, 11:49 AM

Post #520 of 710 (8437 views)
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Re: [CMQ] Advice on WS [In reply to] Can't Post

Send what speaks to your writing style and abilities in the here and now. Personally, I'd be wary of sending something that was older (published or not). The time span from acceptance to publication is usually one year, and depending on when you did your undergrad, we could be talking about several years. If you've been writing during this time, I highly doubt your writing feels the same as those two poems. I went through this same decision process with my fiction portfolio. One of my stories was published in a well-regarded journal, but comparing that story to what I'm writing now helped me make a decision to leave the published story by the wayside. It's still a good story (as I'm sure your poems are great), but it's nothing like what I'm doing now, and I no longer consider it my best work. Sorry for the rant, but this is something that I've thought about a lot and really do think that sending published work doesn't matter at all.


Woon


Oct 5, 2009, 7:06 PM

Post #521 of 710 (8221 views)
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Re: Length of writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

I have a question about wrestling with the various submission guidelines of the MFA programs. Some schools want "stories" of up to 20 pages. Others want "two stories" of 25 pages. And still others want "two to three" stories no more than 30 pages.

The problem is: I've got two stories, one is 18 pages and the other is 19 pages. I would like to submit both because they represent, to me, my "best writing." And yet, it's impossible to submit these two because of the page length requirements. I feel that further edits will compromise the integrity of the story.

Perhaps there's no solution to my dilemma? Do I have to content myself with sending only one story? Will it hurt my chances of admission if I send only one?

Help!


__________



Oct 5, 2009, 7:26 PM

Post #522 of 710 (8216 views)
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Re: [Woon] Length of writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

If you click on those little number thingies down there, you can scroll through the old posts and see this question answered a jillion times.


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WanderingTree


Oct 5, 2009, 8:32 PM

Post #523 of 710 (8193 views)
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Re: [Woon] Length of writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

Woon, ask the programs you are applying to.

BUT

Here's the long and short of it (based on the history of this and other threads and the posts of many, many successful applicants):

- Does sending one story make your portfolio weaker? NO (If that one story is kick ass it's kick ass)
-Does sending two stories make your portfolio stronger? NO (esp. if your one strong story is being brought down by a weaker one)
- Will you be flogged, tarred and feathered if you send a few pages over the limit (say 5-7)? NO
- Will you be flogged, tarred and feathered if you send below the page limit? (with the understanding that you're not being crazy and sending like 5 pages for a school that wants a min of 30). NO


Woon


Oct 5, 2009, 9:08 PM

Post #524 of 710 (8179 views)
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Re: [WanderingTree] Length of writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks Junior Maas and WanderingTree.

I guess I could delete more adverbs and shorten my character names from "Golgominaresh" to "Bob."


OldScribe2000


Oct 8, 2009, 7:19 PM

Post #525 of 710 (8090 views)
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Re: [Woon] Length of writing samples [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Thanks Junior Maas and WanderingTree.

I guess I could delete more adverbs and shorten my character names from "Golgominaresh" to "Bob."


Adverbs. Ha. That's funny.

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