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OldScribe2000


Apr 11, 2010, 2:02 AM

Post #626 of 710 (10178 views)
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Re: [alamana] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

It makes a difference to me.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Apr 11, 2010, 6:54 AM

Post #627 of 710 (10165 views)
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Re: [OldScribe2000] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I said I don't think it matters because I believe that those reading portfolios for MFA programs are capable of making a decision based on the first five pages or so. And I think it usually (if not always) is going to be the same decision they would make if they read the whole story.

I read for a literary magazine and I know by page three or four whether I think we are interested or not. If I think we are interested, I keep reading. If I think we aren't, I don't. If most of us didn't approach it this way we'd never get through the stack of submissions. I"d say I read about one third of the stories all the way through.

I know reading for a lit mag isn't exactly the same thing, but I think it is a decent analogy.


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


paulettejanep


Jun 14, 2010, 8:31 PM

Post #628 of 710 (8614 views)
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A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

Im planning on applying this winter to grad school for fiction. Im a former journalist and never thought Id do this, but here I am. (Hence the beginning of self-doubt.)

Ive stalked around the internet, obsessing about grad school long enough to see that the only thing that really, really matters is my writing sample. This freaks me out to the point where I cant write. Its like, every time I sit down, I start writing and just think: This isnt anything thats going to get me into Austin. Then I lose interest in my story. Then just start Googling again.

Im trying to write an hour a day, but I live a strange life where Im at the whim of other people and my schedule is forever changing at the last minute. Anyone have any advice for me to stay on track and just get the words down, even a crappy first draft?


kbritten

e-mail user

Jun 14, 2010, 9:00 PM

Post #629 of 710 (8608 views)
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Re: [paulettejanep] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

I have the exact same problem as you do! Except that this is my second time applying. Although, I will say that I still have the same doubts and "why bother" attitude as I did last year :) Here's my philosophy, and I will not be offended at all by anyone who disagrees, because it might not work for everyone:

  • Shoot for an hour each day, and keep it diligently. However, do not kill yourself over if you are too busy or on vacation, or whatever. Take a day off when you need to, when you feel like, etc... nothing wrong with taking breaks. But don't just not write because you don't want to. One of my writery friends has two kids now and teaches full time and has put a very promising poetry career on the back burner. It's really, really sad. I can't judge her, because I don't have any kids, which makes a huge difference, but I think a lot of why she's not writing is because she has made it her last priority. Don't do that unless you're willing to accept the consequences of doing so.
  • I would also suggest aiming for at least an hour of reading a day as well, with the same attitude about the writing regiment. I haven't read a page in about three days, so I'm a big fat hypocrite who needs to get off her lazy ass and pick up my book, so don't be like me!! Keep it up!
  • Whenever you have total writer's block or uber self-doubt, scour the internet for some writing prompts and prompt away. I think the act of writing, most of the time at least, is more important than working on some big project. If you're not liking what you are currently working on, go back to an old story and try some revision for an hour. Whatever keeps your writing juices a-going.
  • Spend some time with SOPs and excel spreadsheets. If you're a dork like me, you think that stuff is fun. I finished up an SOP last night and felt productive, even though I have six months to finish it. Google away at programs and stuff, it will keep you motivated to go back to those stories, I promise.
I guess the bottom line is, don't beat yourself up about doubt or missing a day of writing/reading. Even the greatest writers were plagued with doubt and they just kept going. Hell, I've been rejected from every journal/magazine/MFA program I've sent work to, and while I'm happy that I'm at the point where I'm getting waitlists/personal rejections, it's still frustrating. But, it's what I want to do, so I'm going to do it and try to get better come hell or high water. Even if you do get rejected outwright this year (it happens to the best of us), which is probably feuling your doubt, there's always next year, and it only gets easier from there.


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Jun 14, 2010, 9:39 PM

Post #630 of 710 (8593 views)
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Re: [paulettejanep] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

When I had a crazy work schedule back before I entered my MFA program I aimed for a paragraph a day rather than a certain amount of time writing. Took the pressure off and helped me to feel I'd accomplished something concrete each day.

Also, I write a 5 am, a habit that is a holdover from when I was practicing law and I knew that at that early hour no one from work was going to intrude upon my time. I realize that 5 am ain't for everybody, though. . .


Be regular and orderly in your life, that you may be violent and original in your work. -- Flaubert

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com


unsaid78


Jun 14, 2010, 10:13 PM

Post #631 of 710 (8584 views)
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Re: [paulettejanep] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm a Googler too. If you are like me and you absolutely must Google, then use time to Google as a reward for yourself. I make myself read/write a certain amount before I can Google something about what I plan to do post-MFA lol. It works. I actually feel rewarded when I'm googling.

I just said this on my facebook today: let your will to succeed be greater than your belief that you will fail. Get. It. Done.

Good luck!


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


elissa
Elissa Field


Jun 14, 2010, 10:58 PM

Post #632 of 710 (8574 views)
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Re: [paulettejanep] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

In addition to some of the other advice given, one of my favorite tricks to get past 'fear of the blank page' comes (I think) from reading Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones?) when I first started writing fiction. My paraphrase of the advice is don't sit down to write what you have to say (which can be intimidating as you want to say it perfectly), start with what you don't have to say. Her advice came from a buddhist concept, something like not overfocusing on the one thing your intentions are on, but allowing your focus to relax and take in the negative space around it. As a writing prompt, it's very freeing. You might be wanting to write about one thing (or be stressing at the thought your mind has no great ideas) but may be sitting in a coffee shop and write instead about the odd couple next to you or the bird that flew in the door when someone walked in. Sometimes it just frees your mind to open up to ideas; other times you might find that, doing freewriting over time, you amass some interesting detail that might later inspire a story. The biggest thing is, give yourself freedom to write -- and even write badly. The hardest pressure to overcome is that feeling that whatever comes out has to be perfect, and it's hard to get past it when you're aiming for a writing sample.

I wasn't in your same situation, but was getting out of undergrad -- where I'd written some lame fiction and poetry, but was most steeped in comp writing for lit classes, plus journalism; and then, started a career anticipating law school, so was doing tons of legal writing. So I feel empathy for you, coming from one form of writing and wanting to switch gears. Your career in journalism will give you really valuable writing insight (nothing beats a journalist's curiosity and eye for detail, and sometimes worldly experience, depending on time spent in the field), but be kind to yourself about the fact that it can always be hard to shift gears from a factual writing form to fiction.

Good luck -- and keep posting about how it's going. I may be applying this year too, and it's so great to get a group of peers going thru it together. We all learn from what each other is going through.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683


elissa
Elissa Field


Jun 14, 2010, 11:08 PM

Post #633 of 710 (8571 views)
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Re: [elissa] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

another idea came to mind. I originally wanted to apply for MFA programs several years ago, but put it on the backburner becs I had small children and needed to do it when I could concentrate more attention. It wasn't planned this way, but as it happened, by waiting I ended up writing several stories and a couple novel starts in the meantime. So now, instead of having one single (happened to be overedited) work to choose from, I am now more relaxed, knowing I have made it successfully through several stories (so know I can do it), have multiples to choose from, or could specially edit something from them. (Not to say I won't be stressed once I go to do that and realize I'm still stuck with one little sample to be judged on...)

I offer that as two possibilities. 1) If you are not set on doing it this year and don't think you're ready to pull a sample together in time, it's not the end of the world if you waited. On the other hand, for most of us, by the time we decide we're ready to do it, we want to get on with it -- it may be this is the best year for you. So 2) another thing I hadn't thought of before is that you might be able to do a less formal writing workshop this summer, online or in the fall which might help you generate more ideas. I don't know if that would work for everyone, but a lightbulb went off with me recently about how readily such workshops are available and how it might be a good way for me to get some feedback to do final edits to my sample, as well as some stories I have ready to send out.

Just a thought.


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683


Peaquah

e-mail user

Jun 15, 2010, 12:19 PM

Post #634 of 710 (8515 views)
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Re: [elissa] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

I once had a writing teacher say that he tries to write the kind of things he liked to read - and that stuck with me. He said he knew he was on the right track if he got a tingle while he wrote a scene or a bit of dialogue - something surprising or funny happening. Now, whenever I sit down at a blank page, I think, "okay, what would I like to read in this story?"

Someone else (I'm pretty sure on the Speakeasy - somewhere) gave the advice to just write down what you DO know. Do you know the character's name? How they talk? A scene they're in? Write down that part. I don't aim to write down anything in order in the first draft - just bits and blobs here and there. Then I open a new document and start copying and pasting and putting things in order. That's helped me a lot. It takes off the pressure of sitting down to write a story beginning to end.

Going to readings can also increase your motivation. If that's not an option for you, consider getting stuff on podcasts and pretending you're at a reading. You know, nibble on some finger sandwiches and close your eyes.

Or take a short story that you like and copy the structure. Sometimes it really helps to follow a "formula" where you open with dialogue (or not), then a little exposition, scene, backstory etc. That's actually helped me out a lot in terms of understanding story structure.

I think everyone who's applied for MFA programs understands the crippling writer's block that befalls most applications in the summer and fall. Don't let it thwart you! You're better than that! (Or chant some other mantra that works for you.)


Pedro Eler


Jun 30, 2010, 10:36 AM

Post #635 of 710 (8072 views)
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Re: [Peaquah] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

For me, strangely enough, writing prose is like writing poetry. There is rythym, and feelings, and images. And then words. They just come to you. But if you are pledge by self doubting and that horrendous feeling of having to write the next Beloved everytime you sit down, then you won't be able to write anything. Free your mind from everything (and that includes grammar, and semantics, and lexics as well... those can really get in the way if you start to obsess about them... that's why there is editing, but on that first try you should write as freely as possible, not at all preocupied). That's how I approach writing, and I know that I have to remind myself of that fact everyday because when you start to think about MFAs that's when you start to think you have to write something brilliant within boundaries, and that is just impossible to do.


elissa
Elissa Field


Jun 30, 2010, 10:18 PM

Post #636 of 710 (8022 views)
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Re: [Pedro Eler] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post

Pedro, that's how I made it through the last two novels I wrote. When I wrote my first, everything had to come out 'perfect' and fit perfectly with what came before and after it. Then I couldn't get myself to write again for awhile. The next two times I had an idea, I told myself, just get it down. Didn't care if it would ever fly, didn't worry if it actually worked yet. A big thing was I threw grammar out the window, at least for that first idea-generating stage. If a sentence wasn't working halfway through I didn't back up to fix it, I just continued on the way it should be. Oddly, editing that messy manuscript was surprisingly easy. The parts that work stand out very clearly and are very easy to lift out from the parts that weren't needed.

All the same, considering this is in the MFA topic... it *is* a little more stressful to be working with a messy draft when you feel a clock ticking for when a 'perfect' sample will be due.

Is anyone out there working on manuscripts for apps due in Aug/Sept?


http://elissafield.wordpress.com/
http://www.facebook.com/...p?id=100001772022683


Pedro Eler


Jul 1, 2010, 12:01 PM

Post #637 of 710 (7956 views)
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Re: [elissa] A Writing Regime [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Pedro, that's how I made it through the last two novels I wrote. When I wrote my first, everything had to come out 'perfect' and fit perfectly with what came before and after it. Then I couldn't get myself to write again for awhile. The next two times I had an idea, I told myself, just get it down. Didn't care if it would ever fly, didn't worry if it actually worked yet. A big thing was I threw grammar out the window, at least for that first idea-generating stage. If a sentence wasn't working halfway through I didn't back up to fix it, I just continued on the way it should be. Oddly, editing that messy manuscript was surprisingly easy. The parts that work stand out very clearly and are very easy to lift out from the parts that weren't needed.

All the same, considering this is in the MFA topic... it *is* a little more stressful to be working with a messy draft when you feel a clock ticking for when a 'perfect' sample will be due.

Is anyone out there working on manuscripts for apps due in Aug/Sept?







Yeah, I totally agree with you elissa, I also feel that the clock ticking does generate this overwhelming feeling, and I think it is impossible to write properly if you are feeling anxious about it. I know that I cannot write under that kind of pressure. Writing, as an art form, should be about expression and meditation and communication, but somehow there needs to be beauty and some sort of emotion there at the core, and that does not come by through pressure. Of course it is risky to say that because then one would assume that inspiration is the key, and I honestly don't know. I feel that inspiration is truly important, but I cannot define what it is. I certainly don't think it is this magical or spiritual feeling that guides your fingers into typing magical words. I don't know, for me it is a lot about work. You put it down. And then you edit. And as you said, the editing is easier than one would imagine. The good parts just stand out.

I am writing my manuscript right now. I have a few stories I really like and there are others that I am on the process of writing. I am a VERY SLOW writer, LOL, so maybe only two or three will be ready in time for application. And I write here in Brazil, where I live, and no one knows enough english to provide feedback so I am writing in the dark. Hopefully it will be good enough, and in my case I have to trust solely on my own instincts, gut feelings, and that is better than nothing, and honestly sometimes the best thing one can do. Feedbacks are not always that great a thing.

Are you writing your manuscript, elissa?



bokmakierie



Sep 20, 2010, 2:26 PM

Post #638 of 710 (7651 views)
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professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Hello everyone

I'm in the process of applying to a couple of MFA programmes and working on my writing sample right now. I'm only revising, not generating new work. It feels too late for me for new work, being a slow and pernickety writer. An hour a day: reading aloud, changing openings, a word here, some punctuation there, fleshing out thin scenes, cutting indulgences. The big decision I have to make is what to leave out of what I've chosen. I have about 30 pages of short short stories and about 30 pages comprising two short stories. The limit seems to be around 40 pages. At the moment, everything seems to have a certain kind of value. Some pieces display my writing better, others have value for the content even though the writing might be less developed. That kind of thing.

I wondered if anyone had made use of the various professional services on offer for reviewing one's writing sample? For example, New Wordsmiths, who advertise on these very pages? There are others too. Some offer hand-holding through every step of the application process, some are more focused on the writing sample. I am in a writing group, and will get reviews from there, but I'm also considering using a professional, partly because the members of my group know me and know my work very well. I would like a completely objective opinion, and advice geared towards a successful MFA application. It's expensive, though, so I'd be grateful for opinions on the value or dangers.

Looking forward to ongoing support and information here.

Karen


Glinda Bamboo


Sep 20, 2010, 2:41 PM

Post #639 of 710 (7649 views)
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Re: [Karen Martin] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

I gotta be honest, Karen, I would never use those kinds of services. They seem to be popping up all over to jump on the opportunity to get anxious MFA applicants to hear an "objective" opinion. For $800. Honestly, I don't think it will be worth it in the end. Use your writing group. Lots of people connect with other applicants or writers online to form free critique groups.

I applied to MFA programs once, years ago, when I already had a solid network of writer friends. I sent these writers packets with my stories and asked them to rank my best work so I could choose my MFA writing sample. Guess what? My writer friends all produced VASTLY different rankings. I was left more confused than ever and inevitably had to decide on my own anyway.

I think I chose wrong, by the way. You mentioned "the value of content" vs. stronger writing. Well, go for the writing! I chose stories that I thought exhibited my versatility as a writer (POV, subject matter, etc.) instead of going with my gut on which pieces were the strongest.

Anyway. I know it's not easy. Good luck.


bokmakierie



Sep 20, 2010, 3:05 PM

Post #640 of 710 (7640 views)
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Re: [Glinda Bamboo] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you Glinda. Yes, it's a hang of a lot of money. And ultimately subjective, as you say.


bighark


Sep 20, 2010, 3:14 PM

Post #641 of 710 (7640 views)
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Re: [Karen Martin] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd hardly call those profiteers "professional."

Save your money. Submit those stories to a place like http://www.ourstories.us/, and get a critique for free.

Similarly, peruse the following list at Duotrope for markets that frequently comment on submissions http://www.duotrope.com/RTstats.aspx?report=RPs&pubtype=S.

If you want an unfiltered opinion on the value of your work, submit it for publication. After all, that's what you'll be doing if you want to become a writer and it's what all those people who pay ridiculous amounts of money to MFA application review services will be doing once they've parted with their $300--800 and whatever else they spend getting into and through school.


bokmakierie



Sep 21, 2010, 2:52 AM

Post #642 of 710 (7594 views)
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Re: [bighark] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the opinion and the alternatives, bighark.


jala
Marie

Sep 21, 2010, 10:09 AM

Post #643 of 710 (7582 views)
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Re: [Karen Martin] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

As someone who's been there, I know how tough it is to make the choice as to what writing to send--like your life depends on it. But really, just like it's already been said, the whole thing is subjective, so your writing will find it's proper home. Part of the process, I think, is applying to schools in which the teachers writing, those picking your work, somehow jibes with you--and I don't necessarily mean that there works is exactly like your own, but that you can sense a common ground. Also, trust yourself. Chose the work that you know is strongest--not that you like the best--and that showcases your work as a writer. Then trust that it will be ok. Good luck!


bokmakierie



Sep 21, 2010, 10:26 AM

Post #644 of 710 (7579 views)
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Re: [cmastrangelo] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you Christa. Yes, it's subjective, no matter whom I ask. And yes, if I don't get into a certain a programme perhaps it's because it's not the right programme for the kind of writing I do. Thank you.


patrickdunn


Sep 24, 2010, 1:27 PM

Post #645 of 710 (7501 views)
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Excerpt of a novel for writing sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I was wondering if anyone here has any insight on using a chapter or two of a novel in progress for an MFA writing sample. Is it ok to just send Chapter 1, for example, or should it be edited down to a more cohesive story like people sometimes do for publishing an excerpt in a mag or for public readings.

Some programs I'm applying to require two separate pieces, so I'm planning on using part of a novel and a short story, anyway, but I'm hoping that it's ok to send a chapter of the novel as is.

Thanks!


Swamp Thing
Jim Ryals

Sep 24, 2010, 4:20 PM

Post #646 of 710 (7486 views)
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Re: [bighark] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Karen, I'd second Our Stories. You get a pretty darn good critique. I've also used their one on one pay service now and have been very pleased. Use the most basic one, it's a pretty good value. Milda Devoe is spectarular.


terryjassen


Oct 17, 2010, 4:28 PM

Post #647 of 710 (7313 views)
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Re: [Swamp Thing] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure this question has been asked a million times, so I apologize. My background is in biology. I have never participated in a writing workshop and I don't have any friends who are writers. I have been writing fiction for years but have never shown my work to anyone. It is difficult for me to get a feel for how I stack up against other applicants. I know that it is a subjective process, but it would be great to read a writing sample from an accepted applicant just to get some feel for how it compares to my work. Does anyone know where I can find such a writing sample?

Thanks for your time!

P.S. Has anyone used Driftless House to review their samples. I am considering it - especially given that my stories have never been work-shopped.


terryjassen


Oct 17, 2010, 4:31 PM

Post #648 of 710 (7312 views)
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Re: [Swamp Thing] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Karen, I'd second Our Stories. You get a pretty darn good critique. I've also used their one on one pay service now and have been very pleased. Use the most basic one, it's a pretty good value. Milda Devoe is spectarular.



terryjassen


Oct 17, 2010, 4:48 PM

Post #649 of 710 (7305 views)
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Re: [terryjassen] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Swamp Thing,

When you say the most basic service, are you referring to the $35 single workshop? I think I may try this, the price is certainly right.


Swamp Thing
Jim Ryals

Oct 17, 2010, 6:20 PM

Post #650 of 710 (7299 views)
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Re: [terryjassen] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry if I'm late in responding:

http://www.ourstories.us/...shops/workshops.html

I've used the "lite" workshop which is $115 for three reviews plus some thoughts on where to submit, or at least Devoe has always given a recommendation. I didn't see any reason for a phone call and when asked, neither did she.

There is the single workshop, i.e., one review, which is $35. I've not used this.

I've used Milda (M.M.) Devoe twice now and I've been very impressed with what our collaboration has done to the two stories in question. I am going to work with her again in November.

That said, you can look over the bios of the Our Stories staff and can ask for anyone. But for me, Devoe is the perfect match and I would recommend her.


(This post was edited by Swamp Thing on Oct 17, 2010, 6:22 PM)

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