Aug 6, 2007, 6:23 PM
Post #4 of 4
Is an MFA a requirement for success, or can a writer be successful without one?
Re: [shawanda_78] Beginning As A New Writer
[In reply to]
Not required. I do not have an MFA, so I can't speak to that experience, but my understanding is that the advantages of having an MFA are: networking opportunities, improving your writing (in a much more focused way than most of us can accomplish on our own), and time to write. The disadvantages are primarily financial and logistical, and many people simply are never in a position to do it, and still become successful. Some people believe that they also breed a horrible kind of factory-farmed, write-by-committee blandness, and I think that's something to keep in mind if you're the kind of people pleaser who can't ignore bad advice, but otherwise is not an issue.
If you decide against an MFA, it can be helpful to do a modified version of it at your own pace and within your own resources. A wide knowledge of literature is always a plus to a writer, so seek out writing outside your favorite genre/area and outside your country, time period, culture and/or language (in translation if necessary). Reading lists abound, so you should have no trouble getting recommendations. Also read extensively in the area in which you plan to write, of course, but it sounds like you already do this.
When is the best time to start looking for literary agents to submit to, during the writing of the novel, or once it's completed?
Once it's complete. They won't look at an unfinished first novel, and the market changes so quickly that planning ahead is somewhat counter-productive. It won't hurt to note the names of the agents of your favorite authors, though.
For a poet who has a large collection, is it better to submit singly to contests and magazines, or to select a book length number of poems and submit to publishers that way?
You can do both at the same time.
However, outside of contests (usually for chapbook-length rather than full-length books), it's very rare for publishers to pick up a book of poetry from an unpublished writer. The usual thing is to be published in a bunch of journals first.
Is is a requirement for first time novelists to publish with a smaller press, or are there people who have been able to publish with a larger press his/her first time out?
Lots of writers start with small press. Lots of writers start with big publishers. I can easily rattle off twenty names of people I know personally who have done either one.
Editor: 7x20 * Upper Rubber Boot Books
Most recently: Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days (Atwood, Bacigalupi, JCO, etc.)
Writer: joannemerriam.com * The Glaze from Breaking (poetry)