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bighark


Nov 10, 2010, 11:38 PM

Post #676 of 709 (7532 views)
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Re: [patrickdunn] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Patrick,

Don't let preparation anxiety stop you from taking the GRE. The test doesn't impact application decisions in any way. Seriously. Work on your sample because that's the most important thing, but go ahead and reserve a day to take the test. Don't needlessly limit your options on account of a silly technicality.


patrickdunn


Nov 11, 2010, 3:50 PM

Post #677 of 709 (7505 views)
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Re: [bighark] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Patrick,

Don't let preparation anxiety stop you from taking the GRE. The test doesn't impact application decisions in any way. Seriously. Work on your sample because that's the most important thing, but go ahead and reserve a day to take the test. Don't needlessly limit your options on account of a silly technicality.



I actually lucked out. Most of the programs I want to apply to aren't requiring the GRE. The big exception was NYU for me, but realistically speaking I would only be able to go there with full funding, which is impossible to get as far as I can tell.


ericweinstein
Eric Weinstein


Nov 11, 2010, 4:30 PM

Post #678 of 709 (7500 views)
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Re: [patrickdunn] professional review services [In reply to] Can't Post

Full funding from the department is hard to come by; most (but not all) of the departmental fellowships are taken by second-year students. There's always the possibility of an outside scholarship or fellowship (the Jacob K. Javits fellowship comes to mind).


Hans Landa: You'll be shot for this!
Aldo Raine: Nah, I don't think so. More like chewed out. I've been chewed out before.


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 4:47 AM

Post #679 of 709 (7358 views)
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Re: [Aubrie] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Alright, I've got a question as well. For a 25 page sample scenario: my short story is around 16 pages. It's def. my strongest work. I'll send that.
Do I leave it at that? OR, do I send a two page flash fiction, poetry-esque piece along with it? It's a bit more experimental and lyrical.
Perhaps this will work against me, perhaps not.
Advice?
Suggestions?
Any sanity to lend to me?


Hi!

I'm losing it here! Would you mind sharing with us if you ended up applying with a single story and if you were accepted anywhere?? I'm trying to meet NYU's and Austin's deadlines (Dec. 15/16) and so far I only have two short pieces that have been polished and are seemingly "ready" to go out, the first is 10 pages long, the second 4. Is it insane to think I have a chance of getting in anywhere with such a short manuscript?? I'm also planning on applying to Syracuse,Houston, UF,Indiana, LSU, UM-Boston. Indiana asks for "at least 30 pages" and most of the others ask for a range of 20-30... Please let me know your thoughts? I feel good about my story but reading all these posts has left me shaking with doubt :(


pongo
Buy this book!

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Dec 2, 2010, 8:02 AM

Post #680 of 709 (7352 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Just a very cautious, respectful suggestion: If, in your career as a writer to date, you've only produced 14 pages of which you're proud, maybe you should put off going into an MFA program.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


Truth & Fiction



Dec 2, 2010, 12:14 PM

Post #681 of 709 (7326 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Just a very cautious, respectful suggestion: If, in your career as a writer to date, you've only produced 14 pages of which you're proud, maybe you should put off going into an MFA program.


While I see where you're coming from, I think that's a little harsh, especially if we don't know fridadreams' exact situation. It's definitely possible to have written pages and pages and pages, including some things you like and are proud of, but just don't feel are 100% polished or the best representation of what to send with an MFA application. Who knows.

I say go ahead and send the shorter package of your strongest work. Don't worry about how many pages other people are submitting. I bet some of the application reviewers will actually be relieved to get some shorter submissions.

Best of luck to you.

ETA: I just saw that you mentioned Indiana, which requests "at least 30" pages. If you definitely don't have more than these 14 pages that you are comfortable submitting, then I would suggest not applying to Indiana. Padding your page count with weaker stuff is not going to help you. I guess the best solution is to try your hardest to polish another piece so you can meet the requirements for most schools (assuming you do believe that this is also strong work that will support your application).


Truth and Fiction

(This post was edited by Truth & Fiction on Dec 2, 2010, 12:17 PM)


jlgwriter
Jeanne Lyet Gassman
e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 12:26 PM

Post #682 of 709 (7320 views)
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Re: [Truth & Fiction] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm afraid I agree with Pongo. When I was applying to MFA programs, I called a couple of them to ask about the length of submissions. Several wanted 30 pages, and I felt that I had about 25 good pages. I wanted to know if I should fill out the 30 pages with something short or just go with the 25.

Every program advised the same thing: Send your best work, but you need to come close to the length requests. In other words, if a program asks for 25-30 pages, sending only 14 is NOT a good idea. They ask for those lengths for a reason--they want to read enough of your work to develop a solid understanding of your skills and potential.

I revised my weaker story one more time and ended up with 27 pages.

Just my thoughts...

Jeanne
http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


http://www.jeannelyetgassman.com
http://jeannelyetgassman.blogspot.com


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 12:50 PM

Post #683 of 709 (7314 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Just a very cautious, respectful suggestion: If, in your career as a writer to date, you've only produced 14 pages of which you're proud, maybe you should put off going into an MFA program.



I majored in creative writing seven years ago. I felt guilty and selfish about the degree and set out to establish a "serious" and "grown up" career to show my immigrant parents their efforts weren't wasted. I taught in Japan after graduation and eventually found my way to court advocacy for sexually abused children testifying against their perpetrators. After three years, I started doing a child abuse prevention and education column in a Spanish newspaper which led to our center's hotline getting calls. Long story short, it made me realize that I could in fact contribute thru my writing. I signed up for two workshops in the Spring and revised a short story written back in my undergrad years that completely changed its tone. After almost four years, I quit my job, and this October, I finished a three month internship at the second-largest English publication in one of the top four largest cities in the country. I did this because it was free and I wanted to be around and learn from professional writers and lacked the financial resources to take more writing workshops. Good writing is good writing, whether fiction or journalism.

I thought the purpose of an MFA was to work on one's craft and towards a solid manuscript. The workshops that I took taught me the power of revision and showed me a taste of what it would be like to be in an environment of dedicated readers and writers.

Pongo, you hit a nerve, because i so desperately want to get into a school that will allow for three years of focused, selfish writing time, and yet, having spent all week reading every single post in here, I'm paralyzed with fear. I have 3 creative writing professors who are published agreeing to write me letters, but yet...


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 1:15 PM

Post #684 of 709 (7309 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Just a very cautious, respectful suggestion: If, in your career as a writer to date, you've only produced 14 pages of which you're proud, maybe you should put off going into an MFA program.



I majored in creative writing seven years ago. I felt guilty and selfish about the degree and set out to establish a "serious" and "grown up" career to show my immigrant parents their efforts weren't wasted. I taught in Japan after graduation and eventually found my way to court advocacy for sexually abused children testifying against their perpetrators. After three years, I started doing a child abuse prevention and education column in a Spanish newspaper which led to our center's hotline getting calls. Long story short, it made me realize that I could in fact contribute thru my writing. I signed up for two workshops in the Spring and revised a short story written back in my undergrad years that completely changed its tone. After almost four years, I quit my job, and this October, I finished a three month internship at the second-largest English publication in one of the top four largest cities in the country. I did this because it was free and I wanted to be around and learn from professional writers and lacked the financial resources to take more writing workshops. Good writing is good writing, whether fiction or journalism.

I thought the purpose of an MFA was to work on one's craft and towards a solid manuscript. The workshops that I took taught me the power of revision and showed me a taste of what it would be like to be in an environment of dedicated readers and writers.

Pongo, you hit a nerve, because i so desperately want to get into a school that will allow for three years of focused, selfish writing time, and yet, having spent all week reading every single post in here, I'm paralyzed with fear. I have 3 creative writing professors who are published agreeing to write me letters, but yet...


That was verbal diarrhea. Is there not a way to delete one's posts?!


patrickdunn


Dec 2, 2010, 1:34 PM

Post #685 of 709 (7302 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

fridadreams,

Trust your gut. There's a lot of great info on these boards, but too many opinions can be paralyzing. At the end of the day, it's all just that: opinions. As far as I can tell, no one here is on a selection committee at an MFA program.

The whole selection process seems to be mysterious, so who knows what will work and what won't. If you apply this year and don't get in, you are in no worse a situation than if you didn't apply at all (minus the app fee's of course).

Also, some of the schools I'm applying to only list a maximum number of pages instead of a range. I bet if you called some of the schools you are looking at and asked if you should send 14 great pages or not, you'd get an opinion on whether or not you should try to write more.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 1:41 PM

Post #686 of 709 (7299 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Frida, yes, one of the purposes (there are many, many) of an MFA program is to work on your craft. But not everyone is ready to devote three years (or two years, in some programs) to that. For me, it came relatively late in life. For others, it comes early. But the cost and disruption of a graduate program are too much to find out if you are committed to writing. If you are committed, then write, and when you have enough material to apply, then apply. You should go into the program knowing what you are going to write, not hoping to find your idea. There is no harm in putting it off for a semester or a year, and no shame.

And there is no shame in doing it when you are young, for that matter. I guess what I'm really trying to say is don't rush yourself just because everyone else is doing it right now.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 1:56 PM

Post #687 of 709 (7297 views)
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Re: [pongo] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Frida, yes, one of the purposes (there are many, many) of an MFA program is to work on your craft. But not everyone is ready to devote three years (or two years, in some programs) to that. For me, it came relatively late in life. For others, it comes early. But the cost and disruption of a graduate program are too much to find out if you are committed to writing. If you are committed, then write, and when you have enough material to apply, then apply. You should go into the program knowing what you are going to write, not hoping to find your idea. There is no harm in putting it off for a semester or a year, and no shame.

And there is no shame in doing it when you are young, for that matter. I guess what I'm really trying to say is don't rush yourself just because everyone else is doing it right now.


Sir, with all due respect, I'd like to point out, that this year I took two creative writing workshops, published in local and national news sources, finished a three month internship- and quit my job in order to do it. I have written more than 16 pages, obviously, just not anything else I'd share with anyone just yet. I don't wish to enter into an MFA for the purpose of finding myself, or seeing if I'm committed to writing, or what I'd like to write about. And I've already experienced the "cost and disruption" - I quit my job to do this. Just, figuring the financial side to applying led me back to freelance writing jobs that somehow ended up with it being Dec. 2 and my having only 16 pages. I'm sorry. I know I'm sounding defensive. I'm just a little lost. But I do thank you for your insight and your replies. Thank you.


kghoerth



Dec 2, 2010, 3:30 PM

Post #688 of 709 (7284 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Hey Frida (:

I like all the suggestions swirling around here~ I think everyone makes some good points. Yes, it's good to wait until you're 'ready'... and yes it's good to 'go with your gut' (gotta love them trusty cliches)! And if you feel ready, with sixteen fantastic pages in hand, then shoot it out and pray for the best.

I'll tell you something - you sure do sound a heck of a lot more prepared for an MFA program than I was. I was twenty years old when I started my MFA, a naive little 20 year old looking for validation as a writer - a 20 year old with some funding and lots of time to kill X-D LOL. Well, needless to say I'm in (ahem) year 4 of a 2 year program but what the heck, I'm defending soon and damn proud.

My point - I wasn't ready. I just didn't know it yet. But you, you sound a lot more ready than I was. And well... I got accepted, took a few little stumbles here and there, but I'm making it through and you will too :-)

Best wishes to you!

Katie


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 5:04 PM

Post #689 of 709 (7269 views)
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Re: [patrickdunn] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
fridadreams,

Trust your gut. There's a lot of great info on these boards, but too many opinions can be paralyzing. At the end of the day, it's all just that: opinions. As far as I can tell, no one here is on a selection committee at an MFA program.

The whole selection process seems to be mysterious, so who knows what will work and what won't. If you apply this year and don't get in, you are in no worse a situation than if you didn't apply at all (minus the app fee's of course).

Also, some of the schools I'm applying to only list a maximum number of pages instead of a range. I bet if you called some of the schools you are looking at and asked if you should send 14 great pages or not, you'd get an opinion on whether or not you should try to write more.


Thank you, Patrick. I'll call them. I like Indiana's program, but I need to be realistic about meeting their basic reqs.


fridadreams

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 5:07 PM

Post #690 of 709 (7267 views)
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Re: [kghoerth] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Hey Frida (:

I like all the suggestions swirling around here~ I think everyone makes some good points. Yes, it's good to wait until you're 'ready'... and yes it's good to 'go with your gut' (gotta love them trusty cliches)! And if you feel ready, with sixteen fantastic pages in hand, then shoot it out and pray for the best.

I'll tell you something - you sure do sound a heck of a lot more prepared for an MFA program than I was. I was twenty years old when I started my MFA, a naive little 20 year old looking for validation as a writer - a 20 year old with some funding and lots of time to kill X-D LOL. Well, needless to say I'm in (ahem) year 4 of a 2 year program but what the heck, I'm defending soon and damn proud.

My point - I wasn't ready. I just didn't know it yet. But you, you sound a lot more ready than I was. And well... I got accepted, took a few little stumbles here and there, but I'm making it through and you will too :-)

Best wishes to you!

Katie


Thank you for taking the time to share, Katie. It's hard to talk about this with family and friends. This forum is a blessing, even it it can be somewhat overwhelming. May I ask, where did you get in? You can email me if you like :)


mw1363
Marc Watkins
e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 7:17 PM

Post #691 of 709 (7250 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Lead off with your best work, no matter the length. Apply if you feel youíre ready.
When I applied to MFA programs in 2007 I had maybe 23 pages (and this is with some really creative spacing between graphs in one of the two application stories). I got into 3/10 programs that I applied to. It helped that both stories had been accepted for publication, but I later found out that several accepted students in my incoming class had samples in the 17 page range.
The first paragraph along with the following two or three pages of your writing sample really make the difference. I know that several MFA programs (but certainly not all!) rely on a tiered point system for applicants. The writing sample is often read by all/most/some of the fiction instructors who score the sample on a range from 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Once all instructors have read a sample and graded the stories the results are tallied and the highest ranked samples move into a final stage, where the faculty judges them once more, making decisions based on both aesthetics and the number of slots open/ funding available.
The fact is that many of the more well-known MFA programs receive hundreds of applications every year, and because of this very few writing samples, even from those who eventually get accepted, are read entirely through to the last page by all members of the application committee. Iíve know several instructors who have ranked application packets with high scores based solely on the first few pages of the sample.
Now, Iím not saying this is true of all schools and all faculty on MFA application committees, but do keep in mind that most of these men and women are busy teaching workshops (in some cases workshops plus sections of comp and lit), directing graduate thesis, serving on other faculty committees and doing so while trying to write and publish their own work, so theyíre not going to put in any effort into an application sample unless the first few pages rock.
Bottom line: nail down a really great opening and the sample has a shot.


maybemd


Dec 2, 2010, 7:30 PM

Post #692 of 709 (7247 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
Just a very cautious, respectful suggestion: If, in your career as a writer to date, you've only produced 14 pages of which you're proud, maybe you should put off going into an MFA program.



Good writing is good writing, whether fiction or journalism.

I thought the purpose of an MFA was to work on one's craft and towards a solid manuscript. The workshops that I took taught me the power of revision and showed me a taste of what it would be like to be in an environment of dedicated readers and writers.

Pongo, you hit a nerve, because i so desperately want to get into a school that will allow for three years of focused, selfish writing time, and yet, having spent all week reading every single post in here, I'm paralyzed with fear. I have 3 creative writing professors who are published agreeing to write me letters, but yet...



Frida -- I think David/Pongo was trying to add a wise note of caution to the conversation.

I'd like to inject a bit more. Although I'm a true believer in non-fiction writers having lots to teach writers of fiction -- and vice versa -- I don't think the shared qualities come quite to the level of "good writing is good writing, whether fiction or journalism". There are required differences, enough so there are programs (like Goucher College in MD) offering MFAs in creative non-fiction.

It's not a question of age or real-life experience. It's a question of having acqured enough fiction-crafting skills to enable you to thrive in a rigorous program of fiction writing, and reading and annotating. Not just surviving and crawling your way through, but being able to contribute to the program as much as it offers to you.

Are you thinking of applying to Indiana's Creative Writing Program, which grants MFAs in fiction and poetry? Or are you thnking of applying to programs in creative non-fiction, or perhaps journalism?

To echo David, if you only have 16 pages of fiction that you believe worth "showing to someone else", then perhaps you should step back and take another look at your current fiction-writing abilities. Are they up to a graduate-level course of studies?

But...but! If you have a number of creative writing teachers who believe you are ready for the challenges of a CW MFA program, then you should take the advice of folks who are familiar with your work, and not that of strangers on some website.

David -- is there an article or essay a developing fiction writer could look at, see if s/he understands the point the author is trying to make about some work of fiction? Something that would "test" a writer's understanding of the crafting of fiction? Some time ago on another thread, there was an essay, maybe an annotation, that you suggested an MFA applicant read. It blew him (I think it was a he) away, he couldn't follow the arguments and so decided he wasn't ready to write annotations just yet.


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Dec 2, 2010, 9:24 PM

Post #693 of 709 (7239 views)
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Re: [maybemd] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
David -- is there an article or essay a developing fiction writer could look at, see if s/he understands the point the author is trying to make about some work of fiction? Something that would "test" a writer's understanding of the crafting of fiction? Some time ago on another thread, there was an essay, maybe an annotation, that you suggested an MFA applicant read. It blew him (I think it was a he) away, he couldn't follow the arguments and so decided he wasn't ready to write annotations just yet.


I can't recall what essay (or annotation) that might have been. But Umberto Eco's "Six Walks in the Fictional Woods" would be a good test of critical readiness. It's dense, and interesting, but hardly impossible (it ain't Walter Benjamin, for example). There's plenty of good criticism around that is at a graduate-school level.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


fictionista


Dec 2, 2010, 11:30 PM

Post #694 of 709 (7225 views)
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Re: [fridadreams] Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Frida, good luck to you. MFA programs are made up of all kinds of people with different degrees of preparation and commitment, and you sound more committed than most. I think any program would be lucky to have you. And certainly don't feel you have to submit to some arbitrary "test" of critical worthiness.

Quote



skt


Dec 11, 2010, 6:48 PM

Post #695 of 709 (7069 views)
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Re: Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I am applying with a packet of ten poems that were part of my undergraduate thesis--as such, they have a specific order/flow. Would it be better to lead with what I consider to be my strongest poem, or to stick with the order of the original collection, which I feel is stronger as a whole, but places some of my favorites near the end?

Thanks!

Charlotte


makemake
Kaitlin Trott

Feb 25, 2013, 5:15 PM

Post #696 of 709 (5901 views)
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Poetry Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

This particular thread seems to be a desolate wasteland... c'est la vie. I forge ahead.
I am planning to apply to some MFA programs this coming winter, for Poetry. I have some questions that I will literally read any/all responses to.
1. Most of my poems are 1-page/less than a page long. Is this acceptable? Strange?
2. Should the poems in my writing sample have titles?
3. Any tips for a poetry writing sample, in general?
Thanks in advance ~


pongo
Buy this book!

e-mail user

Feb 25, 2013, 5:30 PM

Post #697 of 709 (5897 views)
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Re: [makemake] Poetry Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Most of everyone's poems are a page or less, especially single-spaced. This is not a problem.

A title is another opportunity to add meaning to your poem, or to help the reader understand your intention. For that reason, most of us like to put titles on our poems, but they are not required. Many authors have untitled poems that are generally called by their first lines (Dickinson, most famously, but a lot of Millay's sonnets, and numerous others).

Send your newest and best stuff in your writing sample. If your best work is not your latest, you may need a new hobby.


The Review Mirror, available at www.unsolicitedpress.com

Difficult Listening, Sundays from ten to noon (Central time), at http://www.radiofreenashville.org/.

http://home.comcast.net/~david.m.harris/site/


makemake
Kaitlin Trott

Feb 25, 2013, 5:45 PM

Post #698 of 709 (5896 views)
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Re: [pongo] Poetry Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks v. much! :}


notthatcreativearewe
Greg Ongao

Jul 10, 2013, 10:43 AM

Post #699 of 709 (3863 views)
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Re: [makemake] Poetry Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm currently a philosophy major entering my last year as an undergrad and (very) recently decided to pursue fiction writing at the grad level. I only how to write philosophy papers but have no experience at all writing fiction (in fact I wrote my first real piece of fiction last week, it was a thousand words long and not very good). So I have a few questions: are there any suggested readings that might serve as a helpful beginners guide to writing fiction? (I know someone suggested "Six Walks in the Fictional Woods" in an earlier post, and I plan to devour it as soon as I get my hands on it). Moreover, i'm hopelessly illiterate of the different movements and traditions of writing (i'm aware at least that the predominant postmodern tradition is meta-fiction), is it necessary when producing a writing sample to be wedded to a particular tradition?


alamana
Jennifer Brown


Jul 10, 2013, 11:14 AM

Post #700 of 709 (3862 views)
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Re: [notthatcreativearewe] Poetry Writing Sample [In reply to] Can't Post

In my MFA program two professors had us working with what I think of as "how to" guides for writing fiction. The books were John Gardner's The Art of Fiction and How Fiction Works by James Wood. I found both books extremely valuable. (I would almost go so far as to say that reading the Gardner book and doing all of the exercises in it is pretty close to an MFA education).

But actually reading fiction has been far more helpful for me. If you haven't already, you should probably pick up some fiction anthologies and just read through them and try and focus on what makes each story work. I'd get the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction which is a must--it will have lots of classic stories (I remember Capote, Lawrence, Garcia Marquez, Faulkner and O'Connor to name a few). And maybe Best American Short Stories going back 3-4 years so you know what the scene looks like right now.

Don't worry about the different "traditions" at all. I have an MFA and still only have a vague idea of what they are. Studied quite a bit of "modernism" in school and I would still have a hard time explaining what it is. Having a philosophy background will probably help you understand that stuff better than I do.

Good luck with this. Writing good fiction is hard as hell. Actually I write so-so fiction, and for me that is hard is hell.


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

http://www.jenniferkirkpatrickbrown.com

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