Journey to a MFA
My colleagues asked me why I decided to pursue my MFA when I had already completed a master's degree. For me, the reasoning was simple: my first master's degree was for my career in government, the MFA is for me. I wanted to get back to my passion for writing, and while pursuing another degree wasn't necessary to do that, I do best with deadlines and structure, which a degree program provides.
I've only been in my program for about a year, and already its paid for itself in spades. I had been struggling with writing a novel I had started at the end of 2019. I wasn't motivated to write, and I had hit some extreme writer's block in trying to get to the next chapter. The MFA program changed that for me. Suddenly, if I didn't finish the next chapter, I wouldn't have pages to submit for tutorial or workshop. Having always been a good student (well, except in Math), it was the push I needed. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month in November of 2020, and managed to pound out over 50,000 words in 30 days. Since my manuscript is a holiday romance, it was easy enough to finish it during the Christmas season.
That said, my experience hasn't been all sunshine and roses. The director of my program was also my first tutorial instructor, and he had several ideas for how I should use the program to my advantage. Unfortunately, none of them actually panned out. Nonetheless, I've found my own way to take full advantage of my program, by starting a second manuscript! If I play my cards right, I can push almost the entirety of both manuscripts through the program to receive revisions and feedback from experts in the field. At this point, I'm set to finish the program by next summer, and I hope to have two complete and polished manuscripts to pitch.
In the meantime, I plan to participate in a few pitching events just to get my feet wet. I participated in June's #PitMad and received a heart from an agent. She declined my query, but it was a great experience for ripping off that Band-Aid. I plan to participate in #CarinaPitch this week, the September and December #PitMad, and I also have plans to live pitch at the #ChesapeakeWW conference. Many in my program have agents and/or book deals by the time they graduate, so it would be amazing to join their ranks!
There were actually three MFA programs that had caught my eye before I settled on the one I joined. Seton University was a great option as they specifically catered to genres, and romance was one of the genres. Arcadia University was actually my second choice as they travel to Scotland during the second year. But ultimately, I chose Queens University of Charlotte for a number of reasons: 1) they allowed a lot more flexibility in their program, which I needed; 2) they travel to South America every summer (though Covid has changed that); and 3) they have a book development program which puts writers working with editors in the field on their manuscript to polish it for publishing.
That last reason has taken on less importance for me. One of the options the program director had recommended to me was to submit my book to that program; however, none of the editors they have contracted with had experience with a Christmas romance. I've since learned that what this program offers is something writers can access by hiring a developmental editor, so that's something I may pursue in the future.
I've heard from people who have completed MFAs that their writing has really matured from what they wrote for their degree. There's also been discussions on the problem with MFA students and their writing. I can't remember exactly what I heard an agent say recently, but whatever it was caused me to remove my pursuit of a MFA from my first query letter. The degree may not help me to publish any books, but at least it helped me finish them!
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Book reviews, random thoughts, and writing samples from an aspiring author.