Monday, September 30, 2019
Degrees in Creative Writing May Leave You Missing The Big Picture
This weekend, I spent the time answering a ton of submissions. Several of these were from authors who were either instructors at universities teaching creative writing, or people with MFA's in Creative Writing. In ALL of these cases, I rejected the authors due to a clear sense they only had a "textbook" knowledge of writing.
Let me explain...
If you have ever taken a creative writing course at college, or seen a creative writing textbook, the emphasis is really the same as we see in a basic level literature class. You spend time with a lot of workshop level activities. My son is currently taking a course in creative writing and is seeing the same thing. While an activity where you tell the same story from different perspectives might be a great tool for understanding point of view, it does not mean that project needs to become a novel.
Many of these rejections I sent also were due to people clearly not understanding the industry. They have written a novel as part of their graduate work, gotten feedback from other people who have done the same thing, but have never gone out to see "the real world" of publishing. These authors submit things just like they would for a proposal at a conference. They also seem to miss the whole concept of "researching" if this person they are sending the project to even represents their work. They are just relying on the "great feedback they have gotten from their university literary program."
I have taught several college level creative writing classes, and one element I have always provided is looking at the industry side of writing. We talked about how to research editors and agents. We discussed the process a book goes through to get published. We talked about the submission process. We also made sure people understood the reality of the business beyond the textbook activities.
While getting a MFA is fine, those 2 years of a graduate program DO NOT make you an author. Like many authors who are successful out there, you will need to take the time to really grow and learn as an author.
I would also encourage you, if you are involved in a project like this, either at a student or instructor, to reach out to the editors and agents to have them come in as guest speakers in your classroom. Go beyond the University Press editors and find the people in the trenches. Your students will thank you.