Earning an MFA in Creative Writing is a great accomplishment. It could definitely help you advance in your writing career. You learn skills you may not have known before. You interact with other aspiring writers who share the same ideas, passions, and struggles. You realize how you can change your story for the better. Overall, learning and development will always be part of a writer’s journey, and an MFA in Creative Writing can get you on that path. Yet, that path is not the only surefire way of becoming a successful writer ―and here’s why.
Structure and discipline, continuous writing, a steady reading plan, and a supportive team ― four key offerings in every MFA in Creative Writing program ― can also be accessed and achieved outside of the classroom. If you plan to teach creative writing, earning an MFA in Creative Writing is the way to go. But you should think twice if you believe earning an MFA in Creative Writing will place you at the top of the bestselling authors list. Put yourself to the test and figure out if you can achieve these four steps on your own before spending time and a ton of money into an MFA in Creative Writing program.
Develop Structure and Discipline
The first and most important step in a writer’s career. Encouraging yourself to dedicate time and energy to a task is one thing; actually doing it is another ball game. It can be extremely difficult, but becoming disciplined and adding structure to your writing journey is a key factor to becoming a successful writer. Set aside time to write a couple of pages of your book every night before you go to bed. Or, revise your story twice a week during your lunch break. Or, tackle writing prompts first thing every Monday morning. However you structure your writing schedule, make sure you stick to it! Staying structured and disciplined on a regular basis will definitely help you get on the right track to becoming a successful writer.
Write, Write, Write, and Write Some More
The most obvious yet frightening step of all. Sitting down and actually writing something can be a little intimidating, especially if you haven’t exactly mapped out your story ideas just yet. But the key is to take those ideas in your mind and jot them down. Jot down whatever comes to mind. Yes, you will notice that you’ve written down words that may or may not make sense at first. Or, you may have written several pages of your story without realizing it. If so, that’s great! Keep writing. And don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and punctuation at this stage. It’s more important to write, write, write. With your writing schedule in place, you will have developed a story that has started from just an idea in your head to an engaging book for your readers.
Start a Reading Plan
The most tedious step in a writer’s journey. Oftentimes, writers get so wrapped up in writing books that they forget to actually read. At some point, writers will have to multitask and read just as much (or even more) as they write. Add a reading plan to your writing schedule. Learn about authors who have written books in your genre, and read and study their books carefully. Pay close attention to voice, style, and tone in their books. Learn how authors introduce their protagonists into their stories. Determine any climatic elements. Moreover, reading a variety of books in your genre will help you improve and develop your own style of writing.
Be a Part of a Writing Community
The most helpful step for every writer. You can have the best structured schedule in the world, work on your story every day, and read a ton of books a month. But being a part of a community of writers can help you determine the pros and cons of your writing. Share your story with other writers and receive constructive criticism and feedback. And do the same for other writers too. Their feedback and criticism may also give you more ideas for your story. You can find writer’s groups and workshops on Facebook, in your local area, and at conferences for writers, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference.