Friday, March 31, 2017

Do It Yourself MFA: Month One recap

Happy almost April! The YA Scavenger Hunt starts on April 4th and you know I'll be participating, so now seemed like a good time to do my first DIY MFA update post. These posts are part of the Community element of my DIY MFA program.

What is Do it Yourself MFA? For more info you can check out the intro post I wrote at the beginning of the month. The quick and dirty is that I would love to do an MFA program but I can't afford it, so I found this book that is basically the blueprint to create my own graduate program in writing and I tweaked the author's formula to fit me and my goals. Here's the official description from Goodreads:


Get the Knowledge Without the College! You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you're willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason--tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities--you've never been able to do it. Or maybe you've been looking for a self-guided approach so you don't have to go back to school. This book is for you.


"DIY MFA" is the do-it-yourself alternative to a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing. By combining the three main components of a traditional MFA--writing, reading, and community--it teaches you how to craft compelling stories, engage your readers, and publish your work. 

Inside you'll learn how to: Set customized goals for writing and learning. Generate ideas on demand.Outline your book from beginning to end. Breathe life into your characters. Master point of view, voice, dialogue, and more. Read with a "writer's eye" to emulate the techniques of others. Network like a pro, get the most out of writing workshops, and submit your work successfully. Writing belongs to everyone--not only those who earn a degree. With "DIY MFA," you can take charge of your writing, produce high-quality work, get published, and build a writing career.



from DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira


Pro tip: The hardest book for you to write is probably the one you should be working on.

Let's see how I did with meeting my goals [Spoiler: I crushed them :D]

Writing:
My writing goals are to write and revise an average of 120-160 pages a month.

Outcome: 
Not only did I squeak out (barely) the 120 pages on my first DIY MFA project, I also wrote and obsessively honed the equivalent of 60 pages for a proposal to turn into one of my publishers. This is without a doubt the tightest proposal I've ever pitched, and I'm really excited and hopeful about the book's possibilities.


Reading:
My reading goals are to average one book a week throughout the whole program.

My titles will be selected from four different groups:
  1. Free choice 
  2. Comparison 
  3. Classic/Literary
  4. Research
Outcome:
During the month of March I read:

Free choice: Noggin by John Corey Whaley, A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood
Comparison: Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Classic: Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
Research/Non-fiction: I am slowly working my way through The Essential Chomsky, by Noam Chomsky, but that is dense reading and I'll be working on that book for a while, or until the library makes me turn it in ;)


Community:
This category encompasses everything from interacting with authors, teachers, librarians, readers on social media to attending events and doing presentations, etc. This will be the hardest category for me.

Outcome:
During the month of March I did the following:
  • maintained relationships with bloggers, readers, etc. online
  • set up a Skype visit giveaway for teachers and librarians
  • attended an author dinner with local authors
  • attended an author event at Powell's
  • worked on getting book donations for a local teen addiction center
  • completed three short editing projects with Manuscript Critique Services
  • emailed/messaged to discuss story, industry, motivation with multiple author buddies
  • blogged about my DIY MFA experience


Education:
My plan for this month's educational component was to review the first four lessons from the Masterclass James Patterson writing course.

Outcome:
I completed this goal :)

Pro tip: Don't let momentary failure derail your progress. No one meets ALL of their deadlines.

I was really lucky this month because I had no deadlines and no major promotional responsibilities so I could give DIY MFA a lot of focus. I know there will be some months, especially when I'm revising, where I don't meet my goals, but that's okay. The best thing about this program so far is the way it's encouraging me to read regularly, and read critically as well. Reading great books has the added bonus of inspiring me to focus on my own writing, so even though I spent more time in March reading, I also saw an increase in my writing productivity!

If DIY MFA is something you're interested in, check out Gabriela's website, and check back here at the beginning of each month as I review my progress from the previous month and share tips and tricks I've discovered along the way. I hope you drop by for the YA Scavenger Hunt next week too :D I'll be running a secondary contest where you can win any of my published books, as well as either of my Summer 2017 ARCs!

Have you checked out my next release yet? Taz and Moo give it two tails up :)
Click on the cover in the sidebar for more info and to read the beginning.