MFA Confidential Blog

Some Thoughts on Writing Advice

I’ve been thinking about a quote I posted last week by Katherine Anne Porter. The quote speaks about the idea of “being ready,” of waiting until one’s work is mature enough before beginning to pursue publication. Porter says, “I think it is the most curious lack of judgment to publish before you are ready....

5 for Friday: Audience

5 writers on audience from For Writers Only, by Sophy Burnham   “Any writer overwhelmingly honest about pleasing himself is almost sure to please others.” -Marianne Moore “Why I write. Of course I stole this title for this talk from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of...

On the Ideas Behind the Stories

 “I suppose I’ve never set out to write a novel in which nothing happens…only to write a novel about the lives of certain characters. That nothing “happens” in their lives is beside the point to me; I’m still interested in how they live, and think and speak, and make some sense of their own...

5 for Friday: Publishing

5 writers on publishers and publishing from Advice to Writers, compiled and edited by Jon Winokur “The rules seem to be these: if you have written a successful novel, everyone invites you to write short stories. If you have written some good short stories, everyone wants you to write a novel. But nobody wants...

Finding Balance in Our Writing Lives

Sometimes it feels good to hibernate. To hibernate, lock the doors, and do nothing but write. I spent the last few days writing until my fingers fell off. My husband would come home from work and I would stand, almost zombie-like, in front of him. Are you alright? He’d say. Yes! I was alright....

Cut, cut, cut!

Some great advice as I move into the final edits of my thesis: Chop away your darlings! It’s so hard to do sometimes, but doesn’t it make all the difference? “Cut phoniness. There are going to be certain passages that you put in simply in the hope of impressing people. It is true of...

5 for Friday: Inspiration from Anne Lamott

On Wednesday, I said to my husband—It’s a wonder what a difference a day makes. Because Tuesday was bad. Very Bad. Has that every happened to you? You go from having a writing induced mental breakdown one day, and then the next day, only 24 hours later, you’re daydreaming about the acknowledgments section in...

The Importance of Specific Details

Every character who appears in your story must been seen. Where did I read this? It was a quote by a famous writer, I believe.  This writer expressed the importance of the reader being able to visualize even the most fleeting character. If they are going to make an appearance in your story, then...

5 for Friday: Ways to Get Inspired

I am tired of waiting for inspiration to arrive. It’s a finicky thing, inspiration, the harder you wish for it, the more resistant it is to showing up. And so there’s this: the simple act of going out and finding it. The idea of creating it. I spent last weekend at the beach, visiting...

On Trusting Your Voice

“Give a piece to one hundred people, you could possibly get one hundred different opinions—not absolutely different, but lots of variations. This is where the depth of your relationship with yourself is so important. You should listen to what people say. Take in what they say. (Don’t build a steel box around yourself). Then...

On Ending a Creative Drought

The advice below was much needed today. I opened Julia Cameron’s book for some inspiration and there is was. I’ve felt this heaviness lately, this seriousness, when it comes to my writing. I’m realizing this is mostly due to the fact that the final months of my program are approaching and my thesis is...

Is Your Story Worth Saving?

I am not knee deep in the revision process. I am neck deep. So deep that I often feel like I’m drowning. It’s Thesis Time and I’m weeding through all my stories, trying to figure out which ones I want to continue to work on, continue to revise. This is a difficult task. Revision...

On Observing

“Most of us, most of the time, shunt most of what we notice into the same recycling bin where we dump what we imagine. Luckily for writers, at least a little of what we dump can be retrieved and recycled. Once you are at work, most of the memories that serve you will be...

How to make your story truly your own

The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations is a list George Polti created to catalog every dramatic situation that might occur in a story or performance. Every last situation. Essentially meaning: no other situation exists outside these thirty-six. Haven’t you heard this from writing teachers, too? That there are only so many plots, so many stories that...

How does your writing practice benefit you?

According to A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves, these are the effects of a writing practice. What do you think? And what would you add? ·         Daily writing practice sessions improve your writing ·         Writing will come easier and be less forced ·         You’ll take more risks in your writing ·         You’ll...

On Patience

“Nothing is ever wasted. I thought I was writing a novel and it ended up being eight hundred pages of crap around one thing that was real and alive, and unfortunately all of the crap was necessary to arrive at that. If you do this, every single time you do it, you learn stuff....

5 for Friday: Dialogue

  One of my most favorite things about writing fiction is writing dialogue. I love figuring out how my characters speak. I love portraying how people communicate, and I love, even more, showing the opposite: the lack in communication, the holes in conversation, the things left unsaid. I’m always looking for advice on how...

Creating Characters

  Developing characters can be a lot of fun. Some people say their characters just come to them, they’re taking a shower and boom!—they hear a voice, and from that point on the voice doesn’t stop talking to them. For others, it comes more slowly. Perhaps there is a name you’ve always been hanging...

On Writer's Block

“It would probably be too strong a statement for me to say I don’t believe in ‘writer’s block.’ But I almost don’t believe in it. I think the term is a bit pretentious. I think everybody has days when his or her work is not flowing, no matter what the work is. . ....

Transforming fear and breaking through the writing wall

It hurts. Being pushed artistically. Being pushed to reach higher, dig deeper. Sometimes we’re pushed by a teacher, a mentor. Other times we have to push ourselves. Years ago I took an expressive dance class at Stella Adler Conservatory in New York City. I had always been interested in acting and this summer program...

Your idea in motion

I’m realizing one thing that gets me stuck, that freezes me up, is that I want so badly to get it down perfectly the first time. Who was it that said our thoughts are always grander in our mind? That they can never compare to what we get down on the page? It’s so...

5 for Friday: More Writing Encouragement

Here are more encouraging words from 5 writers, taken from Advice to Writers, compiled and edited by Jon Winokur.  Enjoy and Happy writing! “For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or...

Has writing arrived in search of you?

Do you remember the time you wrote a sentence, a line, and realized that this is exactly what you wanted to do? What you had to do? That writing was the only thing that made your heart feel that particular way? I remember saying to my husband once–It’s almost like falling in love. And...