Personal, Update

MFA Update and 5 Writing Tips

I just finished my sixth quarter at Lindenwood University. For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on an MFA in writing fiction. I can’t believe I only have two quarters left! If everything goes according to plan, I will be finished in March 2018.

Overall, my experiencing in the MFA program has been very positive. I think that I’ve grown so much as a writer, so I wanted to share some things with aspiring writers. Here are my five top tips for writers:

  1. Discipline is so important. It doesn’t matter that you have millions of great ideas if you never get them down on paper. It is a great idea to come up with a writing routine so that you get in the habit of writing every single day.
  2. Editing is crucial. No one’s first draft is perfect. Yes, publishers provide editors if they decide to take on your project, but it’s important to do your best so that you can even get to that point. Make sure you’ve done all you can to make your project the best before you send it out.
  3. Feedback is so helpful. You can’t objectively analyze your own writing. You just can’t. It’s so important to have a beta reader you can trust that will provide you with honest feedback of what isn’t working in your project.
  4. Rejection is unavoidable. Whether your peers hate your story in workshop or several publishers say no to you, every writer will face rejection at some point. In fact, rejection is going to happen a lot more than acceptance. If you want to be a successful writer, you’ve got to develop a thick skin. Don’t let rejection get you down. Let it inspire you to become a better writer.
  5. Conventions exist for a reason. Sure, rules can be broken, but most publishers won’t take a chance on something too experimental. There’s a reason that children’s books are shorter than adult books – children don’t have a long attention span. There’s a reason that most novels aren’t written in second person – it’s hard to sustain for longer projects. Have you noticed that most horror movies are exactly 90 minutes long? It’s difficult to create suspense and have escalating tension for much longer than that. Learn why the conventions exist in each genre before trying to break the rules.

I hope that these suggestions can be helpful to anyone reading this blog who is considering becoming a writer or sending things out to publishers. Writing can be discouraging – only about 4% of writers can live off what they make from their writing – but it’s also very rewarding to see your name in print. Honestly, I think that the process of writing is so enjoyable that it makes up for all the rejection and poor pay. Still, if you want to pursue writing, make sure you’re doing it because you love it and not because you think it will make you rich.

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

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My MFA Experience So Far 

Well, my summer break is up! Two more classes start for me tomorrow (a novel chapter workshop and a contemporary poetry class). I’ve made it a quarter past the halfway point, and I’m on track to graduate in March, so I wanted to check in and write about my MFA experience so far.

I’ve been really pleased with my decision of choosing Lindenwood University for my MFA. I can complete the entire thing online, which is so ideal because I have a full time job and other time commitments. The work is still rigorous, but I’ve also loved that this school has been genre-friendly. We’re not just writing literary fiction. All genres are encouraged, as long as we’re writing well. The online format is also really conducive to workshopping. We’re able to critique each other’s writing online really well. I think that the fact that we’re not meeting face-to-face means that everyone is just more honest (and this is helpful because future publishers won’t spare our feelings).

I’ve grown a lot as a writer throughout this program already. Someone once told me that I’ll know I’m no longer an amateur when I start writing characters that are nothing like me. I thought this was silly advice at the time, but I completely understand it now. I feel like I’m finally able to start writing characters who have different personalities and experiences than myself because I am comfortable writing stories other than my own and I no longer need to be my own protagonist.

Throughout the past year, I’ve been struck with so many ideas for future novels (plus the one I’m currently writing for my thesis project). Lindenwood has just been so great at fostering creativity. Sure, like any school, there are pros and cons and professors I love and professors I really don’t like, but I can honestly say that I’ve grown as a writer and learned something about myself during every single class.

Pursing this degree has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I grow in confidence every day, and I’m ready to finally finish a novel that’s good enough for other people to read. Each day is a new step in my journey towards becoming a novelist, and if you’re reading this post, I just want to thank you for coming along for the ride and supporting me.

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Personal, Update

Life Update: Poem Published

Yellow Spiral Notebooks

I just wanted to thank Outcast Poetry for publishing my poem “Dreaming.” You can read it HERE if you’d like. It’s been about two years since I’ve had something published, which is definitely my fault. I went for a whole year and a half where I didn’t send anything out for submission. I went through a big slump! Part of this was because life was so busy and part of it was just due to being discouraged. I think discouragement is a big part of life for most writers because it’s hard to edit and send things out and get rejected over and over again.

Thankfully, since beginning my MFA program at Lindenwood University, I’ve been a lot more productive. I think I’ll do a whole post about my experiences there soon because it’s already impacted my life quite a bit.

Anyway, over the past two months, I’ve sent lots of things out to journals. Now, I’m waiting for those inevitable rejection letters and maybe another acceptance somewhere!

 

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When Do I Count?

In this internet age, anyone can be anything. Are you a writer if you have a blog? Are you a photographer if you have an Instagram? Are you a visual artist if you have on online gallery of your paintings? When do you count as an artist and when are you just a hobbyist?

apple, coffee, computer

These are some questions that I’ve been pondering a lot. I think they’ve arisen for two reasons: 1. I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity as a writer because of being in a writing MFA program. 2. I’ve found myself comparing myself to others recently. I keep wondering if I’m more of a writer than someone else because my workshop story is getting better reviews or because I’ve had a few things published or because a certain number of people read my blog posts.

Ultimately, I’ve come to a few conclusions, but it really boils down to: Why do I care? I think that the fact that these are the questions that have been bothering me are just shedding light on the fact that I’m still really insecure in a lot of ways. I don’t have a novel published, but even when I do, I know there are tons of other authors who have had multiple novels published or have had wider critical acclaim. There will always be someone who is considered better or more successful.

I think the key to succeeding for me is to find a place within myself where I can just focus on creating what I want to create. I don’t want to be jealous of other authors – I want to celebrate them and their work (because I love books and I love reading!) So, I don’t need to be so worried about labels. Do I count as a writer? Sure, probably, maybe. Really, the label doesn’t matter and I’m sure everyone has a different definition of success for writers. So, I’m just going to try to rid myself of these questions by focusing on my writing instead of worrying about the general perception of me as a writer.

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New School Quarter!

This week, I am starting a new quarter of my MFA program at Lindenwood University. I’ve really enjoyed my experience at the school so far, and I’m excited to start another quarter. It’s hard to believe that after this quarter, I’ll be half finished with the program!

I definitely feel like I’ve already grown a lot as a writer, and I’ve had so many great ideas for large products emerge from my work in the MFA courses. Sometimes, I worry that I have too many ideas! I just need to sit down and write something. I have been writing every day and things are coming along slowly but surely. I have fully outlined four large projects and I’ve started writing two of them. My biggest pitfall when writing is that I want to stop and edit each sentence after I’ve written it, and that leads to me getting frustrated and going nowhere. I want to just write the full drafts this time and the edit afterwards, but what if I spend months writing crap?

I wonder if accomplished writers have these same anxieties and hurdles to overcome or if they just create formulas and patterns that work for them. I hope I find out someday.

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New Year, New Opportunities!

It is 2017! I think that this past year felt like it went by so much faster than previous years. It seemed like 2016 was the year of reflection for me. I spent so much time thinking about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I want 2017 to be a year of action instead!

I’m hoping that 2017 can be my most productive year yet. I have a few goals that I want to share with you (so I can feel somewhat accountable):

  1. I am going to write every single day! To be a successful writer, there are no shortcuts. It takes persistence and practice.
  2. I am going to continue blogging 6 times a week (3 times here and 3 times on my lifestyle blog Cincy Couture).
  3. I am going to complete a novel manuscript and have it ready for an agent or a publisher by the end of the year. I feel like I spend so much time planning and outlining future projects – but this year, I want to actually complete something.
  4. I am going to read at least 200 books. I want to make sure that I’m reviewing and sharing great works with you, and to do that, I need to continue reading a lot. I’m going to try to also read a better variety of things in 2017, since I feel like I read predominantly cozy mysteries in 2016.

I know that these are pretty big goals, but I also think they are attainable with enough hard work. I’ll try to check in throughout the year to mark any progress I’m making on these goals.

So, what about you? What are your goals for 2017? Feel free to leave them in the comments section, even if they’re not related to reading or writing.

And to anyone who’s reading this, I hope you have a really wonderful 2017!

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Reliving My Childhood

My fiance Josh is only ten months younger than me, but there was a vital difference between our childhoods: he did not grow up in the magical world of Harry Potter! Recently, he asked if we could watch the movies together, and we’ve been marathoning them ever since.

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I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books since the third grade, and it was really exciting when I read the final book book in the main series since Harry and I were both 17. There was nothing wrong with my childhood, but I was kind of awkward and lonely and occasionally bullied. These books took me away when I read them and gave me a group of fictional friends to care about. I would sit in class and daydream about being at Hogwarts with my real friends.

Even as an adult, I retain a passion for the wizarding world created by the masterful J.K. Rowling. In college at the University of Cincinnati, I even took a literature elective class all about Harry Potter where we were sorted into houses and read all seven books. (If you were wondering, Pottermore ALWAYS sorts me into Slytherin – we’re not all bad, I promise!)

I have read these books and watched the movies countless times. I read the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the day it came out (even though July 31st is also my fiance’s birthday). It’s been a really great experience sharing the movies with Josh, and I hope we read the books together someday. There are a lot of book series that I read as a child that don’t have the same impact in my adulthood, but Harry Potter is not one of them. These are the books that have impacted my life the most, and I love sharing them. I hope that someday I can sit down with my niece or nephew and share this experience with them as well.

Do you have something from childhood that continues to touch your life as an adult? What still excites you and makes you feel like you can always relive the best parts of childhood? Let me know in the comments section!