Do MFA programs make you a better writer?

Maybe. Maybe not.

And before I go on, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have a love-hate relationship with advanced degrees. I’ve loved some of my advanced classes and hated others. And I remember one time when the instructor went around the first day of class asking us what we wanted out of the class (I can’t even remember what the class was for!) and my answer was that I wanted it to be the absolute last class I’d ever take in my life. Because I was sick and tired of taking classes. And of advanced degrees.

So, with that out of the way, the answer to your question depends….

If you want that MFA only in order to become a better writer, then consider how good you already are before gearing up for that degree.

It can do wonders if your writing skills are less than those of most people because part of the beauty of an MFA is that it (supposedly) lifts the student into the somewhat exclusive domain of the upper middle class and beyond, at least as far as speaking and writing are concerned and that’s what you want. So it could work.

On the other hand, it’s unlikely to help much if you already have writing skills that are equal to or better than those of your average person because you are already where it will get you as far as writing is concerned.

So think hard before you go for that long, intense, expensive degree and make sure that it will really lift you from mediocre to excellent.

And here’s another thought….

If you truly believe you are mediocre but don’t want to go through all that hassle and expense, you might consider other options that can achieve the same result. Such as volunteering in a place where educated people are already volunteering so as to watch and learn from them. Or something else — anything else — that will put you in a milieu in which you will absorb the things in an unstructured way that an MFA teaches through structured lessons.

Can I write a love story if I’ve never been in love?

If science fiction writers can write about worlds and times that don’t exist, then you can write about love.

All it takes is a well-honed —- and well-trained —- imagination.

Because describing something you don’t personally know without thinking through how you want to do it, is an exercise in futility and will result in poor writing.

But describing something you don’t know after thinking it through and deciding what you want to say and why you want to say it is the mark of a professional writer of fiction.

Is it possible to write a novel or short story that doesn’t perpetuate stereotypes?

 It’s not a matter of stereotypes.

It’s a matter of whether the characters are described well or not so well. Good writing will turn them into archetypes and become the best and most representative of the group they belong to, whatever that group may be. Poor writing will make them stereotypes worthy of laughter and readers who put the book down without finishing it.

The thing is, if your characters are representatives of a group, they can be recognized easily and quickly by the reader and that’s a great help to the writer. Less work, less stress, fewer words for the reader to wade through to get to the story.

Use that quick recognition. It’s valuable.

Just make sure that you do your job as a writer well so your character is an archetype instead of a stereotype.

A black cat can rust. Really? Yes, really!

More about black cats:

A black cat’s color is genetic. There are three variants of the black fur gene (solid black, cinnamon and brown. If a cat has a solid black hue that overwhelms other gene colors or stripes, heavy exposure to the sun can make the pigment in its fur break down to reveal those once-invisible stripes (another potential cause: nutritional deficiency).

What was once a black cat is now a rusty brown cat.

I think I’ll keep my cat out of the sun because I like his coat the way it is. And I hope Becky knows that about her black cat, Little Guy, because I’d hate to see his beautiful coat turn brown. On the other hand, he lives in the forest so that’s not likely to happen unless he decides to visit town a lot. Which is something he does, much to Becky’s chagrin.

Get A Very Black Cat from Amazon.

Black cat facts I bet you didn’t know.

 

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IN SOME CULTURES, BLACK CATS ARE GOOD LUCK. In Japan, if you are a single lady, owning a black cat is said to increase your number of suitors. If one crosses your path from left to right in Germany, good things will happen.

So maybe having a black cat as a major character in my clean, small-town romance, A Very Black Cat, will bring me good luck? Yep, it will, I’m sure of it. Felines are great fun and my black cat, Smoky, keeps me company while I write.

Black Cats. Gotta love ’em.

There’s a lot to love about these black, fur-balls as evidenced by holidays in their honor. What, you say? Holidays just for a specific color cat?

Yep.

The ASPCA celebrates Black Cat Appreciation Day annually on August 17.

In England, October 27 is National Black Cat Day.

I mention these because my latest clean small-town romance features a black cat. In fact the title is A Very Black Cat. I didn’t know when I sat down to write the book just how the cat would play against the other, human, characters but it worked out just fine.

Of course. Because Little Guy is a cat. Need I say more?

Check it out:      http://www.Amazon.com/dp/B07BTGN58M

 

As a writer, do you sometimes need reassurance that people care about your writing?

 The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’
Because:

Writers, like all creative types, appreciate reassurance that what they are doing resonates with others. (Who doesn’t?”

At the same time, most writers prefer doing their own thing regardless of whether other people like it or not. (Again, who doesn’t?)

I suspect that the difference between the two motivations is in percentage, not in absolutes.

In other words, some writers find their need for reassurance to be huge while their need for doing their own thing is of lessor importance. Other writers may only feel good writing what they wish and only afterwards hoping vaguely that a few people out there like it.

Because, at the end of the day, writers are people.

While writing in third person, what are some of the ways you can refer to the main character other than their name or ‘he’ or ‘she?’

 2018 3 24 writerOne of the easiest ways accomplishes more than just indicating which character is speaking or doing something.

It’s called a ‘dialogue tag’ and it simply means that you mix together the description of the scene with the actions/speeches of the character you wish to pinpoint.

Describe where they are or what they are doing, whichever is appropriate, in a sentence or two, then segue right into the dialog or action in the next sentence in the same paragraph.

Since you have just described either the character or some action involving the character, when you continue with dialogue or action your reader will automatically know who you is doing it.

This moves your action along much faster than if you divided your writing into description and also dialog/action because, this way, both are intertwined.

I’m trying to write a plot line for a book but I keep on overthinking it and eventually hating them. How do I see it through to the end?

2. Describe a second main character in the same way.

3. Describe any other MAJOR characters the same way. Don’t worry about secondary characters, keep a note pad handy to scribble a description as they appear in your story. (This will save time and effort if you never need that character.)

4. Write down the problem that the whole story revolves around. Again, no more than a few sentences, one is usually sufficient.

5. Write down when your main character(s) begin to engage with that problem. No backstory, no long, boring description of scenery, just jump right in with the action that pertains to the main problem of the story.

6. Write down the solution to the problem. This might take several sentences but usually only one or two.

8. Jot down a paragraph describing the scene that will get the story started. That’s number 5. This is the beginning of your story.

9. In a sentence each, describe as many scenes as are needed to get from number 5 to number 8. Number 8 is the ending.

One caveat: long stories need lots of scenes, short ones only a few. If you are writing a novel, look up ‘story-boarding’ and use that template to make sure your reader doesn’t get bored in the middle.

A second caveat: don’t overthink it. A scene can be described in one sentence and not need to be fleshed out until you are ready to write that scene. This way, you don’t get frustrated by trying to get every detail figured out in advance. And you’ll find that many times your story will change as you write it so not having gone into a lot of detail will mean you didn’t do a lot of extra work.

Should I plan the novel or just start writing?

 Depends ——-
There are two kinds of writers of novels:

Pantsers’ write by the seat of their pants. They just sit down and start writing. They normally end up doing a whole lot of revision and rewriting and, occasionally, even changing the thrust of the story, but they say this method allows their mind free rein and results in a better product.

Plotters’ outline their novel and describe their characters and often describe and research the setting before beginning. They are comfortable doing this because they know who the story is about, where it’s going, how it’s going to get there, and why they are writing it in the first place. They usually spend less time changing and rewriting but that’s balanced by the extra time they put in before beginning.

So it just depends on which kind of writer you are.

I started out being a ‘pantser’ and ended up being a ‘plotter’ when I realized I was writing pages and pages of beautifully worded fluff that said nothing and went nowhere.