23 Apr

There Is No Finish Line

Posted in DIY MFA, Process, Writing Sprint

We’ve been working our way through DIY MFA and suddenly it has occurred to me that this is our the last week of April (and therefore also the last week of DIY MFA 2.O).  I have to admit, I panicked a little.
“OMG, what am I going to do in May?” I thought as I hyperventilated and gasped for air.  And then I remembered: there is no one finish line in writing.  You finish one phase and you start a new one.  Once one goal is met, you move on to the next one.  There are small victories along the way, of course–and we should definitely celebrate those–but ultimately there is no finish.
This news might be hard for some of us to hear.  After all, it can be nice to think of one writing project as this big goal and once we finish it, we’re done.  It’s the same way with traditional MFA programs.  Some students focus on the thesis and the program as the end-all-and-be-all, but it doesn’t work that way.  You need to see beyond that finish line to the millions of projects that come after.  It can be overwhelming, to say the least.
Ultimately, I like to look one or two steps ahead.  If you look at all the millions of possibilities, it can make you freeze up.  I prefer to look at just the next step.  Here are a few quotes that have always inspired me:

 “My idea of life is the next page.  The next paragraph.  The next sentence.”
~Charles Bukowski

“Writing is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
~E.L. Doctorow

Homework:  Go to a writing space that’s comforting to you.  Bring a beverage or snack that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  The point is to coddle your inner writer a little today because you’ll be doing some hard work.
Before you start your sprint, take 10-15 minutes and think about the next step.  This is not a time for stressing, but a time for dreaming.  Let yourself imagine the possibilities of what could be next after your current project.  Once you’ve finished brainstorming, bring yourself back to the present, set the dreams aside and do your sprint for today.  (Sprint badges are posted in the photos section of our Facebook page.)
Here in NYC it’s rainy and disgusting so I thought it would be a nice day to write “in.”  I’ll be curling up with my notebook and a pot of hot vanilla-coconut tea and will be brainstorming what’s next after this round of DIY MFA.  I promise to fill you in on the details once I’ve figured it out!

Would anyone like to share what they think their next step is?  I know I’d love to hear it!


16 Apr

Sprint #3: Growing Your Story

Posted in DIY MFA, Plot, Writing Sprint

Last week was all about character, so today I’d like you to focus on story.  Look at your work in progress (WIP) and determine where the story needs the most work.

•  Do you need to work on planning out the story?  Maybe an outline technique can help.
•  Is one particular scene is giving you trouble?  Try using morphological forced connections, using different aspects of your scene as the categories in the exercise.
•  Are you having trouble with story arc?  Try the ABC method.

Don’t forget tomorrow we have our chat at 5pm ET! You can always tweet comments or thoughts using the #diymfa hashtag or add your thoughts in the comments.

Also, I’ll be sending the eWorkbook out this weekend so if you haven’t already joined my DIY MFA list, you can register here.  You’ll get the free workbook and be entered for a chance to win an iggilicious journal!

Tweet or comment and tell me how YOU made life difficult for your character today.  And don’t forget to grab a badge after you do your sprint!


09 Apr

Sprint #2: Working With Character

Posted in Character, DIY MFA, Writing Sprint

This week, we talked about characters and how to come up with new ones or use existing characters to develop ideas.  Now today, I’d like you to take some time to apply what you learned about your characters to your own work-in-progress (WIP).  Here’s an exercise to get you started:

  • Choose a character.  Write down his/her name.
  • What does your character want most in the world?
  • What is standing in his/her way?
  • Name 3 of your character’s biggest weaknesses.
  • Come up with a situation that would make your character struggle.
  • Now think of something even worse and put your character in that scenario.
  • Write a scene or two of your character in that situation.

Hint: If you can’t think of a situation, look at your character’s weaknesses and the obstacles to getting what he/she wants.  Use them to come up with a situation.  Examples: If your character desperately wants to be part of a family, make her an orphan and put her in a horrible foster-family situation.  If your character’s weakness is his short temper, put him in a situation where he’s constantly being provoked.

Don’t be afraid to let your character suffer.  Often we can become protective of our characters (especially if we like them) and we might resist making life difficult for them.  Today you have permission to make life difficult for your character.

Tweet or comment and tell me how YOU made life difficult for your character today.  And don’t forget to grab a badge after you do your sprint!

Weekly Check-In:  How has Week 1 of DIY MFA been for you?  Have you gotten some good writing done?  What has been most helpful?  What would you like to see more of?

Don’t Forget:


02 Apr

Sprint #1: What You Need to Write Right.

Posted in DIY MFA, Writing Sprint

We all have them little ticks or totems that we can’t write without.  Whether it’s a cinnamon latte or a special notebook or a favorite writing spot, these things shackle us and limit how we do our writing.  Sure, some rituals can be helpful sometimes because they tell our brains “OK, it’s writing time.”  The trick is not to become so attached to these rituals that they become crutches.

You don’t need the right stuff to write.

You don’t need to be in the right mood to write.

You don’t even need the right words to write.

All you need to do is write.  Today is our first Writing Sprint.  There is no assignment or prompt today.  Instead, I want you to write for a chunk of time and focus on breaking away from crutches that shackle your writing.  Don’t overturn your writing habits altogether, just make one small change.

Examples: If you’re used to writing on the computer, use a paper and pen.  If you prefer a noisy coffee shop, go to a library.  If your favorite spot is your own desk, try writing outside.  If you can only write for long chunks of time, force yourself to write in the nooks and crannies of your day.

Tell us on Twitter: How are you shaking up your writing rituals today?

When you’re done, tell us how you did!  Post one of these badges on your blog, tweet your word count or share your writing sprint experience in the comments.


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