DIY MFA

DIY MFA copyAs anyone who knows me will attest, I am a lifelong learner. If I had known when I was in school that being a scholar was a valid career choice, I totally would have done it (history or religion). But as things are, I have two jobs, a day job for which I’ve gotten a master’s and professional accreditation (that’s as far as I can go as a PhD would make me overqualified) and my job as an author. I really, really want to advance my knowledge in the craft of writing, but I really have no desire (nor the time or money) to get a traditional MFA.

So, to that end, I’ve created my own course curriculum, based on books and DVD and online courses I want to take in my areas of focus (general craft, historical fiction and romance). I have no idea how long this will take me to complete, but I will do regular updates here to share what I’ve learned, give you an update on my progress and give myself a method of accountability. I plan to use what I learn as I write my next several books (I have a few contemporary love stories in mind and at least two historicals. I’ll be using my alpha/beta readers, critique partners and future agent as the criticism part of an MFA.)

I know I won’t end up with a piece of paper at the end of this, nor will I will able to add to the letters behind my name, but I should emerge from all this learning as a stronger writer, and that’s the whole point.

If you want to come along this journey with me, all of these sources are available to anyone, either from Amazon, or in the case of the Great Courses or Lawson Writer’s Academy, on their respective web sites. I have no idea what order I’m going to do things in, but you are welcome to journey along with me. In fact, I’d love to be able to discuss these books along with you.

Here’s my course of study:

(List updated 09/30/16. I’ve added more and crossed out those I’ve already completed as of today.)

General Craft:

  • Building Great Sentences (The Great Courses)
  • Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques (The Great Courses)
  • Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel (Volume 2) (Book by Roz Morris)
  • Writing plots with drama, depth and heart: Nail Your Novel (Book by Roz Morris)
  • The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction (Book by CS Lakin)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Plotting Your Novel (Book by Connor Goldsmith)
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life (book by Noah Lukeman)
  • 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • A Writer’s Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Structure Architect (book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt)
  • Story Engineering (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Story Physics (book by Larry Brooks)
  • Page Turner (book by Barbara Kyle)

Writing:

  • The Architecture of the Historical Novel (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Attitude & Altitude of Historical Novel: (In-person course with Larry Brooks – HNS USA 2015)
  • Writing With Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel (Book by Cheryl St. John)
  • Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense (Book by James Scott Bell)
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (book by Renni Browne and Dave King)
  • How to Capture Your Reader in the First 10 Pages (Lecture by Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Screenplays that Sell (Book by Michael Hauge)
  • Story Fix: Transform Your Novel from Broken to Brilliant (book by Larry Brooks and Michael Hauge)
  • Diving Deep into Deep Point of View (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Rhay Christou)
  • Digging Deep into the EDITS System (highly recommended for a unique perspective on editing) (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Advanced Deep Editing: A Master Course (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • Empowering Characters’ Emotions (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Handouts Available for Purchase)
  • 30 Days to a Stronger Novel (Lawson Writer’s Academy – Course instructor: Lisa Wells)
  • The Hero’s Journey, Parts I & II (DVD by Michael Hauge)
  • The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (book by Christopher Vogler)
  • The Virgin’s Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening (book by Kim Hudson)
  • Save the Cat (book by Blake Snyder)
  • Writing the Other: A Practical Approach (book by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward)
  • The Secrets of Storytelling: How to Write Compelling Stories (Webinar by Jerry Jenkins)
  • The Story Toolkit: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Stories that Sell (Book by Susan Bischoff)

Romance Specific:

  • On Writing Romance (Book by Leigh Michaels)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Lecture – Michael Hauge)
  • Writing Romantic Comedies (Book by Billy Mernit)
  • Old RWA conference workshop handouts
  • How To Sell Romance Novels On Kindle (Book by Michael Alvear)

History/Research:

  • The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • Daily Life in the Ancient World (The Great Courses)
  • The Story of Medieval England (The Great Courses)
  • The Information-Literate Historian (Book by Jenny L. Presnell)
  • From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods (Book by Martha C. Howell)
  • The Craft of Research (Book by Wayne C. Booth)
  • Historical Fiction Writing: A Practical Guide (Book by Myfanwy Cook)
  • How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction (Book by Persia Wooley)*
  • Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders (book by Susanne Allyen)*
  • Writing Historical Fiction: Advice for the Digital Age (book by Marilyn Weymouth Seguin)
  • Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction (book by Emma Darwin)*

Non-fiction

  • The Non-fiction Proposal Demystified  (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Short Fuse Guide to Book Proposals (Book by Gordon Warnock)
  • Step by Step Pitches and Proposals by Chip Macgregor

The Business of Writing/Marketing

  • Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book (Book by Nina Amir)
  • The Author’s Guide to Marketing (Book by Beth Jusino)
  • Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent (book by Carly Watters)
  • How to Market a Book (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)*
  • Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (Book by Joanna/JF Penn)
  • SMART Social Media for Authors (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Guerrilla Marketing for Writers (Book by Jay Conrad Levins)
  • Opening Up to Indie Authors (Book by Debbie Young and Dan Holloway)
  • Green Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing (Book by Brooke Warner)
  • Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Book by Fauzia Burke)
  • How to Get Publicity for Your Book (Book by Natalie Obando)
  • Red Hot Internet Publicity (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • 52 Ways to Sell More Books (Book by Penny Sanseivieri)
  • How Authors Sell Publishing Rights (Book by Helen Sedwick and Orna Ross)
  • Successful Self-Publishing (Book by Joanna Penn)
  • The Naked Truth About Self Publishing (Book by Dorien Kelly)
  • Author Identity: Build Your Brand, Sell More Books, Change the World (Book by Angie Mroczka)
  • Let’s Get Visible (Book by David Gaughran)*
  • Library as a Discovery Platform (IBPA Webinar)
  • Wherever Books are Sold: How to Convince Huge Chains to Sell Your Books (IBPA Webinar)
  • Audiobook Marketing Tips & Tools (IBPA Webinar)
  • Book Marketing with Internet Media (IBPA Webinar)
  • Sell More Books with Less Social Media (Book by Chris Syme)
  • Talk Up Your Book: How to Sell Your Book Through Public Speaking, Interviews, Signings, Festivals, Conferences, and More (Book by Particia Fry)
  • Public Speaking for Authors and Creatives (Book by Joanna Penn)

* Indicates I’ve started this book/course

What do you think about my DIY MFA program? Is there anything you would recommend adding? Have you read any of these books/taken any of these courses? Will you be joining me for all or part of this journey? If so, which part(s)? 

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4 thoughts on “DIY MFA

  1. Wow! How did you come up with your coursework? There’s so much out there in the world, both online and off, good and not-so — I wouldn’t even know where to begin constructing such a rigorous curriculum.

    I’m currently following the “Writing Excuses” podcast “season 10 master class” on genre writing. It has been illuminating, if sometimes a bit hard to fathom. Its nowhere as thorough as your plan though. Keep us updated!

    • You know, it was really a combination of books/courses I had but haven’t bothered to read/watch and all the books I want to read. I did some research on what actual MFA programs offer as well. I really did want to make it such that I will come out of it a better writer.

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