That MFA Look



When I tell people I am getting my Masters they smile and asked “What in?”

I smile back and say, “An MFA in Creative Writing.” Then they looked confused.

“What will you do with that?”

“I can teach if I want to, but I got the degree for me. I’ve always wanted it, and so I did it.”

These people know I’m not a youngster. I have a well-paying job that I don’t hate. I’m not trying to climb that corporate ladder at this stage in life. I’m enjoying life.

At some point, I may teach, but at the moment I’m concentrating on learning how to write as well as I can.

There are so many books on the market that are beyond bad. It is not because the idea is not worth reading, but the story is poorly written.

The phenomenon of self-publishing (made easy) has saturated the market with mediocre and sometimes inadequately written books. I am far from a book snob, I don’t go for the erudite. I just like a good story well written.

I read the Grisham’s and the King’s. I don’t read Fifty Shades’. I don’t read Twilight’s. I read genre fiction and sometimes they are very good. I’ve even read some really good self-published works.

Perhaps because I’m a writer the slow cringe creeps up my spine when I start to read bad writing in book form. No one is perfect and even some of our beloved authors have put out some stinkers, but the stinkers are usually well written, just poorly executed.

At the Writer’s Digest Conference, one of the speakers put up on the screen a story written by one of her students. It was awful. Not a criticism. Lord knows some of my earlier works could feed a large bonfire. But this person was a student, she was in learning mode. I get irritated when this writing is put between a glossy cover and sold to the masses.

There are some people who think writing is easy. Perhaps to some, it does come naturally and a good editor can fix things like grammar and continuity mistakes. As for myself, it isn’t easy and it doesn’t come naturally.

Writing is hard work. I’ve heard that writing cannot be taught, I’ve heard it can. What can be taught is writing well. Part of that education encompasses reading. But reading widely, in and out of your genre, and reading often, constantly, endlessly. Read what the current literary leaders are writing. Read what the lauded dead authors wrote.

Some will vehemently disagree, but sometimes the truth stings. Don’t expect to write well, if you can’t bother to pick up a book.




About Liz Kelso
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