The Post-MFA Life

It’s a cool and sunny day in Manhattan. I went for a run this morning along the Hudson, then read some stuff on the internet while I ate breakfast. Subway to work, where I have a combination of interesting tasks. Tonight I will drink a glass of ice herb tea while doing a little pleasure reading (1Q84 by Haruki Murakami), eat dinner, then get back to editing my novel.Post-MFA life is pretty good so far.

I’m working on a second, and hopefully almost final round of edits with my agent. I’m cutting the book down from 175,000 words to 140,000 words, combining some plot points, and generally making it a better book. I’ve really been enjoying the process, because her ideas are making the book tighter and better, and the things she wants to keep are the things I love the best. I feel like I’m learning a lot about how to plot and write from her, which is good because I never want to stop learning and stop becoming a better writer.

So far, working 30 hours a week is a good amount. I’m lucky to have found a place where I can do interesting work that is not full time. I wouldn’t mind a little more leisure time, but a busy schedule tends to make me productive.

Some of my classmates in NYU’s MFA program would talk about writing for 8+ hours at a stretch. Except at the end of a novel, or a serious, major revision, I’ve never written that much. If I write too much, I burn myself out for the next day. When I’m writing new material, I’m best if I average no more than 2000 words a day, no more than 6 days a week, which usually takes me 1-2.5 hours.

With editing, I can put in a little more time, 2-5 hours a day. The smaller the changes, the more time I can spend. Sentence-level tweaks don’t burn me out the way giant revisions do.

I’m glad I figured most of this out before doing the MFA program. There is a vibrant writing community online, involving NaNoWriMo, writing bloggers, and other forums and meeting places, where people can get good advice about writing without having to figure it out in the higher pressure world of grad school.

It’s amazing how little time it takes for things that drove me a little bonkers about the MFA program to feel silly and pointless. If people want dismiss whole genres of literature, let ’em, as long as I’m not taking classes with them anymore. My agent suggested I take a Screen Writing class to learn more about tight plotting, and I may do that, once I feel the need to be in a class situation again. Right now, I’m just enjoying the freedom.

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2 Comments

  1. I will never climb Mt. Everest, and I will never write a novel. But I enjoy reading about both of them! Thanks for the insight.

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