I’ve just ended my second semester as a graduate student in Bay Path University’s MFA program. (They’re a pretty awesome school – learn more about them here.) I have to say, the experience to date has been wonderful.
The program I’m enrolled is for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction. Those of you who have read my work—which is chock full of elves and zombies—are probably wondering what in the world I’m doing in a nonfiction program. Since zombies didn’t suddenly become a real thing (or did they?) the answer is simple: diversification.
Every writer I know who makes a living at writing—by “make a living” I mean that their primary source of income is their writing. They don’t have day jobs and write as a hobby, or self-publish poetry on the side. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with day jobs or self-publishing, or poetry for that matter, but I’m talking about the people who wake up, write for eight hours, submit, rinse, repeat. I’m talking about when writing is your job.
Why? Because that’s the job I want. I like writing. I’m good at it (or not, depending on which reviews you read), I write fast and well, and writing makes me happy. That last bit is really the most important aspect of the equation. For longer than I’m going to admit in this post, I’ve worked for Fortune 100 corporations, making medium-sized bucks while the life was slowly being siphoned out of me. Since life is far too short to spend it as a dried up husk, we’re giving this full-time writer thing ago. After all, if you find a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life, right? I hope?
Which leads me back to, why nonfiction? If you go out and research average pay rates, you’ll notice an alarming trend: professional pay rates for fiction are around 6 cents per word, which means that a 1000 word fiction piece would earn around $60. However, rates for nonfiction are much higher, around one dollar or more per word. Of course, this is just one example, but across the board nonfiction pays better rates, and this is good for me. While I have no intention of ever leaving fiction behind, writing nonfiction is a way to increase my income while simultaneously expanding my readership.
Again, diversification is the key, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
So what is creative nonfiction? When most hear the term they assume it refers to memoirs, but there is so much more to this category that just idle reminiscing. Also included are reviews of film, theater, and books; lifestyle and other cooking articles; and many parenting magazines and websites. Basically, whenever you’re using your fiction writer’s toolbox to convey a nonfiction theme or idea, you’re working in creative nonfiction. In fact, this very post is creative nonfiction.
Do I need an MFA to write in creative nonfiction? No, I don’t. In fact, no one needs a degree to do anything in life, and I’m a firm believer that any education obtained is a value unto itself. Those who complete a program assuming they’ll instantly be employed in a lucrative field end up disappointed more often than not. So why bother with the expense and hassle of a graduate degree? Here’s why:
Honing your craft – Writers are always being told to hone their craft, to have a daily word goal, et cetera. In this program I’m not only writing many pieces, I’m writing things that I never would have attempted on my own.
Critiques from classmates/professors – I have the opportunity to have my work critiqued not only by my peers, but by professionals in the field. Is feedback always easy to take? Not in the least. But it is a necessary step toward improvement.
Literary community – The writing community is small, and seems to get smaller every day. I’ve already made wonderful connection in the nonfiction community, and let me tell you, in publishing connections are everything.
I’ve already gotten so much from this program, and I’m only one year into it. The work is hard, but good, and I’m being forced to examine my writing like I never have before. I can’t wait to start my next course.
Are any of you interested in writing courses? Have you experienced any great programs, such as the one at Bay Path? Let me know in the comments!
Don’t forget – this giveaway is still running! Have you entered?
A broken queen. A friendship mired in deceit. Can one man from the desert help hold the realm together?
Asherah, Queen of Parthalan and Lady of Tingu, has led her people through eight centuries of prosperity. That peace shatters when Mersgoth, the mordeth thought long dead, attacks Teg’urnan. In the aftermath a new warrior emerges: Aeolmar, a man as secretive as he is deadly.
Asherah and Aeolmar race across Parthalan in pursuit of Mersgoth, and track the beast to the High Desert. While they’re gone, Harek, now Prelate of Parthalan, conspires with the Dark Fae against the elves…Against Leran, the king of the elves and Asherah’s son in all but blood. Will Asherah see the truth of Harek before it’s too late, or will he bring down the fae once and for all?
The Virgin Queen – Book Two of the Chronicles of Parthalan