Is getting an MFA worth it?


#1

I’ve been thinking about going back to college to get my master’s in creative writing, but honestly, I’m also afraid of wasting another two years in school. I barely got any outside opportunities, and any opportunities I did get for writing basically screwed me over. For example, I was working with a literature magazine until they got shut down so any work I did was also deleted. I’m also thinking about working more with a publishing company. I would love to work as an editor, reading manuscripts of books, which to be honest, seems like the safest option, but I’m not sure how an MFA will benefit me or if it’s even worth it.


#2

I think it depends on which country you’re in and specifically what you’re trying to be.

My friend is working for a publisher and will go full time once she finishes her masters in literature this summer. But she’s not an editor - she’s more like an editor in chief and an agent.

I found something on editor jobs and what education is required:

What Education Do I Need?

Employers usually require some type of formal education for editors. Most often a bachelor’s degree in English, literature, communications or writing is acceptable. Some employers may require a master’s degree for senior editor positions. You need to have excellent English, writing, communication and research skills. If you are interested in working in a specialty niche, additional training in that area is helpful. For example, if you wish to work for a publishing company that publishes medical textbooks then formal training or experience in the medical field provides you with an advantage and may be required by employers.

Experience is equally as important as education in the editorial sphere. Employers usually prefer editors who are published writers; many available editorial positions ask that only seasoned writers with prior experience apply. You should develop a portfolio that showcases your writing skills. The Internet offers numerous opportunities to become a published author such as publishing your own blog or submitting articles to websites for publication.

Source:
https://learn.org/articles/How_Can_I_Become_an_Editor_for_a_Publishing_Company.html


#3

I understand this but as I said in my original post, the experience that I did had practically got erased because the website I was helping to manage with all my writing in it got erased. So that’s practically half of my non-fiction portfolio.

I want to write more short stories, but I feel like it’s always a challenge to come up with something short and not overly long or complicated. Also, I don’t know how some people fit writing a novel and writing short stories at the same time. :sweat_smile:


#4

I just copy-pasted what the website said :joy: You never documented any of your work?

You can always try and contact local publishers and ask what their requirements are. And if they might offer some kind of internship, maybe?

I honestly just have a lot of time. :sweat_smile: I think that’s the biggest factor in writing a lot. Time. If you have a lot of it, you get to write more. And discipline and dedication and stuff helps too. But mostly just having a lot of time, for my case anyways.


#5

An MFA offers very little for the money and time put into it. It does not guarantee a job in anything after graduation.

If you want to be a writer, work a job that allows you the time to write.

Unless, of course, you’re independently wealthy or have extremely rich parents, and earning money isn’t a priority and you need some way to fill the time.

If you want to go into publishing find an entry level job somewhere - editorial assistant or sales rep or something like that, and work your way up. That’s what my cousin did, and she’s now a VP at Wiley. I doubt an MFA would count for much if they’re deciding whether or not to hire someone.


#6

Alec pretty much said everything I was going to - so…ditto.


#7

And I also agree with what Alec said.

Is your goal to be a writer or to work in publishing? Those are very different, and you’d be surprised at how INFREQUENTLY they overlap.

I, myself, would honestly never recommend an MFA in Creative Writing unless you have a hell of a lot of money and time. It gets you practically nothing but debt. If you write literary fiction it MIGHT get you some contacts. If you write genre fiction, pick your program carefully, because it might screw you up entirely.


#8

My dream job is to be a writer, but honestly, the reason I ask is because if I choose to get an MFA in writing, I wonder if that will help me become closer to my dream of getting a story published or if it will be a waste of time any money, and it seems like a lot of people think it is.

Working in publishing is literally just my back-up plan if I think that getting an MFA is a waste of time. I know I want to work with books, and writing would just be something I do on the side.


#9

I’m not sure how to gain experience though. All of these jobs at least require me to have 1-2 years experience, but when I try to find internships, either I’m too late to apply or they want a college student.


#10

For any course you’re thinking of taking, look at who teaches it and look at what they’ve published. Also look at who graduated from it and what they’ve published. An MFA might be worth it if you want to learn how to write books like those (thought it’ll probably still be a waste of money). It will definitely be a waste of money if you want to write something else.


#11

Exactly!

@Mara-R-Writing An MFA will give you time to write and will give you feedback. Those are both good things – usually. As I was trying to explain above, most programs are SO focused on literary writing that they will either require you to write literary fiction while in the program – useless if you want to write genre fiction – or they’ll spend their time telling you how low class genre fiction is and make you feel bad about what you’re writing.

Look at who the instructors are, what they’ve published, and how they’ve published. If you aspire to publishing a genre novel with the Big 5, instructors who have self pubbed or pubbed through literary presses simply won’t be of help. They seem to know NOTHING about publishing with the real world. I’ve heard So Much BULLSHIT come out of those programs related to publishing.

Here’s the thing: You don’t need an MFA program to have time to write or to get feedback. Take a job as a night manager in a hotel (or something similar), and use the free time to write. Put a notice on the bulletin board at the college or at the library and look for critique partners. Boom, same difference, but you’re making money instead of going into debt with a useless degree.


#12

I started out as a short story writer. I actually prefer short stories over novels. And you’re right, it takes a skill not to overcomplicate a short story. Mark Twain once wrote at the end of a letter to a friend something like, “I’m sorry this letter is so long. I didn’t have time to make it shorter.” Writing short stories taught me not to be wordy.

I don’t write both at the same time. I have to concentrate on one project at a time, so no multiple short stories or multiple novels or any combination. Since my novels take over a year to write, that puts a damper on my short story writing.

As to an MFA degree, my wife has a masters in English Literature and Creative Writing (poetry). She taught English for a couple of years, but then went into the business world. Writing well helped her as an executive in business so I’m sure her degree helped her career even though it wasn’t in the writing field. If you want a career in the writing field, like publishing, it has to help you get in the door.


#13

If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to get published, hit up QueryTracker or Writer’s Market. Though for short stories, Kindle Direct Publishing seems to be more effective than submitting to the increasingly rare journal; @KAJordan2 could tell you how.


#14

It depends.

To be honest, when you go to a publisher, they don’t ask for an MFA. They want to read a good story, as long as your mechanics are good, your chances are better than most.

But writing is a business, it requires Marketing and accounting skills as well as writing skills. No matter who publishes your work, you will need marketing skills.

You can teach with an MFA, but there are better ways to make a living. Writing is not the kind of profession that makes for a high standard of living.

IMHO - get a Masters in something that will make you a good living, and write on the side. It takes a long time to ‘break out’ as a writer. No reason to starve while you are doing it.

I majored in IT while I learned to write. I’ve got six pure garbage novels in a drawer. I started DIY publishing in 2010 with two novels, then RL hit. My IT job kept food on the table, and hay in the barn for my horses. There’s not reason to be a ‘starving artist’ these days.


#15

I’m a stay-at-home mother with a BA in journalism. If I can get published, anyone can.

@Mara-R-Writing, taking a class or two in editing did help me polish my manuscript. But if I’d already earned my college degree, I’m moderately sure I could have taught myself that skill at far less expense with the right instructional book.

The people I met in college couldn’t connect me with any agent nor publisher. I met my publisher though a random social connection of civic organizations and churches (and I don’t even go to a church).

And I’ve learned more about storytelling from an improv jam than any writer’s group. That instant feedback is fire. Writers groups – and that creative writing class I took in college – are sometimes more about ego than improving your craft. Frankly, I’ve traded better critique on Wattpad.


#16

I noted that on a platform I once joined. Can’t even remember the name. One had to critique a lot before the story would have been featured. I saw the criticism others got - it was really vicious at times - so I opted out. Instead, I got invited into a critique circle formed of self-pubbed WP writers. One chapter at a time, but the feedback is GREAT and the moral support even better.
So, it depends a bit on what one does, but quite honestly, WP has done wonders for my writing.


#17

They’ve got something like that here. I got an invitation, but I turned it down. There were a LOT of stories to crit with a deadline, each one would have just been thrown in the pool.

It didn’t sound like a good fit. With my wacky schedule, I’d never make a deadline.


#18

Thank you for this amazing insight. I feel like it has made my path a lot more clear :slight_smile:


#19

How was it vicious? Can you remember a verbatim example? I’m curious, because what some writers regard as “vicious”, others might regard as merely “blunt.”


#20

When I was taking a short story course in college, my professor told us that his worst experience in a writing course was with this nasty woman who wrote, “IRRELEVANT” in red pen over another student’s whole manuscript, after only reading the first page. The other students were shocked, but for some reason she wasn’t kicked out of the critique class. Probably because she was paying thousands to be in the MFA program, but even then… I would’ve had some WORDS for her.

So yes, it can be disgustingly rude at times.