6 Manuscript Tips from “A Guy Who May Have Read Your MFA Application”

Things to do with the writing sample (from Inside Higher Ed)

    • Stick to page requirements. Our site says to submit no more than 30 pages of fiction, which is meant to be double-spaced—something we need to say on the website
    • Format in a standard font and type size, use generous margins
    • Proofread. A lot
    • Make the writing good. That’s the frustrating catch-22 of applying, isn’t it? You want into a program in order to hone your craft, but your craft has to be recognized as being at a certain level in order to be admitted. Writing and reading develop these skills, as do good writing groups and community workshops
    • All I can say is that it’s as obvious as a gator in a kiddie pool when a story is working toward something significant, when the words have been chosen with care, when the music of the prose shows someone has an ear for it. This is what marks the prose as competent, let alone excellent. As someone mentioned once in a comment here at the blog, Robert Frost said, “To judge a poem or piece of prose you go the same way to work—apply the one test—greatest test. You listen for the sentence sounds. If you find some of those not bookish, caught fresh from the mouths of people, some of them striking, all of them definite and recognizable, so recognizable that with a little trouble you can place them and even name them, you know you have found a writer…”
    • Put your best work up front. I read hoping it will continue to be good. If you have only 20 really solid pages, send those. Better not to pad.


(Art by Willard Sachs & Miriam Bohm)


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