Many of you submitted your first round of applications yesterday. Fantastic work and congratulations! For the past few months, you’ve been writing and revising, wrangling recommenders, and tracking transcripts and GRE score reports. But now that the first submissions are in, I’m sure that there is a sense of completion and possibly curiosity (or worry) about your manuscript.
If you’d like some feedback on your writing to address the questions that may be surfacing now, I’d be happy to work with you by providing holistic feedback (450-600 words) addressing your stories, novel excerpt, or essays as a whole. The feedback will tell you whether the heart of the piece is clear, and whether all elements–such as characterization, use of language, structure, pacing–of the narrative work cohesively. I’ll also lay out concrete steps to improving the work for revision. Overall, it’s a calm, organized, and concise way to making your writing better. For more details about creative writing feedback, you can visit my site.
For most of you, application deadlines are fast approaching as we enter the last half of November. While this tends to be a stressful time with holidays, visitors, travel plans, wrapping up other work, and so on, create a space for yourself to work on this particular project. Like anything you care about, you’ll have to carve out that time and protect it.
With 2-8 weeks remaining, here is what you need to do:
Create a schedule for working on you manuscript. Determine how much time you need to finish it, and then schedule it into your final weeks. In interviews with faculty at various MFA programs, it’s been clear that the manuscript– the quality of the work and its embodiment of your interests and voice– is the most important aspect of an application. (See how I help writers with manuscripts here.)
Write an amazing personal statement. “I like to get to know a candidate’s life and personality in the letter of intent, but I would recommend against being too confessional,” said Jennifer S. Davis in our 2015 interview. This is a place to really speak for yourself and the trick is in mastering language, tone, and content to create a balance of openness and professionalism. (See how I work with writers on the statement here.)
Get all of your GRE score reports squared away (if you have to take it). According to the GRE website, “Score reports will be sent to your designated institutions approximately 5 business days after your order is placed. For the four recipients you choose at the test centre: Your official scores will be available in your My GRE Account and sent to your score recipients approximately 10–15 days after your test date.” If you didn’t do well on it, you can retake the test every 21 days.
Remind or thank your recommenders.
Familiarize yourself with the online application system. Register so that you have a log-in, and then keep track of all of your usernames and passwords.
Danielle Dutton’s fiction has appeared in magazines such as Harper’s, BOMB, Fence, and Noon. She is the author of Attemptsat a Life, SPRAW L, and the novel Margaret the First. In 2010, she founded the small press Dorothy, a publishing project. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis