The Covid-19 Creative Writing MFA Program

…a recap of my writing studies in 2020.

The fact that so many conventions and seminars adopted an online format this year was a huge opportunity for me to improve my writing, and there’s nothing like constant daily reminders of your own mortality (and losing financial security anyway) as motivation to chase your dreams.

At the start of the year I joined David Farland’s Apex Group. This was enormously helpful because it gave me access to his full set of writing courses at a monthly rate that I could fit into the budget. Going through those classes was helpful, just as I expected, but the twice weekly speakers became a larger part of my writing routine than I ever anticipated. The regular zoom meetings rekindled my excitement whenever it faded.

The free Writers of the Future Online Workshop was worthwhile to work through, and on the contest forums, Wulf Moon’s Super Secrets Workshop gives a book’s worth of advice for short fiction.

I was lucky enough to get into two of Clarion West‘s online workshops during the early scramble to move content online: Landing the Gut Punch with Helen Marshall and Moving from the Novel to the Short Story with Arkady Martine. Both taught lessons that I immediately applied to this year’s writing.

But Fyrecon in November was truly the highlight of my remote learning, with an incredible density of classes for writers. I took Wulf Moon’s plotting workshop and tried to drink from the fire hose of useful material.

I am on track to finish the year with five new short pieces, major revisions to two previous short stories, and between five and six chapters drafted of the current novel. It’s a personal best in number of complete narratives (although not in word count; working through full narratives has been much more helpful this year).

Finally, this year has been a class in professionalism. If I want to break through and make writing something that generates income, I’ll need to meet external deadlines without excuses. I accomplished everything listed above in an average of 2 hours a day, working at the time of day when I feel sluggish and least creative. I kept writing through massive baby-caused sleep deprivation, family deaths, children being always present, and the sound of constant sirens as the city destroyed itself. I’m now certain that if I get to a place where my writing income can justify spending more time on it, I can scale up the number of words that I produce, no matter what happens around me. My next learning goal is to work on storytelling so that those words land.

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