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What to Do When You Can’t Afford Grad School?

readgirlYOU DO IT YOURSELF!!!!!

Welcome to the C.A. MFA Crib Sheet. Part One is all about building your technique. [If you buy used, you’ll get the most bang for your buck.]

Here goes:

grammar1. Freshen Up Your Grammar Skills with Warriner’s Complete Course.  Harcourt is reprinting this classic textbook, but you want one of the 70’s vintage or earlier.

*I know many of you like the Elements of Style, but I find this one serves me better.

Description2. Learn the right way to do description.  Monic Wood’s: Description will teach you to how to draw on the five senses, weed out unnecessary prose, and write non-boring descriptions of weather and other elements that will incorporate mood.  There is a section on POV, but I recommend another one on that topic.

shutup3. Perfect your dialogue.  Shut Up! He Explained has been reprinted as well (it’s that good), and with a much snazzier cover too, but for some reason I’m still partial to the old one.  Either way get a copy of this one.

crafting char kress4. Now focus on character.

For the development aspect, I favor Creating Characters Kids Will Love which is geared to the YA writer, but applies to any type of fiction.  For an understanding of how character drives plot, I like Kress’ Dynamic Characters.

5.  Deepening FictionDelve into Point of View with Deepening Fiction. The section on POV is worth the price of the book. Best treatment of the subject you’ll find anywhere.

*If you can’t stomach the price, there is a Longman version minus the anthology and story analysis.

scene technique6. Practice the Scene. You can’t beat Techniques of the Selling Writer when it comes to scene and it’s function (old covers are yellow), but I also like and recommend The Scene Book.  It’s a gem.

plot and structure7. Fill in the gaps on Plot and Structure.

Anything you didn’t get from the other books on the subject of plot, you’ll pick up here.

revising8. Know how to revise.  I use Revising Fiction a lot to diagnose problems with manuscripts.  This is the go-to book when you know something’s not working and you need to figure out why.

That’s it for PART ONE!   Remember to check back later for PART TWO.  I’ll be sharing a list of novels that you can pick apart to learn for yourself how some popular authors apply the techniques mentioned above.