By The Beast


Read These 5 Books On Writing In Lieu of Spending $40,000 On An MFA

Getting an MFA is admirable and useful, but it's also incredibly time-consuming and costly. There are other ways to get a similar education to start improving your writing now.


By The Beast

Back in the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to land an agent and a book deal you had two choices: spend a million dollars on postage cold-querying agents, or get an MFA. These days, all you need is a great pitch and a Twitter account.

And—oh, right—a book.

Instead of spending a bunch of money and two years of your life learning to write like Raymond Carver (because, honestly, that’s 90% of what an MFA program will teach you), get all the craft lessons you need—and then some—from these nuts-and-bolts guides.

Take Off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Better, Faster Writing, by Libby Harker, $3.99 Kindle Edition on Amazon

Any author worth her salt will tell you that character drives plot…but how, exactly? Ignore this book’s silly title (and the goofy drawings of underpants on the cover) and let Libby Harker school you on why a strong character arc is the single most important thing your novel needs—and how to create one that works.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, by Lisa Cron, $11.99 Kindle Edition on Amazon

Did you know our brains are chemically hardwired to get swept up in a great story? In this fascinating mash-up of brain science and craft tips, Lisa Cron will teach you how to turn the barest hint of an idea into a story that makes our lizard-mind crave more.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion and Theme, by Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld, $9.99 Kindle Edition on Amazon

Ready to stop outlining and start writing? This overview of scene types (and the crucial elements that make a scene tick) will keep you cruising through the chapters.

Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder, $12.51 Kindle Edition on Amazon

“What?” you may be saying. “I want to write a novel, not a screenplay. This is hogwash. I’m getting an MFA.” Hush now. Blake Snyder’s seminal screenwriting guide is useful for writers of any fiction, be it page or screen. Buy it. Read it. Breathe it.

Cathedral, by Raymond Carver, $11.99 Kindle Edition on Amazon

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Having learned the basics of plotting, character arc, and scene structure, you can now turn your attention to writing like Raymond Carver. This book should help.

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