MFA programs can teach you all about writing, the three act structure, character development, setting and so on. What they can’t teach you is how YOU put all the pieces of your novel together. They can’t find your voice for you or discover the themes that are most important to you. That only comes from writing and rewriting your narrative.
That usually means an author’s first book doesn’t work well. For example, it has taken a lot of effort to shape my debut novel, Fantastic America into a sellable book. I’m still tweaking chapters and examining what I can change with critique partners. But none of that is a bad thing. Several authors I’ve talked to threw their fist novel in a drawer hoping for a better second book.
More important to me, from my experience writing a novel. I’ve learned how I write. Last year I learned I can churn out a 100K word novel in two months. I wrote the first 50K words of Midwestern Magicians during Nanowrimo in November. The best lesson of all is that I know I CAN finish a novel length book, easily worth the struggle. No MFA program required.
Not that those programs aren’t a great help, it just isn’t the path I followed. A good program would likely have made my life easier. You have to put your behind in the past, or whatever they said in the Lion King. I’m not the least bit unhappy with where I am now or where my work is headed. The sooner I can share my books with readers, the better.
Speaking of that, Pitmad is today! I’ll be pitching Fantastic America and watching Twitter for likes from agents. Wish me luck or a broken bone, whatever your superstition demands for good fortune. I’ll need it.