I am, I must admit, a bit of a fiend when it comes to collecting books on writing, a.k.a Craft Books. There's hardly a one I haven't perused, and many of them make it onto my shelves. (What can I say? Buying books is a bit of an addiction.)
Several years ago, I came across the DIYMFA website, the brainchild of Gabriela Pereira. Gabriela had earned an MFA herself, but saw the need to help others who might not have the time or the financial wherewithal to pursue a traditional MFA.
From the get-go, I was attracted by the design of the website, and by the way Gabriela Pereira organized things. (It came as no surprise to learn, while reading DIYMFA, that she has a masters in design as well as her MFA.) Gabriela was big on creating community also, and I enjoyed the conversational style in her regular emails to her blog subscribers.
I jumped, therefore, at the opportunity to join her "street team," and the chance to read her book DIYMFA (Writers Digest books, July 2016). I wasn't disappointed.
DIYMFA is the book I wished I'd had in my innocent little hands when I started my writing journey all those years ago. Organized in three parts--Write with Focus; Read with Purpose; and Build Your Community--it's cram packed with tips, insights and examples from some of my favorite writers. (Is it a coincidence that Gabriela and I share a love for Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games? I think not.)
WRITE WITH FOCUS
This is the meat of the book, where Gabriela tackles motivation, three act structure, creating characters, Point of View, dialogue, and revising in layers. Even if you've immersed yourself in craft books like yours truly, you will still experience new insights--from how to create a mind map, to using the acronym WORST to figure out what your character wants**, to revising in layers--courtesy of the revision pyramid.
**WORST stands for
W = What does your character want? What is her deepest desire?
O = What obstacles are in her way?
R = What will your character risk on the quest for this desire?
S = What’s at stake in your story? What will happen if the character fails?
T = How does your character transform or change on this journey?
READ WITH PURPOSE
When you study for an MFA, you immerse yourself in reading great books. Gabriela gives tips on how to build your own library, gives you permission to DNF a book (c'mon, life is too short if you are finding yourself slogging through a book), and shows you how to read as a writer. I particularly loved her thorough examination of Kate Chopin's short story, The Story of an Hour.
This section of the book is packed with advice about how to maintain a circle of trust, using the acronym CASA:
C = Critique
A = Accountability
S = Support
A = Advice or Apprenticeship
There are tools for how to start a critique group, and how best to critique another's work and accept the critique of your own. Gabriela is also very thorough when talking about crafting your author identity, and how best to network at writing conferences. (I particularly liked her "Four-Step Networking Formula for Introverts," as "networking" always gives me the willies.)
DIYMFA concludes with a commencement address, including these stirring lines:
Writing is survival. You must stay on the battlefield after everyone
else has given into defeat. “Overnight success” is a myth. The secret is
to persist until everyone has given up and you’re the only one left standing.
Some people say that writers are born, not made, and I agree—but with
a twist. I believe that every single human on this planet is born a writer, it’s
just that most people give up somewhere along the way.
Don’t give up.
In conclusion, I have to say that with the tools imparted by Gabriela Pereira in DIYMFA, it becomes a lot easier to stay the course on the writing jungle gym! I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my copy after it publishes on July the 8th!
(Click this link to order it from Writers Digest for 24% savings.)