Will MFA Writing Programs be the Only Help for Successful Writers?

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I have a question…


University Writing Program Building where the Benches are all empty, for now!
University Writing Program Building where the Benches are all empty, for now!

In the near future (I would say that many of us know it’s coming even though there are many who do not want to admit it) ebooks will be the cornerstone of publishing. Ebooks are already storming the fortress walls, and it doesn’t take a lot to realize that after the last of the big box books stores goes (Barnes and Noble are planning on closing more stores) many people will have to, have to, have to, order their books online. If this happens and ebooks become cheaper than real books (which new vs new they already are), then most people will presumably find it much easier and cheaper to buy an electronic books, right?

I don’t think print books will ever really go away. I think at first they will drop slightly behind ebooks then more so, and more so, until real paperback books that you hold in your hand are more of a novelty than an everyday items. I don’t think this is going to take a hundred years. Do you? I mean everything is moving so fast right now. Ebooks are selling more and more, bookstores are closing so fast. I never thought it would only take a few years to bring down Borders. They were so huge!

Either way, let’s say all or at least some of this happens. Lets say that at least people begin to buy more ebooks than any other books. Then let’s say that individuals can sell their books for cheaper than big publishing houses (which is already happening and already true), if that’s the case, if I decide to write something is an MFA program going to be the place that can help me be a successful writer?

At first, this might seem like a silly questions. Why would an MFA help you be a successful self-published author? What does one have to do with the other? Well, there are really 2 institutions in the American writing landscape. You can read our MFA vs NYC article here. The first is the university. They help/make/produce writers, right? I mean that’s one of the things MFA programs do is help/train writers. Ok, and the other institutions are the large publishing houses, right? I mean you don’t think that James Patterson does all his writing without help? Do you think Stephen King sends his books to the printer himself? No, they have editors, and on many books editors are much more than crossing ts, there are deep edits. Editors change characters, and plot lines, and suggest different endings. They work with writers to make these books the bestsellers they can be, right?

Large publishing houses, many times will make major changes to books that have been submitted. The author has session after session with his editors to go over everything, fact checking and building plot and story lines. They help the writer.

So if that’s the case, and big book companies start to run out of money because they can’t compete with Amazon or with self-publishers, then will MFA writing programs be the only thing left? Whoa. I just blew my own mind.

Yes, it would seem that a world, some dementon on some time-line in our future, could have a place in it where University MFA or college programs are they only places writers to go to get help. This would mean that writing programs/universities will be the only institutions able to produce writers, right?

Hmm. Doesn’t exactly sound right…I guess there will be a large groups of writers still writing from the heart/street. They will still be publishing like today, the difference is, they will not get help though. So this means they have to be naturally skilled? How often do you see that? A high school student who can write so well, without an editor, or any kind of publishing support, is so skilled, he can write and edit his own books? I don’t know. I don’t know…

So, if it ends up that MFA writing programs are the only institutions out there creating/helping writers, then I think they will, in the end, if it is a good writing program, help people become successful at making a living as a writer, right? I honestly, cannot fathom how to answer my own question on this?

Leave your crazy theoretical questions below.

Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal...check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles

1 Comment

  1. Interesting…

    In my personal opinion I would say:
    Just like a disruptive business idea need not have to come from a student educated at Harvard or Stanford, of from one who has an MS, MBA or MFA degree, similarly MFA writing programs need not be the only options for creating/helping good writers. Even a college English lecturer, a school English teacher or a senior writer can help an individual with his or her writing.

    MFA writing programs or any workshop wherein they teach creative writing will always benefit the writer.

    But nevertheless, if a piece of writing as large as a book needs to be published online, then editors are definitely required in some form. Yes, even if it means creating a html page or a pdf document. When it comes to self-publishing, maybe in the worst case, the publishing standards may go down a bit, there could be more grammatical and spelling errors due to lack of good editors.

    In order to get their work out, small time writers will use any medium and format that is the easiest in terms of convenience, reach and cost.

    While the buyers will take a call when it comes to content versus price, the collective ‘market forces’ will decide what will catch on and what will be discarded.

    The universe will self-correct itself 🙂

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