DIY MFA Reading List

I like reading about writing. I like catching up on what I didn’t take in school back when I had the chance. Here are my favorites over the last six years of my Do It Yourself MFA journey:

Grandiose title, but an excellent compressed spin through all the major elements of fiction with good examples and reading list.

Deep dive into structural alternatives to Aristotle’s Poetics. Another excellent generator for the reading list.

A compressed almost reference guide of the shapes narrative can take followed by an A to Z section on various components.

Sometimes known as the screenwriting teacher, McKee’s books are actually dedicated to all forms of Storytelling.

Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen

Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and Principles of Screenwriting

This is a great series published by Graywolf Press that includes even more than the ones listed here. Each one is a class of its own with in depth exploration of the topic at hand including samples and reading lists.

Crazy title, but a great essay collection. The first two chapters are worth the price alone. The first is a class on novel concepts we used in a week long novel class at Iowa Summer’s Writing fest, and the second is one of the best essays I have read on short story theory.

Eight “lectures” documented by his wife after his death based on material he taught at Breadloaf.

I prefer this one to Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. He sometimes runs the risks of suggesting there is only one right way to do things and he knows that one way better than anyone, but On Becoming a Novelist has good material for the elements of a novel as well as the mental approach to committing to novel writing.

Excellent scope including chapters on Words, Sentences, Paragraphs, Narration, Character, Dialogue, Details, and Gesture. Dives into specific examples to explore different ways the greats have written before. Somewhat limited in terms of writers she uses for sampling, but definitely one that has changed how I read and revise.

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