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DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  430 ratings  ·  121 reviews
Get the Knowledge Without the College! You are a writer. You dream of sharing your words with the world, and you're willing to put in the hard work to achieve success. You may have even considered earning your MFA, but for whatever reason--tuition costs, the time commitment, or other responsibilities--you've never been able to do it. Or maybe you've been looking for a self ...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published July 8th 2016 by Writer's Digest Books
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Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Writers, people who want MFAs in fiction
Shelves: self-help
I've always wanted a Master of Fine Arts in creative fiction writing ever since I knew it existed. When it was time for me to apply to colleges, I picked those that had post-graduate creative writing programs. I wanted to be an English major and a master at the craft of writing fiction.

Well... I became an English major with a creative writing emphasis in fiction and a minor in Japanese, and I got accepted to two MFA programs, but...

I couldn't afford either of them. I'd graduated college debt-fre
Coming soon: thoughts on this book. One line summary? It's probably not a book for any of my writing friends seeing this review.

Update: So. Let's see. The book has three sections, and the bulk of it is devoted to "Write with Focus."

A general problem: This book can be prescriptive and pretends not to be.

Another is that it's more entry-level than I was hoping. I thought of an MFA as an advanced program, not one in which you are learning about what a character arc is or how plot works or that you
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a member of the DIY MFA Street Team and the DIY MFA 101 Course, I admit that I love everything DIY MFA! But writer-to-writer, this book is a true gem that all serious writers need to have on their shelf.

It's easy to say that you want to write a book. The truth is that writing is a complex, often daunting task, that is not a project for the faint of heart. With books and blogs so abundantly available, there is so much writing advice out there to sift through. For a newbie (and even for seasone
Laura Highcove
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You've probably heard the idiom: "Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime." This book embodies that quote in that the first nine pages of this book will change the way you think, not only about writing, but every facet of your life.

The DIYMFA Mindset teaches you how to be a learner.

The book is focused on three main areas:

In Writing with Focus, unlike normal "learn to write" books, Gabriela gives multiple options on how to work you
Abigail K. Perry
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must for any writer’s bookshelf! Pereira speaks with profound insight for any writer on their path to publishing – teaching him or her the writing tips, tricks, and need-to-knows about: Writing with a Focus, Reading with a Purpose, and Building Your Community.

Unlike the multitude of how-to-writing books that explain what you need to know in a checklist manner, Pereira takes your hand, providing examples and personalizing her tidbits in a way that allows you to apply all her advice t
The short of it: I loved the DIY MFA Book. It's a comprehensive and empowering adaptation of Gabriela's core concepts for DIY MFA (writing, reading, community building) that doesn't denounce the traditional MFA program, but rather presents an alternative to writers for financial, time management, or other reasons. There's definitely something for all writers, both beginners and more experienced; and the topics range from the practical (character development, developing a targeted reading plan, n ...more
Anna (lion_reads)
If you've ever listened to Gabriela's podcast, this book has the same flavour (if a little bit more prescriptive). The goal is to help new writers develop a career path that is similar to what they would get in an MFA program.

Each section is colourfully designed and contains small and big tips on how to cultivate your strategy as a writer. The book guides you through thoughtful reading, stress-free writing and shaping your writer's community. Along the way, Gabriela provides a handful of tips a
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have been a big fan of DIY MFA since I first heard Gabriela Pereira speak at the Writer's Digest conference in August 2014. As an educator, I responded to her strong ability to command her classroom's attention; deliver a clear and detailed lesson, chock-full of advice and information; and show confidence in her audience's ability to absorb and understand the material. Since that conference, I have become a columnist for the DIY MFA website and a proud member of Gabriela's team. I'm also a mem ...more
Robin Lovett
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is like having your very own writing coach cheering you on from the page. I'll be keeping the DIY MFA book on my shelf as a reference for years to come. It's an excellent manifesto for being our own writers and helping us find ourselves in the terrifying career we love so much. From page one it felt like entering into the covers of a writing world where it was safe to have all my insecurities and flaws. It includes concrete processes for harnessing those insecurities and techni ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books for writers I have read. Gabriela describes the life cycle of the writer in three parts: writing, reading, and community. Starting at the beginning, she gives tips and tricks for starting the writing process, busts the myths we often believe about writing and creativity, and deftly integrates examples from popular literature. Next, she takes us into reading like a writer with clever acronyms and fun exercises. Finally, she closes the book with a look at the wide wor ...more
Apr 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I was lucky enough to get access to a review copy. DIYMFA is a great book full of useful advice. The early part of the book I found myself thinking, this advice fits into many areas of life. As the writing specific advice started I found myself even picking up some inspiration along the way. I have read several books on writing, this one distils much of the best advice I have seen in them, a fair bit of advice hinted at in podcasts, and even some new tidbits. This title has earned a spot on my ...more
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I worked through this writing book, taking notes as I went. Found some advice and practices to be great, while others were pretty obvious things if you've even just written an essay in school. A bit too dumbed down but for the most part helpful and interesting to see how she approaches writing. My approach so far, that I've learned, is a bit different but I have incorporated some of her advice and techniques. ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began.

DIYMFA is what the MFA program should be (or should aspire to be) but never was.

Most MFA programs centre on critique—without teaching the stu
Jun 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There must be something unique about a person who holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in writing who develops a writing program called the Do-It-Yourself MFA. Gabriela Pereira identifies herself not only as a writer and teacher, but as a word nerd whose goal is not to take over the world with prose (well, maybe a little) but to challenge the expectation that only those with a graduate degree and years of classroom-guided processes can be successful and published authors. After a number of years in ...more
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The beginning half section of this book was insightful. Gave me information that helped more than other writing craft books out there.

As for the last two sections: they weren’t too helpful. The reading second I knew about already. Along with building a writing community.

I stand at my 4 stars for this book because the first third is useful and I’ll definitely be using what I learned.
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Worthwhile read
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Intentional and actionable content. What a breath of fresh writing-encouragement.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been reading Gabriela’s blog since around 2012 and this book is full of the inspirational, yet practical advice she gives on her website. If you want to write books but aren’t quite there, this is a great resource.
Dianna Gunn
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The great thing about DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build your Community is how different it is from other writing books. It does contain some writing exercises(and some really cool reading exercises) but really it's all about creating your own writing methodology. Rather than simply tell you her process and schedule, Gabriela walks you through how to create your own writing process and schedule. She reminds you again and again that your personalized MFA program should be just th ...more
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
What it should have been but never was
I was given an advanced reader copy (ARC) in return for an honest review.
Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.
Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began.
DIYMFA is what the MFA progra
Diane DeMasi
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Full disclosure: I received a digital arc of this book for an honest review. That being said, when my oldest asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day the only option I gave him was "DIY MFA the physical book." Being the good son he is, he pre-ordered the book for me. Ship Amazon, ship (I'm sure this comment will be obsolete in a few days time, but yeah, that's my mantra the next few days).

This is the first time I've ever received a free digital copy of a book and felt the need to buy/have a physi
C.J. Maughan
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
The author makes it clear that you should never give a negative review---that it's better to not say anything at all if you've nothing positive to say---which I don't agree with so here it is and I'm sorry (not sorry!) to be breaking your rules Ms. Pereira.

But this book is mostly for the types of people who want to TALK about writing, who want to carry their laptop around, push some keys every so often, rewrite the same few pages multiple times, drink lattes and say that they're a writer. I was
Lara Thompson
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Please note that I was given an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. The additional caveat is that I'm a long time visitor to the website and hence already a convert to the notion put forward in the title and book.

Starting with planning, motivation, improving your craft, and working toward writer's groups, marketing and publication, this book tries to cover it all. This is ok and works well enough since it was never her goal to be a comprehensive instruction in al
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I admit upfront that as a member of Gabriela Pereira’s “Street Team” I received an advanced review copy of her DIY MFA book. That fact had no influence on this review other than the ability to post it before the book is publicly available. In fact, I intend to buy a hard copy version as soon as possible.

Out of the many books about writing available, I believe this one would be an asset to any writer’s collection. Why? Because it’s not JUST about how to write; it also includes sections about comm
Miss Red
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The DIY MFA book is very thorough and covers just about everything that a writer may come up against, even things that one might not had thought about. Not only does Gabriela cover the basics of story structure and craft as well as facets of storytelling from character development and motivation, but she also includes how to form critique groups and 'working workshops.' It makes the experience of reading the book more enjoyable and a welcome manual during all steps of the writing process. I also ...more
Louise Foerster
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing

I finished reading Gabriela Pereira’s DIYMFA (DO IT YOURSELF MASTER OF FINE ARTS) and immediately completed a daunting scene in my work in progress. Yes, this book is that good. You want Pereira on your side when you face the fearsome blank page, attempt to explain your work to non-writers, or dig deep to go that extra ten percent to develop your craft. In clear, well-organized chapters, she eviscerates cherished myths to reveal the harrowing and fantastically rewarding journey of a writer’s lif
Kamsin Kaneko
May 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Practical advice and inspiration for anyone who wants to be a writer. Gabriela admits she's a statistics geek and some of the more geek-y parts lost me. But there is such a mine of useful information it would be impossible to find all of it equally useful. If there's one criticism it is that she covers almost too much ground.

The book covers everything you need to know if the traditional mfa route is not in budget or it's just not practical in your life to take time out to study. The online worl
Elisabeth Kauffman
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(reader's note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review)

This book captures the heart of the DIY MFA mission and delivers it in a brilliant package. The amount of solid writing advice and actionable information in this book is almost overwhelming! Gabriela crams all her most powerful creative advice between the covers here and delivers a solid, continually reference-able resource to help you up your writing game, no matter what your goals are.

I am a firm believer and s
Jaclyn Roche
May 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, writer-reference
DIY MFA is an excellent writer’s resource for your reference shelf. Gabriella guides us through the three-pronged processes it takes to be successful as a writer: Writing, Reading, and Community. The writing process is cleverly laid out with relevant examples from classic and modern literature. Gabriella has provided a map for the new and experienced writer with tons of ideas and thoughts. She makes it clear that this is your journey, and every writer does it differently. I loved that Gabriella ...more
Amanda K.
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are so many good ideas, so much good information, in DIY MFA the book, I almost don’t know where to begin. I love that Gabriela breaks the writing life into three areas: writing, reading and community. I’ve always had a hard time with editing my writing, but now I have a plan for how to edit my book. I’ll be starting that first. I’ll be reading with purpose and working on my own Literature Anthology starting with the next book I read. Community was the hardest part of this book to read. I ...more
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