1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    What makes for the best writing sample?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by deadrats, Jan 31, 2017.

    What makes for the best writing sample when applying for things like residencies, fellowships, conferences or programs? Even if you haven't applied for these find of things, what do you think you would use?

    I've always used short stories and have some luck with this approach. But now I'm looking to apply for residencies, which are basically just going away to write and live among other writers and artist for a few weeks to a few months. I really want to do this, but from what I understand they are super competitive. Anyway, you can submit up to 50 pages for this one on my list. I was thinking of using two short stories. Polished work from my MFA thesis. The safe choice.

    But I've been writing this novel over the past few weeks. I'm in love with it. I love writing it. I love reading it. I even love editing it. I don't know if this is just some sort of writer's high that comes with when you're new to novel writing. But what if this really is the best work I've ever done? It feels like it is, and it has had a lot of my attention lately.

    I have about two weeks before the first deadline on my list for these sort of things I plan to apply for this year. I would have to really go back and polish the crap out of the first 50 pages, but it's not a mess. It might even be good. It's a risk. Especially since there is really no time to have another set of eyes on it. I would need to go through it myself first and that takes about two weeks, I believe.

    This is just the first deadline on my list this year. I can save the novel for a writing sample on another application if it seems too soon to use it. Like I said, I only started this novel earlier this month. I would love to hear what some of you think. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Elven Candy

    Elven Candy Pay no attention to the foot in my mouth Contributor

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    Are you allowed to use one short story and the first 25 pages of your novel?
     
  3. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I don't know, but that's probably something I wouldn't do. Twenty-five pages of a novel really isn't much. I think I'm either going to go one way or the other on this.
     
  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    In your situation, I'd get an objective opinion from a trusted friend/mentor. It's hard to step away from our works enough to judge their individual merit. You might be in love with your novel now, but that doesn't mean the writing is as polished as the short stories.

    Objective opinions always help me.
     
    Homer Potvin likes this.
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    There's really no time to seek out opinions before this upcoming deadline. I think people are sick of reading my stuff, anyway. And I'm not sure I want to share my novel with anyone I know (especially other writers) before it's done. But you are probably right. I know I have polished short stories. I know that's the safe choice. Thanks.
     
  6. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    If the aim is to win a place at the writing residency, then of course go with the safe choice. You've got a list of things to apply for - so see which ones you wouldn't be too disappointed with if you didn't get a place, and take a gamble with those. For the places you really want, go with the safe choice. It doesn't matter that the novel might be your best work yet - it only matters that something you write is good enough to earn you a place. To give an analogy, if 40% is the pass mark and one gets a 41% and the other 98% - in the end they both pass, and the rest is history.
     
  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect a writer in residence must display a certain amount of proficiency in as many different kinds of writing as possible. I know one person who was 'writer in residence' locally for several years. He ran a writers' group, offered help to people who needed help with all aspects of writing ...from actual writing to submissions for publication, etc. He is a traditionally published author (small time) but he has a lot of experience writing not only fiction and poetry, but also produced researched nonfiction, essays, and has edited a magazine.

    So I would say go for samples of your best work in as many different styles as you can. Don't present yourself as a one-trick pony, especially with something you haven't finished yet, and hasn't been published. No problem mentioning that you're working on it though.
     

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