Updated Dec, 10th 2012
When I applied to graduate school for a Masters of Fine Arts in poetry earlier this year, I submitted my manuscript to various online writing communities for critique. I did this because I genuinely believed getting the feedback of other MFA applicants and aspiring poets would help me hone in on my strengths, improve my weaknesses, and overall polish up my writing.
Of all the people I sent my work out to, only one person got back to me. It took this person a week, and his critcism, while slightly helpful in a general way, lacked the specificity, depth and insight I needed to begin any constructive revision.
I decided (since I surmised wasn't the only person having a difficult time getting my poetry manuscript edited in a timely and in depth manner for an MFA. application) to create a service that connects MFA applicants looking to have their manuscripts evaluated, with MFA graduates who can do a fast and thorough job evaluating them.
PRODUCT VISION: A website where MFA applicants in fiction, non fiction and poetry can send their manuscripts to be edited and evaluated by MFA graduates at a comparitively low cost. There are online writing communities out there, but the feedback is too slow to come and too unreliable in quality. There are also profession poets who evaluate submissions, but for double the cost of what my service would be
HYPOTHESIS: I believe MFA applicants in fiction, non fictiton, and poetry would pay to have their work evlauated by MFA graduates at least once before submitting it to a graduate school, to ensure they have the highest quality portfolio possible,.
CONTINUING STORY: I contacted a graduated from one of the top M.F.A. programs in the country to see if she'd be interested in critiquing submissions I could channel to her. I then emailed all the other members of one group I was in (the only one I could find specifically for M.F.A applicants) requesting interviews for me to learn how they go about improving their work.
What I needed to learn was
1. Are MFA applicants in need of faster feedback of their work?
2. Are MFA applicants in need of more thorough feedback of their work?
3. Would they be willing to pay for a service that provides either/both of the above ?
4. How do they go about getting feedback now?
5. How quickly can they use the feedback they get to begin revising?
6. On a scale of 1-10 how helpful is the feedback they get?
7. What other difficulties are other MFA applicants having with their application process?
As of now, I only recieved three applicants who were interested in being interviewed. What I got from these three in response to the questions above (and others was)
1. They don't get feedback fast enough.
2. They don't get thorough enough feedback.
3. They don't get feedback that gives them a strategy or way to fix what isn't working in their writing or to gradually improve it.
4. The feedback they get averages at a 4 in terms of its usefullness.
4. 2/3 people felt the most difficult part of the application process was shortening and personalizing the personal essay.
5. 1/3 people felt the most diffciult part of the application process was finding out enough information about schools financial aid policies.
6. Everyone said they'd be willing to pay for faster, more thorough feedback on their work.