Build Your Reading List

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Reading

On Wednesday, we talked about casting a wide net in our reading and how we can learn from those writers who came before us.  Today, we put those words into action.  And guess what, to make this week’s prompt super-easy and fun, I’ve made a special worksheet!

Click the link to download the Reading List Worksheet, print it and fill it out.  This will give you a reading list for your DIY MFA, just like you would have if you were in an MFA program and taking a literature seminar.  The only difference is that your DIY MFA list will be customized to your specific work-in-progress and the types of books YOU want to study.

Once you’ve created your reading list, set a reading schedule.  Maybe you can get through a book or more per week.  That’s great!  Or maybe one-two books a month is more your pace.  That’s fine too.  Just be realistic as to how quickly you can get through these books; set a reasonable goal and stick to it.  Check books off the list as you read them and in a couple of months, go back to your list, evaluate your progress and update it if necessary.

Once you’ve done all that, there’s only one thing left for you to do: start reading.

  • I’ve been “struggling” with this, but in a good way. My immediate response was “But my WIP is a metafiction which uses various forms of narrative to tell one type of story that serves as a metaphor for another type of story. As far as I know, there’s nothing similar or potentially competitive.”

    Hubris? Probably. But I soon made a list of contemporary metafiction novels, focusing on ones I haven’t already read.

    So far so good. Then I needed to add some young adult novels on a particular topic.

    Then some fantasy novels and fairy tales collections.

    And I need to do some historical research so I need a book on ancient Sumerian life, one on 13th century Spain, another on post-Renaissance Ireland, and another on Chicago during Prohibition.


    Basically, I went from absolutely unsure how I would begin to realizing that if I really was drawing on so many ways of story-telling in my WIP then I needed to have at least 2 books from all of the above in the competitive and contemporary categories. I could dump the research books in the “informative” list and be somewhat covered. I also put the fairy tales under classics because that seemed a good fit.

    Now that I know where to begin, I have to see what my library has to fill in the blanks of what I don’t already have myself. From there, I should be able to make a thorough, albeit eclectic reading list. Wish me luck. I think I’ll need it.

  • Got my list together and posted on my blog… I guess I am going to stick with the WIP about the Schizophrenic who thinks a popstar is in love with her and talking to her through his songs.

  • Gabriela

    @Satia–I’m glad this plan has given you a good starting point! Remember, you can always adjust the reading list (and your reading plan) as you go along. Read on!

    @MissM–omigoodness, your WIP sounds so interesting! I’m fascinated by the concept.

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