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This past Spring I conducted an interview with Gabriela Pereira, host of @DIYMFA Radio. These are a fantastic series of podcasts for aspiring writers to learn more about the craft without paying enormous sums of money to attend an MFA program.

In the interview, we talk about how and whether data can be useful for creative writers. It’s clear a lot of new computational work is coming out that tries to predict whether a book will be successful or not. In my own work, I’ve been interested in trying to assess whether degrees like the MFA have a noticeable impact on the style of novels. In that piece, we found no noticeable differences, suggesting that the MFA does not set writers apart from those who forego the degree.

The idea we discuss in the interview is how these tools can help us be more creative as writers rather than just help publishers weed out their slush pile or come up with marketing budgets. As I discuss in the interview, data can make us more self-conscious as writers, teaching us about stylistic weaknesses or giving suggestions about how to expand our plots or make our characters more complex. At the same time, it can also help writers better understand the markets they are writing for. Publishing can often seem like a black box to those on the outside. Data can make that world more transparent.

You can locate the interview here.