University of Southern California
black horizontal bar for print styles
Please note: Due to late revisions, some text on this page differs from what appears in the printed version of the USC Catalogue. The changes appear below as highlighted text, with corresponding explanations appearing in the right margin.

Professional Writing Program

Office of Advanced and Professional Programs
Mark Taper Hall 355
(213) 740-3252
FAX: (213) 740-5002

Director: Brighde Mullins, M.F.A.

Master of Professional Writing

The program is designed for individuals pursuing writing as a career. Fields included are fiction, screenwriting, poetry, stageplay and non-fiction. Program faculty are successful writers whose experience in writing and knowledge of publishing bring professional expertise to the classroom.

The academic curriculum offers seminars and workshops focusing on the development of students' work and on marketing the book, play and filmscript. The degree is specifically intended for writers, preferably those interested in working in more than one genre.

Admission Requirements
Admission to the program is based upon possession of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university, with a minimum 3.0 GPA. When possible, interviews will be conducted with applicants. Adequate scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations, three letters of ­recommendation and a work sample of at least 10 pages are required.

Degree Requirements
Thirty units of work are required for the MPW degree. MPW 900 Survey of Professional Writing (3 units) is required and normally will be taken during the first year. In addition, 15 units are required in the student's major field (fiction, poetry, non-fiction, cinema or drama), including one to six units of MPW 994 Professional Writing Project, in which a final project is developed in consultation with the director of the program and an appropriate faculty advisor. The remaining 12 units consist of electives from the writing curriculum. Students are required to submit a proposal describing their individual final projects to the director at least six weeks prior to the beginning of any semester in which they plan to enroll in MPW 994. There are no foreign language or thesis requirements.

Progressive Degree Program in Master of Professional Writing

The progressive degree program permits exceptional undergraduate students to receive both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Professional Writing within five years. It is intended for students with extraordinary MPW preparation and performance who demonstrate a superior level of overall scholarship.

Applicants may apply after the completion of 64 units of course work applicable to their undergraduate degree since graduating from high school. (AP units, IB units and course work taken prior to high school graduation are excluded). Applicants must submit their applications before completing 96 units of course work. Normally, the application is submitted in the fall semester of the third year of enrollment at USC. The application for admission to a progressive degree program must be accompanied by a departmentally approved course plan proposal and two letters of recommendation from USC faculty members in the Master of Professional Writing program.

Awarding of Degrees
Progressive degree program students must fulfill all of the requirements for both the bachelor's degree and the master's degree, including a master's thesis. The unit requirement for the master's degree can be reduced by as much as one-third. The degrees may be awarded separately, but the master's degree will not be awarded before the undergraduate degree.

Time Limits
The time limit for completing a progressive degree program is 12 semesters.

Further details about progressive degrees can be found here.

Courses of Instruction

Professional Writing Program (MPW)

The terms indicated are expected but are not guaranteed. For the courses offered during any given term, consult the Schedule of Classes.

The title and description for this course will change in fall 2010.

See revised version

MPW 460 Writers Workshop: Multi Genre Approaches (4, max 8, FaSpSm) Development of short creative texts in nonfiction, fiction, playwriting, poetry and screenwriting. Lecture, discussion, author visits and workshop. Open only to sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students.

MPW 460 Playwright's Workshop (4, max 8) Development of full-length plays from staged readings to a finished, producible work. Class involves the writer with directors, technicians, and actors in shaping plays with an eye toward professional production. Lecture and laboratory.

MPW 900 Survey of Professional Writing (3, FaSpSm) Analysis of genres, characteristics of narration, stylistic editing, and the role of the writer in contemporary society. Required of all MPW majors.

MPW 910 The Literary Marketplace (3, FaSp) The writer in the professional world: agents, contracts, copyright, adaptations, manuscript preparation, and editing.

MPW 915 Writing Humor: Literary and Dramatic (3, FaSp) Analysis of the specifics of humor — wit, irony, satire, parody and farce — through examples taken from various genres; discussion/workshop on incorporating humor in students' work.

MPW 920 Principles of Dramatic Structure (3, FaSpSm) Analysis of techniques in preparing scripts for various media; practice in adapting materials from non-dramatic forms.

MPW 925 Advanced Nonfiction Writing (3, max 6) The writing of longer nonfiction works: organization of material, subject choice, and interviewing techniques.

MPW 930 Story Conference (3, FaSp) Development of a synopsis idea for stageplay or screenplay via a professional producer/writer story conference approach. Emphasis on character, scene structure, advancement of story­lines. Prerequisite: writing sample.

MPW 940 Literature and Approaches to Writing the Novel (3, Sp) Discussion and analysis of literary classics and their influences as applicable to the writing of today's novel; development of book-length fiction. Prerequisite: departmental approval; MPW 960ab recommended.

MPW 950 Technical Writing (3, FaSp) Prep­aration of technical material and reports for management; detailed descriptions of processes, equipment, and systems.

MPW 960 Fiction Writing Workshop (3, max 9) Development and analysis of book-length fiction; concentration on narration, characterization, point of view, and clarity of style.

MPW 965 Seminar in Playwriting (4, max 8) An extensive examination of dramatic forms: classroom analysis and production of material culminating in work demonstrating professional promise.

MPW 970 Principles of Poetic Techniques (3, Fa) Beginning analysis of techniques in the writing of poetry as they relate to form and content; concentration on individual student poetry. Contemporary poetry surveyed.

MPW 980 Advanced Poetry Writing (3, max 6) Advanced analysis of modern poetic techniques; concentration on individual student poetry; emphasis on producing publishable literary poetry.

MPW 985 Master Class in Drama (3, max 6) The development of a short stageplay from idea to stage reading.

MPW 990 Directed Research (1-4, FaSpSm) Research leading to the master's degree. Maximum units which may be applied to the degree to be determined by the program director. Graded CR/NC.

MPW 994 Professional Writing Project (1-6, FaSpSm) Supervised preparation of a full-length manuscript in student's major concentration: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or drama-cinema-television. Credit upon completion of project. Graded IP/CR/NC. Prerequisite: taken last semester of study.

MPW 999 Special Topics (2-4, max 9, FaSpSm) Studies in specific genres, techniques or aspects of the writing craft.