How to Develop a Creative Writing Portfolio

A creative writing portfolio is designed to showcase your work as a writer in a variety of formats. You may be asked to provide such a compilation of your work for different audiences, such as the professor of your creative writing class, a graduate admissions committee or a prospective publisher. Consider a few key guidelines when putting it all together in order hit the mark!

Follow the Rules

Since the occasion for a creative writing portfolio differs wildly, be sure to review the specific guidelines and rules that pertain to you. If you're applying for an academic writing program, print out the submission guidelines and create a checklist for yourself. The State University of New York, for example, requires applicants to their program to submit a 500-word letter of intent that outlines their reasons for entering the program as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Skipping these steps or assuming that all creative writing portfolios are formatted similarly could hurt your chances for success.

Pick Your Poison

Now that you've familiarized yourself with the portfolio's specific format, you can start compiling your work. Many portfolios allow you to submit submissions of your choice from a variety of genres, such as poetry, short fiction or a novel excerpt. Others may require you to submit a page count. The New Hampshire Institute of Art, for instance, requires 10 to 20 pages of content from selections of the author's choice. The key here is to present your very best work, rather than the work that you think will impress a panel. Choose pieces that exhibit your strengths in several forms, not just the same tone and perspective over and over.

Ask for Help

Once you've compiled your letter of intent, if required, and your body of work, ask a good writer to review your portfolio. Oftentimes, writers become so familiar with their own work that they lose objectivity. Having a knowledgeable, seasoned writer review your selections individually and as a collection can help you determine whether you're presenting yourself in the strongest light. Based on the feedback, you may decide to submit a portfolio with less than the maximum page count. Submitting a lower number of high-quality pages is better than submitting a large amount of mediocre work.

Review and Submit

Finally, before you send off your collection of creative efforts, take some time to carefully proofread all of your materials for any mistakes. As a writer, you will be scrutinized on grammar, spelling and usage. You cannot afford to have costly mistakes make their way into a finished product that is supposed to be the best that you have to offer. If necessary, consider asking an editor to review your work for these specific issues. Making sure that everything is in order before final submission could mean the difference between disappointment and acceptance.