Skip Navigation

Master of Professional Writing

Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication website wordmark
Skip Side Navigation

Master of Professional Writing (MPW)

This unique program is designed to develop and refine commercial writing skills for students interested in producing: nonfiction books, novels and screenplays.

The Master of Professional Writing (MPW) is one of the first programs of its kind in the United States, focusing on popular fiction and nonfiction. The degree evolves from a longstanding emphasis under the M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication. For 65 years, the University of Oklahoma's program in Professional Writing has prepared students to work as freelance fiction and nonfiction writers of books, screenplays, magazine articles and short stories. Our program faculty include commercially successful authors who bring substantial practical and creative experience to the classroom. 

Our unique Master of Professional Writing program allows students to work in close collaboration with experienced faculty who are actively writing and publishing novels, non-fiction books and screenplays, and fellow students who are doing the same. The MPW program has a long history of producing some of America’s most successful novelists, including western great Louis L’Amour, mystery favorite Tony Hillerman and urban fantasy pioneer Jim Butcher. Other distinguished writers who have come through the MPW program include Marilyn Harris, Ross Thomas, Carolyn Hart, Harold Keith, Bill Wallace, Jack Bickham and Curtiss Ann Matlock.

For more information on the admissions process and financial aid for graduate students:

Emphases

Students cover novel writing, nonfiction book writing and screenwriting in the core curriculum. Additional coursework in one or more of these three areas enables them to develop their knowledge and skills in line with their interests. Students’ development is demonstrated in the final project–a book-length, professional-quality manuscript.

The central feature of the curriculum is intensive evaluation and critique of each student’s writing. This individualized focus begins in the writing courses in the core curriculum and continues in much of the additional Professional Writing coursework and the final project.  Students work with instructors who are successful, published writers themselves.

Master of Professional Writing Curriculum

The MPW degree requires a minimum of 32 credit hours, excluding any undergraduate deficiency coursework.

Core Courses

Requires 32 credit hours excluding any undergraduate deficiency coursework.

Core courses 15 hours:

  • JMC 5514 Writing the Novel-Graduate
  • JMC 5734 Writing the Screenplay
  • JMC 5594 Writing the Commercial Nonfiction Book

And one of the following:

  • JMC 5073    Conceptual Issues in Journalism and Mass Communication
  • JMC 5063 Readings in Mass Communication
  • JMC 5083 Mass Communication Theory
  • JMC 5093 Introduction to Research Methods
PW Electives

9-12 credit hours from the list.

Students will select appropriate coursework from the list below in consultation with their adviser. Students may focus on one of the three areas covered in the core writing courses or choose to develop their abilities across more than one of those areas. In the case of individualized courses such as JMC 5503 Tutorial in Writing and JMC 5990 Independent Study, content will be tailored to the interests and needs of the student. (JMC 5514 Writing the Novel-Graduate, JMC 5594 Writing the Commercial Nonfiction Book and JMC 5734 Writing the Screenplay are listed both here and in the core curriculum because they may be repeated once with a change of content.)

NOTE: Students who wish to include any other JMC course not on the list must petition the JMC graduate liaison and the dean of the Graduate College.

Outside Electives

With the approval of the adviser, students are to take supportive coursework offered by other departments appropriate to the student’s focus in the program.

The following courses are possibilities that may be of interest to a variety of students in the program:

  • ENGL 5223 Seminar-Film
  • ENGL 5923 Advanced Fiction Writing
  • ENGL 5943 Advanced Creative Nonfiction
  • DRAM G4773 Playwriting I
  • DRAM G4783 Playwriting II
  • DRAM 5733 Graduate Play Structure and Analysis

Other areas of study will vary depending on students’ focus but may include history, psychology, physical sciences, anthropology, women’s studies, arts, modern languages, classics, or any other disciplines that should be helpful in developing the student’s final project. For example, a student writing a historical novel for a project might benefit from history courses.

Completion Project

JMC 5880 Graduate Project (2-4 hours).

The student must write a book-length manuscript (minimum of 50,000 words -- about 200 pages) or a feature-length screenplay (90 to 120 pages, approximating a film of 90 to 120 minutes) in the appropriate professionally recognized formats. The content of the project must be substantially new material and cannot repeat that submitted in previous coursework. This work is done under JMC 5880 Graduate Project.

The student must assemble a project committee, as the College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Graduate College require for thesis students. The student must then submit a written project proposal for approval. The proposal shall detail whether the project is to be a book or screenplay; it shall specify appropriate professional markets for future submission of the work; it shall include the major points of content; and it shall state any specific research methods necessary to support the development of the work. Upon completion of the project, the student must successfully defend the work before his or her committee and be able to provide a marketing strategy for submission to publishers or studios. (The work does not have to be accepted for publication but must be judged by the committee to be of publishable quality.)

Coursework outside the Core Classes

Graduate electives at Gaylord College vary from semester to semester to provide a wide opportunity for students to increase their knowledge of mass communication theory, research methodology and professional practices.

Here is a sample list of some recent electives in the program:

  • Contemporary Problems in Advertising
  • Magazine Production
  • Advanced Multimedia Journalism
  • Strategic Fashion Communication
  • Advertising Account Planning
  • Sports Public Relations
  • Producing and Directing for Multi-Camera
  • Advanced Video Production
  • Advanced Broadcast News
  • Multimedia Content Management
  • Documentary Producing and Directing
  • Broadcast Advertising Productionå
  • Race, Gender and the Media
  • Dramatic Series/Short Productions
  • Capitol Bureau Reporting
  • Principles of Media Entrepreneurship
  • Advanced Content Management
  • Women in Media Leadership
  • Digital Strategies and Tactics

To further sharpen professional skills, Graduate Studies offers 1-hour professional practice courses to students in the professional project and comprehensive exam routes. These offerings vary from semester to semester, often changing to meet new trends and opportunities in mass communications. Classes meet a few times a semester, often off-campus at involved mass communication agencies and organizations. Here is a sample list of some recent offerings:

  • Contemporary Problems in Media Management
  • Writing the Memoir
  • Sell Your Writing
  • Advertising Agency Management
  • Advertising Project Management
  • Entrepreneurship in the Media
  • Readings in Advertising
  • Creative Surge
  • New Business Pitch for Ad and PR agencies
Please contact the graduate studies academic adviser, Larry Laneer at llaneer@ou.edu for more information on these course offerings.