Open University Creative Writing Courses

Open University Creative Writing Courses-11
And, in what follows, forgive me if I say that a course "will" do something which yours clearly doesn't, and forgive me too if I use "MA" as shorthand for different degrees - more about the differences later.Generally speaking, MAs are one-year full-time (Taught from October to May, then you have till September to complete your portfolio) or two-year part-time courses.Many students hate writing them, but if you're about to give up on an MA and go back to surfing the net for cute baby animals, remember my student who said at the end of the course, "I hated writing every single commentary, and I'm There may be seminar presentations to do, about particular writers or genres, but on the whole, you'll get grades by submitting short pieces, and sections of longer ones.

So it's not enough just to learn to write better: you will also be expected to reflect and analyse your process of learning to write creatively.

Many courses will suggest or insist that you keep a journal, since it will help a lot with the other part of what you submit for the degree: what's usually called a commentary.

So, assuming you're thinking seriously about taking a postgraduate-level course, where on earth do you start?

Obviously I don't know about all courses, and nothing I post here can be a substitute for you, yourself, digging into the UCAS website, producing a longlist, getting stuck into the individual universities and courses' websites, and then asking as many email questions as you need, to be sure you've made the best decision you can.

When MAs were rarer, for each slush-reading agent who thought, "Oh, good, an MA novel: it'll be decently presented and competently written," another agent was likely to think, "Oh, ugh, an MA novel: it'll be full of beautiful sensory description and have no bloody story"; but these days the proliferation of MAs means that the prejudice against them is less, but so is the advantage of them.

And, yes, when you look at prize shortlists an awful lot of the writers will have MAs, but that's just because there are so many courses, and it's so much become a normal way for serious and literary writers to develop themselves. Those are transferable skills you'll be learning: accuracy and versatility in writing, professional presentation, experience of workshops and reflective processes, experience in researching.And, since the definition of academic CW is "the study of the work-in-progress", it's always likely to privilege writing which is exciting to write and read and therefore to study.If you have a good reason for doing something a certain way, then it's justified.Indeed, a few MAs are as much about using Creative Writing to explore how literature works, as they are about producing new pieces.The course should be designed so that you can focus ever more closely into your particular interests and skills, until your final portfolio reflects those, but I know some people who went into their course convinced they were one kind of writer, and had a Damascene conversion to another.Certainly, if you want to teach CW and don't already have a lot of experience and/or publishing track-record, or a Masters in something else, it's pretty much obligatory; if you want to do other kinds of teaching and related work it will still tick the "I have a postgraduate qualification" box.In the wider world, just having something on your CV that says you could work hard and seriously at a respected institution and get a degree from them is never a bad thing, although you may still meet people who think it's airy-fairy nonsense, at least until you explain what's actually involved.The book industry privileges work which sells; you may have had a good reason for doing something, but that's no real answer to your editor saying, "Yes, but it doesn't work".Of course, since readers also want excitement, there is an overlap between "good" and "saleable", but finding it isn't always easy.It helps if you have some A Levels, and other real life evidence of being intelligent and committed, but don't be put off if you have dyslexia or another learning difficulty: universities these days try incredibly hard to support you, and prevent it being a disadvantage.Having said that, you will be expected to work to normal postgraduate academic standards, in everything from reading lists and referencing, to the language of your commentaries, to general self-propellingness. All you need to get published is a terrific manuscript, a copy of the Writers' And Artists' Yearbook borrowed from the library, and an internet connection. MAs can help with a lot of the things that it takes to get published: they "give permission" to spend time on your writing; help you to learn your job properly; expose you to a wider range of writers and creative possibilities than you would have found on your own; challenge your defaults and decisions about your own writing; give you "conditional validation"; create writerly friendships that will sustain you for decades.


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