By Katrina Allardyce
- Like many aspiring writers embarking on the one-year study of a Creative Writing Masters qualification, there were many things I thought I would learn.
One of these was not that, according to my tutor, the MA teaches the same skills you might learn if you had joined a good creative writing group.
In much the same way as a creative writing group, he explained, the Masters will focus on sharing pieces of your writing with the class and having other students explain what it was like to read, how you might improve it, which parts were really good and why they worked. He went on to say, what you get from the Masters that you do not get from a creative writing group is the level of critique. You are confident that your writing is being critiqued by somebody with a high level of academic skill and who knows the topic. Oh, and you also come away with a very handy postgraduate qualification that can be useful in any career where good writing skills are important.
My second surprise when I began this course was that I had expected to be studying with other young people my age, who had just graduated from a degree. This was not the case. The people who chose to be on this course ranged from a retired lady, a man who’d been laid off from work, and various professionals from teachers to administrators. The MA is popular with people of all ages. I think the range of backgrounds, and the scope of styles and genres these students enjoyed and used, actually improved my own writing and the overall grade of my qualification. I was learning at a fast pace because of the diversity of people studying the course and their input into my writing.
Before studying my Masters, I came from a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature background. Despite Creative Writing and English Literature seeming like overlapping subjects, there is a vast difference between studying the two. One of the main differences is that English Literature focuses on pointing out why a writer will choose to write in that way, why he or she is using those specific words, and why it worked. Creative Writing, on the other hand, usually focuses on analysis of meaning, pointing out errors, and how to improve the wording. But more excitingly, the difference is that the A-level focuses on the learner’s ability to absorb information. The degree emphasises good writing skills, whilst at postgraduate level the focus is on your own opinions and ideas; it is a place for you to be really experimental, grow in confidence, and learn more about yourself and your writing style than ever before.
A good thing to think about before embarking on the course is what you want to gain from it. By this, I mean, you will have the best advantage if you have an idea of where you are heading, what sort of writing you want to do, and a concept of your own style. If you plan it right, you can get half a novel written in the year that you are studying your Masters, and get lots of different people’s opinions on how to improve it - even advice on marketing and publication.
So if you plan your book in advance, take advantage of the advice other people on the course will offer. You could shortly after finishing, be in a position to approach a publishing house or an agent with your finished masterpiece.