Goodreads Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Open University MA in Creative Writing Shelved

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Update (2016): Since this post was written, the Open University MA in creative writing has been announced. Details here.

Regular readers will know I've been very interested in the Open University MA in Creative Writing, which was due to appear in the next year or so. There are other distance-learning MAs around but it was the OU one that really appealed, after having gone through a BA with them.

Alas, it looks like the MA has been put on hold and may even not appear at all. I heard this from Derek Neale, one of the lecturers :

I'm afraid production has stalled for a variety of reasons, so the MA will not now be launched in 2011. It is presently impossible to say when or if this programme will come into being.

Which is a great shame.

I suppose I'm in two minds as to the worth of doing an MA - on the one hand it's clearly a big commitment. On the other hand, it might be invaluable to my development as a writer. Is it better to do an MA or just to spend the time writing? Anyone have any views?


  1. Yes, I have a view. Writing is the one subject that is best left self-taught. It's mostly about finding your on voice, and that happens only through constant exploration.

    You have a blog. Write your posts. Struggle to improve a little bit each time. Edit them thoroughly and present each one as a finished piece.

    And continue to find your audience. you will find that having the right audience helps shape you subject matter, as well as your style.

    My advice: make the blog your course. And take it as far as you possibly can.

  2. Bruce,

    Many thanks for your thoughts - excellent advice. I have been worrying that doing an MA might be displacement behaviour; another good excuse for not getting on with the next novel.

    By the way - I'm following your blog now!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with Bruce. When I finished my bachelors I thought of what to do next-- more education perhaps?-- and my sister gave me the advice that turned me from a wanna be writer to a published author: "Writers write. That's what you need to do. More education won't make you a better writer. More writing will."

  4. Karen,

    Thanks for the advice. There ceratinly seems to be a consensus emerging here. "Writer's write" is as good advice as any I've heard.

  5. Simon, I have spent years wondering whether to do courses in writing and years reading writing manuals. I wrote my first novel this summer in 10 weeks. The most important thing I learned from it was to just drop all my excuses and write. I read a thousand times that writers write but when the time came, it suddenly made sense deep down inside me where I live. Now I write all the time and the more I do it, the more I want to do it, the more I love it. Reading as much good and bad fiction as possible and writing every day is the only training that a writer needs, I believe.

  6. Tina,

    Many thanks for the input. I found the same when I started my first novel. It just suddenly made sense to stop prevaricating and do it.

    So you're another vote for not bothering with the MA!

  7. Here I am again..guess I feel strongly about this! Go with the MA if you want to TEACH, if you need a profession to earn a living. But if you already have a decent job and want to write, then forget the MA and write! And if all goes well, writing will either supplement your job or become your profession. I wish you success.

  8. I see both sides of the argument, Simon but if you can afford it, I'd go for an MA, BA or Avron workshop - some kind of formal teaching. While it's true that writing, ie the ideas and the inspiration to write, can't be taught, the art and craft or nuts and bolts of how to constuct a sentence, write dialogue, characterisation, paragraphing, etc can. Once you know the rules, it's then easier to break them and you know why and how you're doing it. A formalised plan helps you hone your writing and develop your own voice at a measured pace but one to which you're time committed - so less time for staring at blank pages or out of the window or procrastinating. I think of good creative writing classes as one of a number of approaches to writing. It's true too that writers write and the danger would be that you felt you had little time to devote to your own writing. However, at the end of the course/workshop you'll have a wide portfolio of work, some published, some in-progress and lots of ideas.

  9. What I found most helpful in getting published was my background as a journalist - which teaches you can and must work to deadlines - and a very good reading group. It's all very well to scribble away, but all writers published and unpublished need feedback. A huge part of writing a novel is craft and an awareness of how people read today.

    I'm unsure about creative MAs myself. I know people who have very much enjoyed them and gone onto great things afterward, but equally I know others who wouldn't touch one with a barge pole and have equal or greater success.

    Good luck

  10. Janette, Caroline and Karen again,

    Your comments are all very much appreciated! I've mulled over carefully what each of you has to say. It's great that the two sides of the argument are being aired and I can see merits in both arguments. In a way I'm secretly pleased now that my preferred MA is on hold as I can put off the decision ...

    I certainly take the point that you can write successfully without formal training. I had quite a few of my short stories and poems accepted before doing any Creative Writing courses on my BA. On the other hand, I felt like I got a lot out of the courses I did then do.

    Sigh. What's a boy to do? Since I'm in full flow with a novel just now I suppose it doesn't really make sense to start an MA. But I will keep half an eye on that Open University web site ...

  11. I've studied with the OU and whilst I found their courses interesting and worthy of completing, they are also time-consuming.

    One day I will finish my (Hons) degree, but right now I am concentrating on the novels. I honestly do not see how a person can do both at the same time and more importantly, do both well.

  12. Interesting that i stumble into this 8-year-old thread that speaks directly to me in my present situation!

    I have reached this page by searching for alternative courses to OU's MA in Creative Writing. The reason I am looking for alternatives is that OU's course starts in October 2018, which is still way off.

    The reason i am looking for a course in creative writing is that I am unsatisfied with what I have written so far in my first novel - I am only on chapter 4 (of the expected 14).

    Reading through these messages is so eye-opening, I need to stop excuses and write. I should finish the novel before the course starts and i get to learn the craft!

    1. Writing is the only way to get better at writing, for sure. But courses can open your eyes to new approaches and techniques and I still plan to embark on the OU MA in a year or two. Best of luck!


I'd love to know what you think.