I was lucky enough to study for my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Bath is a beautiful place, and the Newton Park campus, where the Creative Writing course is taught, is the perfect inspirational setting. The library was in an old stately home, and we even had some of our seminars in a castle.
The three most valuable aspects of the course for me were:
1) Learning to read as a writer helped me to deconstruct stories to understand the authors’ choices and then apply those skills to my own works in progress.
2) Learning to give and receive detailed feedback prepared me for working with editors.
3) Information and advice from industry professionals (authors, publishers, editors and agents) gave me confidence when approaching publishers.
So, would I recommend an MA in Creative Writing? If you have the time and money, absolutely. However, it’s not practical for everyone, and there are many other ways to gain similar benefits.
The Open University has some excellent distance learning courses if you’re not in a position to travel or to study full-time. The Arvon Foundation’s week-long residentials are perfect if you prefer to dedicate a short time to working intensively on your writing. If you can, it’s worth seeking out a good writers’ group in your area or a well-established critique group online.
Industry associations are also hugely helpful to genre writers (such as romance, sci-fi or crime) in keeping up to date with changes in the market. I’ve gained at least as much from my membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association over the years as I did from the one year of my MA.
If you can do nothing else, you can always read a good how-to book, but make sure you spend some time consciously putting what you’ve learned into practice. Whether you’re learning as part of an MA or through independent study, the most important things are to keep writing, and to reflect on what you’ve written and look for ways to make it even stronger.
Stephanie currently has three books in print, all of which are available from Amazon.