The Creative Writing Course Experience

I’m nearly at the end! After three years of following Open University courses in Creative Writing I am on my final assignment, which has turned out to be a half hour radio play set in Glasgow in 1905. This is absolutely not the direction I expected at the start of my OU experience. I never imagined I’d do a period drama, but it’s nice to be surprised. Working with sound effects and music is one of the bonuses and you don’t have to worry about point of view. I’ve always loved listening to different accents and languages, so maybe it’s not such a surprise after all.

So would I recommend a university course in Creative Writing? There has been a lot of debate about this recently, with Creative Writing professor Hanif Kureishi dubbing such courses a ‘waste of time’.

There is no doubt that talent plays a part, but there is much to be learned about the craft of writing: point of view, structure, genre, voice, subtext and a host of other topics I’ve been referring to in the obligatory commentaries on my pieces. You can’t be a good writer without reading widely yourself.  Our writing activities have been enriched by reading and listening to the work and methods of other writers ranging from Alan Ayckbourn to Hilary Mantel. A major part of the course involves reading and critiquing the work of other students and in return receiving feedback on your own assignments. To some extent the success of this depends on how active your tutor group is, but I’ve had a good run, backed up by an excellent tutor. By the end, anyone committing to the course should have a lot more confidence.

The Open University courses A174 and A215 took me through short fiction, poetry and life writing. This year’s course, A363, introduced scriptwriting for stage, radio and film. I began by writing a short story and then adapting it for stage. I then wrote a piece of short fiction helped by my study of film montage technique. As for my future direction, the play may well be the thing. But I also went to a poetry workshop last weekend and entered my short story for a competition. And I might just try and turn the radio play into a novel when the OU course is over …


So I’m not really at the end – I’m at the beginning.