Courses in creative writing are one of the few types of educational courses that can really divide people. You’ll have heard many high-profile people say that they are something of a waste of time. Others legitimately resent this, suggesting instead that they provide an important space for budding writers to hone their craft.
It doesn’t help that, in some cases, the former group have been teachers on creative writing programmes themselves.
But, in any case, this snobbishness towards creative writing as a discipline to be taught is strange. Artists have gone to academies for centuries to learn how to paint. Dramatists and musicians also head to conservatoires across the world to develop their skills in their respective fields.
These guys don’t seem to be looked down upon by the professional musicians, actors, or painters. So why should those who want to learn how to write be given this unfair treatment?
Well, indeed. And, regardless, we are very much convinced of the importance of creative writing classes. Because writing is not just about feeling inspiration and putting pen to paper. It is not the old Romantic vision of individual creativity and passion.
No, writing is a skill that needs to be practised and worked at tirelessly. And if you want to join a creative writing course, you’ll need to be prepared for that.
Here, we are going to show you some of the best places to study creative writing across the UK – at university level and in shorter, less academic contexts. The choice of which is yours to make. We hope you find it helpful – but remember that attending a creative writing course is not enough to turn you into the next James Joyce.
Forget the Haters: Why You Should Take a Creative Writing Course.
So, no – creative writing courses are not a waste of time, no matter which famous writer has said it. If you want to be a writer, there are an awful lot of things that you will need to consider – many of which you will never have realised – and a creative writing class is a great place to make sure you have them all covered.
Let’s talk about a couple of these things briefly. Meanwhile, you can check out our article, What is Creative Writing?
Ensuring Your Write.
One of the most important opportunities that a creative writing class offers is the time and motivation to write. Whether they are screenwriting, writing poetry, or writing creative nonfiction, sometimes things get in the way that prevent creative writers from dedicating time to their work.
This is particularly true of university degrees in creative writing – which obviously last much longer than the short courses. If you can commit three years full-time to your novel with a student loan to back you up, you’ll be laughing.
Having Others Read It.
But you might not be laughing so much when you have to pull your manuscript out of your bag and present it to your class. Too many can people harbour the belief that they’ll be the next Shakespeare when they have never shown anyone their work.
Creative writing courses ensure that other people can give you constructive criticism on your work. As that’s the best way to make it better.
Honing Your Writing Skills.
Like learning a musical instrument, writing requires skill and practice. This is not something that you can just pick up just like that.
Whilst you can be self-taught as a writer as much as you can as a musician, there is no harm in putting in the hours – with professional support and writing exercises – to produce the best lines and narratives you can.
Learning the Tricks of the Trade.
There is so much more to being a professional writer than the writing process itself. You’ll need to know how to navigate the world of literary magazine, the trials of getting published, and the whole length of your writing career.
Many creative writing courses teach you all this too, by the way. Find out more about creative writing courses!
Find a Creative Writing Degree at a UK University.
The strongest creative writing degrees tend not to be found in the most conventionally reputed academic institutions. But don’t let this put you off: some of the creative writing degrees in the UK are incredibly popular and incredibly well-regarded.
Here are three options for you.
Study Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
According to the Complete University Guide, Lancaster University’s creative writing department is the best in the country. And, on its three-year joint honours programmes – in which creative writing can be combined with English literature, film, or fine art – you’ll have a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the best creative writing teachers in the business.
Take an Undergraduate Degree in Creative Writing at Newcastle University.
Another very highly rated of the UK’s degree programs in creative writing is at Newcastle University. They too only offer creative writing degrees combined with English literature.
Along with critical reading and writing, you’ll be working alongside professional writing practitioners and have the opportunity to work with poets like Paul Muldoon and novelists such as Andrea Levy.
Do a Creative Writing Degree Online with the Open University.
The Open University has always done higher education differently. This institution’s remote learning degree in creative writing is an online writing course – that allows people who want to work flexibly or remotely to gain the qualifications and education they want or need.
On this course, you can work between forms – and you’ll be studying literature alongside too.
Check out the features of creative writing!
Or Find a Postgraduate Creative Writing Course.
A great option for many budding writers is to complete an undergraduate degree in a more conventional academic subject and then continue to a Master’s or doctorate in creative writing subsequently.
Like undergraduate degrees, this gives you the allocated time to commit to your work – and you’ll find that the postgrad courses are very rarely combined either.
Do a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester.
A great place to do a creative writing masters is at the University of Manchester, one of the most popular destinations for a course of this kind in the UK.
As part of the course, you will work with Manchester’s Centre for New Writing, which brings together established writers with you budding students. Of course, you can commit your time to poetry, fiction, screenwriting – or any other form of writing – as you see fit.
Try the University of Aberdeen’s Master’s in Creative Writing.
Available fulltime or part-time, the University of Aberdeen’s creative writing MLitt is a hugely popular postgraduate degree in Scotland.
For this course, you’ll be required to submit writing samples as part of your application. And, to give you a sense of the sort of assessments these courses do, you’ll be required to submit a folio of coursework alongside an analytic essay at the end of your course.
Commit to a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham.
And then there’s the PhD in creative writing, which the majority of the aforementioned universities offer too.
At Birmingham, the PhD is studied over three years (or six years, if part-time), and it can be done remotely. Throughout this period, you will need to produce a piece of creative work and analysis for your submission.
Enrol on a Short Creative Writing Program or Retreat.
Not everyone wants to go to university – and not everyone has all that time to spare. For those of you who fit into these boxes, shorter creative writing programmes, workshops, and retreats are available across the UK in all genres and forms of literary writing.
From one-off events to week-long trips to the countryside, these can be great for everyone.
Head to Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre, Moniack Mhor.
One of the most romantic places to attend a creative writing course is near Beauly, near Inverness in Scotland.
This is known as Moniack Mhor. Set in wonderful countryside, you can attend writing retreats all year round. They usually last about five days.
Or Find a Course at Arvon.
Arvon claim to be the ‘home of creative writing’ in the UK – and they do have some stellar endorsements if you need persuading.
They operate between Shropshire, Yorkshire, and Devon, and offer courses in poetry writing, screenwriting, playwriting, and much much more.
Check Out the Faber Academy’s Many Creative Writing Programs – in Poetry, Fiction, or More.
The Faber Academy in Bloomsbury, London have a winning method, having famous writers present their particular takes on specific writing skills.
From researching fiction to creating characters, from editing your novel to reading, the Faber Academy has everything you need to become a better writer.