My postgraduate experience in Creative Writing

Charlotte Mccormac tells us all about her postgraduate experience on the MA Creative Writing course, why she chose to study at Birmingham City University and what professional projects she’s working on for her own business!

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Why did you choose to study your postgraduate course?

I studied the Writing Short Stories module on my undergraduate BA (Hons) English Course here at BCU, which was very different to my literature modules and I loved it! I wanted to study more about Creative Writing and one of the lecturers advised me to study the MA Creative Writing course. Although I loved my BA course in English, I learnt so much in the Writing Short Stories module that directly improved my copywriting and copyediting skills – I was employed as a content writer and editor at the time – and I was keen to move forward within that area of study. Moving on to the MA course allowed me to develop my writing skills further and transition away from employment into running my own content and editorial business.

I also love academia and I knew a long time ago that I wanted to complete an MA.

Why did you choose to study at Birmingham City University?

There are three main reasons why I stayed with BCU to complete my Masters degree.

1. I’d already met some of the department lecturers and I knew that they were a good fit for me. Though there were a couple of lecturers that I didn’t know in person, other students from my course recommended their undergraduate modules.

2. There’s a good range of subject-area choice on the Creative Writing MA at BCU. Rather than just specialising in one area, students can choose fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and screenwriting to study.

3. I had one of the £3,000 it-pays-to-stay bursaries, making the MA much more cost-effective than courses at other universities. Cost was an issue for me and finding an affordable MA would otherwise have been a challenge. The quality of the course is excellent, so the discount was very well received!

What did you get out of your postgraduate course that was different to your undergraduate course? How was it different?

I was studying a different subject, so it’s difficult to compare them like-for-like. But I loved the focus on Creative Writing for my MA, which I’ve found more applicable to my freelancing work as an editor and content writer than my previous undergraduate English studies. There’s also many more opportunities for one-to-one sessions, which I found more helpful than lectures and seminars. The smaller teaching groups are a major plus too! There’s also an interesting mix of students on the MA course – lots of people who have already led interesting careers and are changing direction now. I’ve met some great people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.

What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?

Having set up my editing and content writing business a couple of years ago, I’m now writing and editing full time. I’ve filled the hours that I was spending on the course with a new client, who asked me to write and edit for some big magazines and journals, which is quite surreal. I’ve also just taken on a role as a line editor with Lendal Press and I am working on Ambit Magazine’s short-fiction submissions.
I offer three services:

1. Content writing and copywriting for small, national and international brands. I have designed and worked on content campaigns for companies in education, automotive, literary, construction, fashion, travel, property, and medical fields. I use the skills that I’ve accumulated on the MA Creative Writing course in my content projects – brand stories are often more memorable than corporate content.

2. Copyediting for fiction, non-fiction and marketing collateral to ensure that all content is professionally polished and ready for publication.

3. Fiction line-editing for authors who are confident with their overall structure, character and story development and now need a line-by-line analysis.

I’m also working on a series of free self-editing guides for writers, which will soon be available to download on my website:

What projects/modules did you particularly enjoy on your MA?

I thoroughly enjoyed Anna Lawrence’s Creative Non-Fiction module. She covers various strands of non-fiction and touches on everything from the ethics involved to how to pitch full-length non-fiction works.

What skills have you acquired from your postgraduate course?

I’ve definitely become a better writer. In particular, I think these are the major writing skills that I’ve improved on during my time on the course:

  • Slowing down pace in my fiction rather than rattling through constantly.
  • Editing meticulously to reach the finer details.
  • Knowing where I’ve over-explained or over-clarified and paring back accordingly.
  • Making my writing more poetic – thinking about rhythm and language – to make better-informed stylistic choices.
  • Taking inspiration from the least likely sources (like Middle English poetry from the fourteenth century).
  • Giving creative and critical feedback to others.

What would your advice be to students who are starting their postgraduate degree soon at BCU?

If they’re doing the MA part time and balancing the course with work, plan everything as early as possible. I found that my part-time postgraduate course took around the same amount of time as my full time undergraduate course, so I had to plan all of my work and MA commitments early. You get out what you put in, so don’t take ‘part time’ too literally.

What are your plans for the future?

Continue freelancing and growing my business. Now I’ve finished my MA, I’d like to work with more fiction clients, as well as my marketing clients, and look forward to line-editing my first novels with Lendal Press.

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