Handwritten notebook entry

Last week I got the results for A215 Creative Writing. I got a Grade 2 pass, which I’m pleased with. So far I’m half way through the degree and the level 2/3 courses that count towards Honours classification. If I maintain my consistent Grade 2 passes I’ll get a 2:1, and if I manage to get a distinction for 60 points of the rest then I’ll get a first. Unless I get Grade 4 passes for all of my remaining 120 points at Level 2 & 3 then I’m pretty safe on a 2:1, not bad given that I’m working full-time, being a school governor, scout leader and a parent at the same time as studying for the degree!

A215 has been the most interesting OU course that I have done so far. Part of me wishes that I could change from a business degree to English. However that’s not going to happen as much as I might enjoy it. Instead I will add A363 (Advanced Creative Writing) to my wish list for when I’ve finished the BA in Business Studies. One day, closer to my retirement, I might do a proper BA in Humanities. I like to think I can do science and art!

A215 – Creative Writing

So for those that missed it, here’s my round-up of the Open University‘s Creative Writing course.

  • it covers life writing, short fiction and poetry as forms, harnessing creativity, and editing & presenting your work
  • there is an emphasis on giving and receiving feedback and writing to deadlines, also on lots of drafts to continually improve on your work before submission
  • it helps immensely if you keep a notebook to jot ideas down
  • just write every day, even fantastic stuff starts as a rubbish first draft
  • there are five Tutor Marked Assessments & an End of Module Assessment (this is not an exam)


TMA1 – freewriting

TMA1 is a free choice, very short and you can pretty much write what you like. The focus on this part of the module is getting your creativity flowing, and exercises to prompt you to write. The questions gives some prompts, which vary from year to year, but you can choose your own subject and form. The assignment booklet is full of useful advice and suggestions for how to complete the assignment. The marking criteria for this assignment, representing 10% of the overall weight, seems laxer than later TMAs. You should use this TMA to get used to sharing your drafts with others. Here’s what I wrote for A215 TMA01 – Night Patrol

TMA2 – Short Fiction

TMA2 is short fiction, this is the one that you get the longest time to complete, later TMAs seem to get closer together, with four weeks between TMAs 3, 4, & 5. You need to have listened to the feedback on TMA1 here, practiced on student fora and made sure you get lots of feedback before you submit it. If fiction is your thing you could try writing more than one so that you have the kernel of story ideas for both TMA5 and the EMA. I enjoy writing fiction the most, but I struggled with this because the word count was so tight, my stories tend to come out 2-3 times longer than this. This TMA is also worth 30% of the total score (all the others being 20% each).

TMA3 – Poetry

Geek Poetry in fridge magnets (photo: James Kemp)

TMA3 is poetry, you need to write 40 lines. Again there are some suggestions and prompts but you have a free choice. The course book was a bit rubbish on poetry, unless you’d done an English Lit module on poetry you’d be completely lost. Fortunately Stephen Fry‘s book The Ode Less Travelled is very good and easy to come by. I also had a poet as my tutor and her day school on poetry was very valuable. I learnt the most in this section of the course. It was a big surprise to me that I could write poetry (and there are plenty of blog posts about this elsewhere on Themself). So much so that I am publishing an anthology of Geek Poetry (50% off on pre-order copies of Geek Poetry until 31 July).


TMA4 – Life Writing

TMA4 is life writing, which is what I did for TMA1 as well. This is about understanding the blurring of boundaries between biography and fiction and how you can use a lot of techniques to explore human emotions and tell engaging stories. Life writing doesn’t have to stick to the facts, nor should it be boring.

TMA5 – Free Choice

TMA5 is a free choice on form. The focus is doing research on getting your work published and producing something that edited and polished to a professional standard. Unlike the earlier TMAs there is a component in the commentary where you need to discuss the research you did and how you tailored your work to the publication that you chose. My advice on this one is try to start it as early as possible, don’t wait until you’ve finished TMA4.

End of Module Assessment

The End of Module Assessment (EMA) comes round a month after TMA5. You really need to start on it about Easter if you want to do it justice. A longer piece than any of the TMAs it allows you to show off what you have learnt, and that is the emphasis on many OU courses, reflecting and showing that you have met the course objectives. Unlike the TMAs it is marked twice and your score is the average of the two tutors marks. You also don’t get the direct feedback with the results like you do for the TMAs. Your overall score is determined by both the EMA and the weighted TMAs.