On keeping the momentum going after the MA, by Zoe Gilbert
What happens when you finish a creative writing MA?
You might feel:
- like a writer
- like a completely different person from the one that started the course
- under pressure to finish your book
- suddenly rather alone with that project…
There’s nothing like a creative writing MA to build up a band of writers to support you, challenge you, even annoy you – but the point is, they are there. You can share the gripes, gossip, celebration, envy. You can share your work.
Emerging from an MA with a certificate and many thousands of words under your belt is wonderful. If that’s you, congratulations! It is also a bit scary. Only a few taught postgraduate courses will have seen you through to a full draft of a novel, short story collection or memoir. If you’re halfway through writing a book, you’re also at the point of greatest agony for most writers.
Almost every author we know has a tale of woe that begins at around the 30,000-word mark of their first draft. The idea starts to fall apart. It’s too early to talk to their editor. They hate the book. Some of them suffer; some give up and start something else instead – be that a different book or learning to knit/make beer/keep bees.
If you’ve been writing your book as part of an MA, you’ve had deadlines, feedback, peer pressure, a dedicated tutor. These things create momentum, sometimes painfully, but as you know, it works. The feeling of progress, of becoming a better writer, is even better than knitting, brewing or keeping bees. Then, somehow, you have to create this feeling on your own.
Since this is hard, and since we’ve had so many conversations with creative writing MA students and graduates that turn to this dread topic, we’ve decided to do something about it.
We started London Lit Lab to help other writers – through teaching, mentoring, critiquing, whatever we can do that’s needed. We’re both published authors as well as Creative Writing PhD students, so we each have a foot in the worlds of publishing and the academy.
This October we’re starting monthly critical workshops for writers finishing their MAs. These will be in an eight-month block initially, but if our students want to carry on after that, we will run further sessions.
Members will take turns to share work-in-progress ahead of each workshop, which we’ll then critique during the session, with constructive feedback and discussion on any problems or issues raised. We’ll also be arranging a guest speaker such as an agent, writer or editor, to help group members break into the industry.
There will be sessions in London (led by Zoe), and in Bristol/Bath (led by Lily). We’re aiming to build strong, supportive groups with MA graduates from a range of universities – so as well as our own, you’ll get fresh eyes on your work.
For more details, including times, cost and location for the London group (Bristol/Bath venue tbc), take a look on the London Lit Lab post-MA course page. You can also drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d also love to hear from you if you’d like to see a group like this set up nearer you, now or in the future.
Whatever your plans post-MA, we wish you luck. And remember, when it comes to writing, you don’t have to do it alone!