Having come to the conclusion that these are basically the same thing, I'm halfway through the one for the end-of-module assessment for A363. So, what have I learned since getting the Big Blue Book last summer? Well, one thing is that some of the MA students don't seem to have - absolute security about the nuts and bolts of writing for publication like grammar and spelling. The course, and A215, does punish you severely for inconsistent use of English, for example, and sloppy formatting.
That aside, I have looked at how a story's scenes work, each having its own beginning, middle and end, and how active scenes affect the story compared to reactive, static scenes. I, it seems, am learning the basics of pace and drama, despite not having given the course 100% of my attention. Like a lot of students, I wouldn't have done the course this year except it's part of a dying diploma course. From next year, students have to do more courses, which with hindsight, I think I'd prefer anyway. But what this course has also done, which I need, is apply deadlines.
On my whiteboard at the moment is a long list of deadlines, which are a mixture of assignments and opportunities like the 'Undiscovered Voices' anthology competition. Working on the MA has made me look at what stalls me, what stops me writing?
One thing that distracts me is television, so the Sky subscription is out of the window (and we don't have any sort of signal here for any channels!) when I get back. The only thing the kids will miss is Dr Who, but perhaps BBC iPlayer will step in!
Another thing was insecurity that I was 'good enough'. I've met a lot of good writers in the last year, some of them better than me, but I still have something original to say and I love writing so I'm leaving the doubts further behind with each year. To think four years ago I wouldn't put pen to paper at all in case it was complete crap. Sometimes, it is complete crap, and that's OK, I just won't show it to lots of other people! I'm starting to tell the difference between crap and good writing (and can now put the words 'good' and 'writing in the same paragraph).
Finally, I'm becoming secure enough to know I won't be a great literary writer, even if I work at it, because I don't read enough literary work. Commercial writing, a dirty word with some people, is my stated aim, my goal. I'm still going to work at being a better poet though, which I think helps the writing. Now, back to the commentary!