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Creative Writing

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Creative Writing

MA
  • Option 1 year full time or 2 years part time
  • Year of entry 2021
  • Campus Central London

The course

This course allows you to develop your work as a writer to a professional level, going beyond the personal to write with an engaged sense of literary culture, its social role and contemporary practices. The MA is designed for students with an established writing practice who are intending to develop their creative writing beyond first-degree level. It is also designed for those students wishing to proceed to MPhil or PhD. This MA is taught in Bedford Square in Central London, in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, putting you within walking distance of publishing houses, bookshops, major UK libraries and all of the other cultural attractions of Central London.

You will take one of four distinct pathways:

  • Fiction
  • Literary Non-Fiction
  • Poetry
  • Poetic Practice

While the pathways share a similar structure, they are taught separately so as to ensure you can work to a consistently high level. Please see the Course structure section below for more details on each of these.

The MA ranks among the top creative-writing courses in the country and is taught by leading writers whose work encompasses a wide range of approaches and styles.

  • Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Costa Book Award.
  • Lavinia Greenlaw has received a Forward Prize for Poem of the Year, the Prix du Premier Roman, a Wellcome Engagement Fellowship and the Ted Hughes Award.
  • Nikita Lalwani won the Desmond Elliot Award, and was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker prize.
  • Nadifa Mohamed, one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists 2013, has won the Betty Trask Prize and a Somerset Maugham Award.
  • Redell Olsen has been Judith E. Wilson Fellow in Poetry at Cambridge.
  • Anna Whitwham’s novel Boxer Handsome was a New Statesman and Guardian Book of the Year.
  • Eley Williams’s Attrib. and other stories won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize.

Our prizewinning, internationally successful alumni include the novelists Sarah Perry, Tahmima Anam, Jenni Fagan and Barney Norris; short-story writer and poet Eley Williams; and the poets Liz Berry, Kayo Chingonyi, Sam Riviere and Sophie Robinson.

Core Modules

  • This weekly one-and-a-half hour seminar is taught within pathway groups and focuses on a broad range of critical texts by practising writers among others. It aims to provide you with the appropriate critical and theoretical skills for discussing your creative work. The course also aims to prepare you for you dissertation. You will acquire a range of critical concepts and vocabulary, a range of critical and theoretical approaches, and the necessary skills to undertake sophisticated reflection and discourse.
  • This seminar is taught within pathway groups. Students propose texts (and non-textual works) for this syllabus, which is then devised by your tutor. You will make a short presentation on one of your chosen works during the term. The seminar encourages you to think about what it means to read as a writer, how the writer constructs the reader’s experience, and how this insight might inform your own literary composition. It considers different approaches to reading, and the relationship between practice and theory. You will learn how to demonstrate the ways in which reading contributes to your own developing practice as a writer.
    • You will undertake a major extended fiction, non-fiction, poetry or poetic practice project under supervision. This will be either 15,000 words of prose, 24 pages of poetry or textual equivalent (to be agreed with the supervisor).
    • The Creative Writing Project arises out of work developed in the workshop. In all cases, this should be new work not included in previous coursework submissions however much it has been revised. It can be a different part, or parts, of the same body of work, such as a novel. An important dimension of the MA is to give you the opportunity to begin serious work on a major project that would prepare you for the submission of this work to a publisher or the basis for an application for a practice-based research of a PhD as applicable to you. The Creative Writing Project is a crucial element in this preparation. It will be researched and written mainly in the summer term and during the summer vacation. You should draw on and develop the skills, and the critical and creative contexts, acquired in the first two terms. You should also seek to demonstrate independence, self-direction and originality in your approach to the project’s completion.
    • Poetry does not have to have a collective theme or be a sequence, though these are acceptable.
    • Poetic Practice - digital, bookworks and other formats of submission are acceptable but should be agreed in advance with the supervisor.
  • An important dimension of the MA is to give you the opportunity to begin serious work on a major research project that relates to your practice. This could prepare you for an application for the practice-based PhD.

    The Extended Essay (Creative Writing) is a crucial element in this preparation. It will be researched and written mainly in the summer term and during the summer vacation. The principle aim of the Extended Essay (Creative Writing) is to enable you to demonstrate your ability to reflect critically and theoretically, and to locate your practice in relation to contemporary writing practices. You should draw on and develop skills acquired in the first two terms. The subject of the extended essay is to be agreed with the supervisor.

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

You will choose one of the following pathways:
  • You will learn how to structure and edit your prose to a publishable standard while also developing an expert sense of how best to draw on the personal, the actual and the imagination. We have no house style, and encourage both experiment and rigour. In developing your analytical and editorial skills, you will sharpen your self-criticism.

    The content of the workshops will be dictated by the presentations of work in progress by the members of the group, and by the critical dialogue that develops from these presentations. Your tutor will draw up a schedule for this and work will be circulated in advance. You will read and annotate this work and come to class ready to discuss it. Reading of literary exempla and extracts will also feed into workshop discussions. Your tutor may set exercises or additional advance reading, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.

  • This pathway is for writers of all kinds of poetry, who are focused on publication on the page. You will learn how to locate and refine your personal poetics, and how to develop a poem to its fullest potential. You will be taught how to revise and edit a poem, how to sustain a writing practice, and how to locate your poetry within a broader literary context.

    The workshop welcomes all styles and approaches to poetry focused on publication on the page. The content of the workshops will be dictated by the presentations of work in progress by the members of the group, and by the critical dialogue that develops from these presentations. Your tutor will draw up a schedule for this and work will be circulated in advance. You will read and annotate this work and come to class ready to discuss it. Reading of literary exempla and extracts will also feed into workshop discussions. Your tutor may set exercises or additional advance reading, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.

  • This pathway foregrounds the writing in an expanded field of contemporary poetic practice. It offers a consideration of contemporary trends in innovative and experimental poetry: redefinitions of lyric writing, bookworks, visual poetics, performance, sound, conceptual writing, digital poetics and site-specific work.

    You will develop, and reflect on, your own practice in the context of an understanding of contemporary experimental practice in poetry from the UK and North America, and consider how contemporary poetry and poetics intersect with such fields as conceptual art writing, sound art, live art, digital poetics, book arts, installed texts and writing in relation to site.

  • You will explore the broad range of possibilities that literary non-fiction has to offer from memoir to manifesto, from the essay to the hybrid form. You can experiment with the interface between fiction and memoir, and discover how to write out of the self without a form in mind. You will be taught how to activate and deploy your research. You will learn how to draw on these to develop original work of your own to publishable standard.

    The workshop will include an exploration of the full range of approaches that non-fiction has to offer. We will encourage you to explore them all, and to draw freely on them in your own work, taking an interdisciplinary approach. We will also teach you how to use the tools and devices of fiction and poetry in the writing of non-fiction. The workshop is also where you present work in progress, and you will receive intensive feedback supported by individual tutorials.

    In the autumn term, students will have the opportunity to explore a range of literary non- fiction practices. Working with exempla, which will be read in advance and discussed in class, you will undertake writing exercises, imitation and invention. In the spring term, you will be presenting and critiquing your own creative work-in-progress while continuing to discuss other texts that cast light on the issues that arise.

You will work in small groups and with extensive individual attention. We are looking for people who will flourish from working intensively within a rigorous and experimental but supportive environment.  In addition to workshops, you will take modules in Supplementary Discourses and Reading as a Writer, seminars designed to enhance your understanding of your own practice as well as the broader literary context in which you will be situating your work.

You will submit creative and critical coursework, and will undertake a final practical project and dissertation on practice.

In the summer term, you will receive individual supervision and will be offered a programme of events and masterclasses introducing you to leading writers, editors and agents who can advise on next steps. Enhancing the experience, there are regular readings and talks given by students, staff and visiting writers.

Creative coursework (Full-time students and first-year part-time students)

The first portfolio of fiction or non-fiction or poetry (5,000 words prose, 12 pp poetry or equivalent agreed with your tutor) will be submitted for feedback at the beginning of the Spring Term. This is a formative submission which means that it is not formally graded. You will receive feedback and an indicative grade. Under the guidance of your tutor, you then revise this work and resubmit it at the beginning of the Summer Term. It is then a summative submission and is formally assessed.

The second portfolio (identical requirements) will be submitted for formal assessment, along with a revised first portfolio, at the beginning of the Summer Term.

Essays (Full-time students and second-year part-time students)

The essay for Supplementary Discourses will be submitted for feedback at the beginning of the Spring Term. This is a formative submission which means that it is not formally graded. You will receive feedback and an indicative grade. Under the guidance of your tutor, you then revise this work and resubmit it at the beginning of the Summer Term. It is then a summative submission and is formally assessed.

The essay for Reading as a Writer will be submitted for summative assessment at the beginning of the of Summer Term.

Creative Writing Project and Dissertation on Practice (Full-time students and second-year part-time students)

Students receive individual supervisions in the summer term towards the completion of these two submissions, which are made in September.

4th for Creative Writing in the UK

Source: Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020

6th for Creative Writing research intensity

Source: Complete University Guide 2020

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