Would-Be Authors Learn the Art of Coursewriting; EDUCATION NOTEBOOK

Article excerpt

Byline: GRAHAM GRANT

FOR many aspiring authors, writing a best-selling novel is an ambition that begins with good intentions and ends with a half- finished manuscript languishing at the bottom of a drawer.

But the success of authors such as Harry Potter creator JK Rowling has led to a boom in the number of would-be writers.

Now the Open University (OU) is to expand its creative writing course to cope with an ' unprecedented' demand in applications.

The OU's original 12-week course, launched last year, grew into the largest course of its kind with more than 3,000 students across the UK.

Now the OU is set to launch a full nine-month programme from next February, aimed at providing useful tips for budding novelists and poets.

In 12 years, the number of universities offering postgraduate degree courses in creative writing has increased from eight to 85.

There are now 11,000 short-term creative writing courses and evening classes in the UK and around 110,000 people enrolled last year on some kind of writing course.

It seems everyone from bus conductors to busy housewives and chief executives are all trying their hand at the art of novel-writing.

The OU says around 800 Scots signed up to the creative writing course launched last May, and the figure has now grown to 1,200.

Creative writing as an academic subject began at the University of East Anglia in 1971. It now receives 500 applications a year for 45 places on its MA courses, which have produced many successful writers - including Susan Fletcher, who won the Whitbread first novel prize in January, shortly after graduating.

Professor Patricia Duncker said: ' The recent growth in courses represents the professionalisation of the subject.

'Of course you can teach people how to write, because you can teach them method, technique, presentation, strategies and tactics. …