I'm a professional scriptwriter and also teach with the Open University. I've noticed there seem to be a burgeoning number of creative writing 'courses' out there - many of them online and wanted to post a few tips about what to look for before you sign up.
Be really wary about any course which promises editorial success or hints that this course will give you the 'tools' you need on becoming the next JK Rowling' as though only a few 'tips n' tricks' stand between you and endless millions. 'Learning to market your work' is another phrase popular of duff courses. With writing as you know - there are no short cuts.
Ditto to any course that hints at how much money writers can earn (especially if followed by a proliferation of exclamation marks)
You should be able to access the tutors professional experience. It's true that some brilliant writers are not good teachers and some great teachers don't have a massively long cv but if you are for example doing a children's writing course, your tutor should have a children's book published (in the same age range that you are interested in) so they know how the business works. Self publishing or vanity publishing doesn't count. If the course is cagey about who is teaching you - be wary.
Also check who writes the course materials and how current they are. Publishing is a rapidly changing business - someone who self-published a small book of poetry about their inner demons in 1970 isn't probably going to have their finger on the pulse of what is required now.
Out of interest, what is your opinion of organisations like the Iowa Writers Workshops out of which so many published authors seem to come from? They seem especially prevalent in America and are often marked by a certain style of writing.
The Iowa Writers workshop offers a Master of Fine Arts and a quick google search doesn't throw up any red flags but I don't see that it offers anything more amazing than other US unis like Columbia or Boston. If you want an MFA, that's one thing but I don't think the Iowa school is a leg up. If you want a good rigorous course in the craft of writing, then there's the University of East Anglia, Bath Spa, and I believe Edinburgh have a good online course. Look for a course that is serious about the craft of writing - the nuts and bolts and has good published tutors - avoid anything that hints at success or wealth.
I haven't taken it but I've heard good things about City Lit. Arvon is great too - taught by specialists.
UEA is good, but make sure you cast your net wide. I think UEA is particularly good with fiction, but you might discover that you find your voice in life writing or memoir - you want the opportunity to experiment. Many of my students at the OU start out by being terrified by poetry and then discover they love it, OR they find that the process of finding the right words in the right order makes a real difference to their fiction writing. Another student who had never written a line of dialogue before found that she had a real gift for crafting dialogue in scripts. Another found she was a very visual writer naturally and once she had learned the techniques could dive into screenwriting. There are many many ways of expressing yourself as a writer.
I wouldn't touch one in the first place. Learn by doing and learn by reading. The most these courses can do is make a middling-competent writer into a slightly more polished middling-competent writer. They can't do anything with a shit writer and might actually stifle a brilliant one.
You do need to read good writers but a good course can give you the technical tools needed. Many good instinctive writers might not know about point of view or how to construct a character or which tense to use - or what structure is. Nobody sits down and just writes a novel or a play or if you do you will get lost. Stories are built - they don't just come out in a big instinctive rush.
Sorry I know this a few weeks old this thread. frizzbounce I'm starting creative writing with the OU in October, I've read the reviews and had previous study experience. Do you teach these kind of courses? I'm having some doubts and wondered if I could PM you a couple of questions? A teacher view point rather than a student view point could settle my nerves be helpful.