I have been writing novels since I was about seven. I literally think about it all the time. However, try as I might I have never been able to get beyond the 40,000 word mark before losing the plot and momentum of my story and deciding to start something else entirely. I'm a journalist on a big women's glossy in the UK so it's not getting the words down on paper that's the problem, it's rather getting my plot from A to B that stumps me.
I'm currently looking into doing a part time MA in creative writing in the hope that following a structured course might help me complete a first draft, but it's a lot of money - over £6,000 for two years of study. The course I have in mind gives you the opportunity to showcase your work with literary agents towards the end of the two years. Which sounds great, but I'm unsure as to how much value the course itself would be.
My first question is aimed at you as a published author yourself, the last two as an assistant to a Literary Agent:
a) Do you believe there is any value in doing a qualification such as an MA in Creative Writing if you can already write but are struggling with plot?
b) In your experience, how many published authors have completed these kinds of courses?
c) How valuable would the contact with literary agents through the course be? Ie would they take you more seriously/ more likely to consider your novel?
Things may be different in the UK, but here are my answers for the US:
a) You get what you put into any creative writing course. Meaning, if you write a lot you'll probably get better. You could also do that without the course, but some people need structure and some people are convinced they need feedback. I got little to no useful feedback in my MFA prgram.
b) Very few. Very to none, really. Unless they went on to teach. Then they needed the degree to do that, but preferably an MFA over an MA.
c) Little to no value.
Also, $11000 (by my guesstimate of the exchange rate) for a two-year degree is insanely cheap by most American standards, unless you are earning a degree online, they are significantly more affordable.
Note: I should clarify that if taking a course makes you go from a bad writer to an insanely good writer, it has tremendous value. I've never seen that happen, but that doesn't mean it hasn't.