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A363: Advanced Creative Writing….. Result!

I’ve been awaiting the result of the level 3 module I completed back in May with some trepidation.

As any of you who were reading my progress throughout the module might remember, I received a very mediocre mark for my stage play adaptation in TMA02.  That completely scuppered my chances of achieving a top rate pass for the module.

The overall result was expected to be published on 3rd August, but it turned up yesterday.  Much to my relief, as I’d been clicking on the student home page like a mad thing since this time last week just to see if it was there.

The final assignment (I submitted a piece of life writing) mark was pretty much along the lines of the average for the whole module, and overall I managed a Pass 2.

Must admit to feeling a bit deflated, even though it was the best I could hope for after the stage play.  Probably more so, because I unlinked the module from my degree.  I have sufficient points under my belt to claim the BA I’ve been working towards for the past three years if I tick the box to link the module back in.  However, I am now in the position where I can take two more level 3 modules under the OU’s transitional fee arrangements, because that’s what I would need to complete the BA(Hons) if I leave A363 unlinked.  It would give me an extra year of less expensive learning (about £750 instead of £2500 per module).

I think I’ll see how the new module goes.  Signed up for E301, The Art of English, a couple of weeks ago.  If I find I’m no better at writing essays about creativity in linguistics than creative writing, I’ll link A363 back in and settle for a 2.1 !

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Busy week on A363, Advanced Creative Writing

Should have been at the theatre in half an hour (remember, dick-a-dum-dum?), but since they haven’t phoned to say they’ve resold our tickets I guess there’ll be two empty seats.  Hope he doesn’t take it personally.

This has been a busy week on OU stuff.

TMA4 was returned on Monday, and not only was the EMA plan acceptable to the tutor, but it also shows up on the score record as 100%!  Such a shame it doesn’t count when aggregating the bottom line.  Mind you, the tutor did point out that I had bitten off quite a big challenge with the life-writing I want to do, but I think I’m up to it.

TMA5 whizzed off to the OU via that awful submit button yesterday.  Not due until next Thursday, but last night I cracked the thing that had been bugging me for weeks.  It was in the villanelle.  Although using the strict form the refrain gets repeated throughout the poem, I really really wanted to give it a subtle variation the final time it appears on the penultimate line.  Changing punctuation would have worked, and I changed it, changed it back, changed it again (get the picture?), but I wanted more than that.  At last, I found that simply swapping two words around did the trick and I suddenly felt this huge sense of relief.  So I wrapped it up and sent off my 105 lines.  Even if doing poetry turns out to be a huge mistook, I’ve absolutely enjoyed writing it, especially those foody sonnets!

Last night, I noticed a message on my student home page about transitional fees.  Apparently we have to indicate now, which qualification we are going for under the transitional arrangements.  Easy for me, because I’m now just one (but a big one) module away from my BA(Hons).  So I clicked confidently on the button to register, but the only choices open were BA or ‘Something Else’, no BA(Hons).  Now, the rule for the TFs is that they allow you to complete your undergraduate qualification under the existing fee structure (for me, £700 instead of £2500).  So now I’m wondering if the TFs only last until the ordinary degree is complete, and the Hons year isn’t covered.  Email sent, awaiting reply, biting fingernails.

A clear path to the A363 EMA, then!  TMA6 is the Mk2 plan, due in on 5th April, and the final EMA submission has to sent by 17th May.  I’m about halfway through and currently have brain block, but there’s loads of time and this is a piece of fictionalised family history I want to write for me, never mind the EMA, so all will be well.

Like I said, a busy week!

 

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A363 – TMAs and Elbow Grease

Disappointing week to say the least.  The mark for TMA2 was worse than for the first assignment, and that was the lowest I’d had in over two years of OU study.  I only have myself to blame, but can’t help but wonder how subjective the marking is.  With maths, science, engineering type courses, you can be pretty sure that if you’ve answered the questions correctly you’ll score highly.  With creative writing, though, there has to be some element of whether or not the reader likes what you’ve written.  And clearly, my stage adaptation was not liked very much!  So, a mediocre mark for what was seen as a mediocre piece of work, I guess.  To get back into distinction territory, I’ll need to bust 90% on every assignment from now on, and I don’t think that is ever going to happen.  Instead of aiming hard for a distinction, I’m going to find myself struggling to stay in the Pass 2 band.

Therapy came today in the form of elbow grease.  Our mahogany stair banister had lost its shine, and I dug out the bottle of furniture cleaner that’s been lurking in the shed for years.  Much rubbing was needed to get rid of the old polish, and the wood looked quite sad by the time I’d finished.  Three coats of beeswax polish later, though, and it began to smile again.  Trouble is, it no longer works to stop you falling down the stairs.  Grab it, and you just slide along….

Back to A363.  I’ve finished the critique for TMA3, which is due this Thursday.  Not particularly confident that it’s what is required, but like I said last week, I have yet to find anything in the course materials about critiquing other than what’s in the assignment guidelines.  Checking out the marking criteria, to get a Pass 1 the critique needs to ‘contain complex analysis of method, form, genre, medium and approach.  The exposition of the work will be exemplary in its clarity; there will be original, engaged and insightful examination of the issues… ‘ etc etc.  Only 1000 words to play with, so I’m not sure how close I’ll get!

TMA4 then rears its head just three weeks later, mid-February.  No marks for that, though.  Isn’t that odd?  It’s the initial plan for our final EMA, in just 750 words.  I have an idea that mine will be life-writing, based on a piece of family history, so producing the plan shouldn’t be a problem.  AND I don’t have to worry about the marks!

Still reckoning on a suite of sonnets for TMA5.  The central thread is to capture the day through mealtimes, from waking up, breakfast, lunch, teatime, dinner and returning to bed.  Five are drafted, and I need one more (dinner) to reach the minimum number of lines (80-100).  This isn’t set in stone, though, and I could well go back to a short story plot dreamed up a few weeks ago.

Well, I might be very brave and pluck up the courage to submit (still hate that word) the next assignment later this evening.  On the other hand, I could procrastinate for the next three days…

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A363 – Creative Writing TMA02 uploaded

The decorations have been taken down, the tree folded ready for next year, and greetings cards re-read and heaped up for recycling.  The turkey, Christmas cake, and mince pies are finished (it was only a small Christmas cake!), which just leaves the chocolate.  That is going to be tough.  I’m looking at four huge bars of Toblerone (I said once that I liked it) weighing in at 2000 calories each, a massive double layer box of Milk Tray, and assorted chocolate treats from our friends in Australia with odd sounding names (the chocolate bars, not our friends).  I reckon there must be about 12000 calories altogether and heavens knows how much fat.  So, at present I am sucking in my tummy muscles and just looking.

Just turned over my year planner to 2012, and gasped out loud when I saw how close together the remainder of the assignments are on A363.  The stage adaptation for TMA02 is due Thursday this week, a 1000 word critique for TMA03 is next on the cards for 26th January, TMA04, an initial proposal for the EMA is needed for 16th February, a 2500 word short story deadlines on 15th March for TMA05, more proposal writing for the EMA for 5th April and the final EMA itself has to be completed on 17th May.  That’s six assignments in four and a half months.  Cripes!

After a great deal of procrastination, rewriting, consideration of excellent criticism and advice, the stage adaptation for TMA02 is now complete.  I wondered whether to let it sit and mature right up to the cut-off date but decided enough was enough.  The button has been poked and the words have whizzed off at approximately the speed of light to the Big Computer at the OU in Milton Keynes.  I feel a sense of relief that it’s gone, but that will be replaced by a sense of urgency to get the next assignment under way.  Two more chapters of coursework to read first, though!

May I wish you a happy, prosperous and fulfilling 2012.

Now, where’s that first Toblerone…

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A363 Week 11 – Stage adaptation for TMA02

A day late posting this.  Again.  But I have a Good Excuse.  The heating broke down last Tuesday, and although I’m not exactly a plumber, I know a bit about pumps, boilers and the like.  Could I get it going though?  Absolutely not.  But then it took the plumber three visits to figure it out.  Luckily he made the final attempt yesterday (yes, a Sunday!) and discovered the pipes above the pump were pretty well blocked solid.  After much clattering of spanners, shouts of ‘Good Grief’ (well, like I said, it was Sunday so nothing stronger allowed), whooshing under the outside tap, and reassembly, the hot water coursed through the copper arteries like a canoe down rapids.  Not only were we warm again, but I had a pleasant shave this morning.  Cold ones are so… cold.

The stage adaptation is going very well indeed.  In fact, it’s almost time for the curtain to fall, thanks to my two favourite critique writers.  Changing a few words here and there, making parts of the plot less obscure, and a bit more characterisation in the dialogue, and it’s about ready to hit the submit button.  It’s due on the 5th January, but knock off a week for unforeseen events, that brings the deadline back to 29th December.  Hopefully the turkey will have gone down by then and I shall be in a fit state to operate the electronic submission system.

Ah, yes, unforeseen events.  I came out in a cold sweat yesterday, like you do when you realise you should have backed up your latest files.  After the plumber left, I wiggled the mouse to wake up my PC and all I got was the blue screen of death.  Wasn’t worried about the play, as it’s on a thumb drive, but I’d been doing some advance work on writing 1000 words about another student’s fiction (TMA03 is a critique) and hadn’t made a copy.  Luckily, starting up in Safe Mode, carrying out a virus run and letting Windows do a diskchk (which repaired loads of files I didn’t even know I had) did the trick.  Took over an hour though, which gave me ample time to reflect on my stupidity and resolve to back up the OU files every night.  Bet that resolution won’t even last until the new year!

Which is an opportune moment to say that I won’t be posting a blog next weekend.  Our turn to feed the family this year on Christmas Day, and I doubt I will escape long enough to tap out anything remotely sensible.  Even if was able to get up the stairs without falling over.

So, thank you for reading my blog, especially if you are a regular follower.  May I wish you the merriest of Christmases, and I hope that 2012 brings all that you desire.

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A363 Week 10 – Not Much Writing This Week

The stage adaptation of my TMA01 story is all but complete, and a couple of copies have been printed to (hopefully) get some feedback comprising huge red circles with phrases such as ‘no way, José’, ‘you cannot say this, you can not’, ‘the ending is pants’, and other useful comments along those lines.  Still a few weeks to go, and there will be the whole of Christmas to paint in the final touches, so panic has not yet set in.

Remember I was going all gooey about the Asus TF101 Tablet last week?  To shut me up, my gorgeous wife has bought me one.  It’s everything I thought it would be, except for some strange reason the @ and # symbols are swapped with the ” and £ ones, but I’m on to the techy people about that, not that it matters a jot.  No, let me say that again, it’s MORE than I thought it would be.  The tablet slots nicely into the keyboard base and transforms into a netbook within a couple of seconds, the keyboard and touchpad are comfortable to use (although even with the keyboard attached I found myself poking the screen more often than not, which it’s quite happy for you to do).  I thought a touch screen computer would be weird, but it’s very intuitive and simple to get used to.  In fact, when I swapped over to my wife’s laptop I kept jabbing the screen on that, much to her amusement.  Oh, and it came with Polaris Office which is compatible with MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint files.  Not bad for an Android!

It’s early days, but I’ve started to work up a plot for TMA05.  It’s a way off, but is important because it accounts for 40% of the continuous assessment marks, pretty high compared with the other assignments.  Not worth drafting anything out just yet, because obviously it will need to address the later elements of the course.  But I really want to stick with the plot.  It’s going to need some research though, as the protagonist gets stoned at one point.  Now, I know I was a teenager in the Swinging Sixties and left behind the parental reins at sixteen to seek my fortune (which incidentally I’m still looking for), but I’ve never done drugs.  Well, beer and tobacco, although I ditched the smoking forty years back, but that isn’t what I mean.  I need this guy to trip out for about 500 words, and since I have no plans to take anything stronger than green tea, will need to scour the interweb to spark some ideas.  I have a strong feeling there will be plenty of stuff there to help me out.

The lack of writing this week is likely to be a strong theme until after Christmas, but I’m sure there’ll be a few more side issues to touch on!

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A363 – Writing on Tablets and TMA02

Four full weeks to go before my personal deadline for TMA02 (a week before the OU’s) and the adaptation for stage is going well.  At least, I now have a 15 minute stage play based on the short story I wrote for TMA01.  It may, of course, be complete rubbish.  The ending needs more attention (doesn’t it always), probably because it’s quite different from the original story.  It seems to drag on for too long.  But at least I have the guts of the assignment in draft form, and can spend the remaining time chopping and changing bits here and there.

And that is where the tablet comes in.  I’ve wondered for a long time about buying a netbook to carry about, in place of my notebook and pen, and the other week had more less decided to do just that.  Until I had a play with an iPad, that is.  Quite a surprise to me how much it could do, and I came away from the shop well impressed.  Until I remembered that Apple were still not allowing Adobe’s Flash player to be installed, and many of the websites I visit use that to show their video snippets.  So that, dear Apple, was the end of that idea.

Until I popped into another store.  They had a mix of tablets on display, but right in the middle was a netbook.  Rather odd, I thought, and rightly so, because on closer inspection I could see it was a tablet plugged into a keyboard base.  What a fabulous idea!  A netbook when you wanted to do some creative writing, and a tablet if you wanted to sit at home, do some surfing or share photos round the room.  Ah, but surely for something like that the battery life would be rubbish.  Not so.  The base has its own battery, which also keeps the tablet charged up, and together they last for 15 hours.  What a brilliant idea.  It’s an Asus EEE Transformer TF101 if you want to check it out.  I don’t have one yet, but it’s definitely on the cards!

Right, time to print out the stage play.  I’m planning on having a read-through to check the running time, and that’ll need a hard copy.  Me, my wife, and the two labradors should cover all four characters nicely…  Or maybe I should have a quiet word with some of our friends?

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A363 – TMA02, Stage Adaptation

This has been a funny old week, not least because I’m totally confused as to whether it has been week 6 or week 7 of the course.  Obviously I thought last week was ‘Week 7’, hence the blog header, but now I’m not so sure.  Maybe I’m getting chapters and weeks muddled up.  But, what the heck, does it matter?!

Having flicked through the three main chapters covering stage, radio and film scripting, I decided to head along the stage adaptation route for my TMA01 short story.  To be fair, when I wrote it, this is what I had in mind from the start, so it came as no surprise to me that stage looked the best bet.

Radio would have been an interesting challenge, and there’s still time to go for that since I’m fairly well in front time-wise, but there’s something that’s telling me no.  I think it’s the target  length.  Fifteen minutes.  The Archers is on for fifteen minutes.  I was potty-trained listening to The Archers, and every time the music (dum de dum de dum de dum) comes on…

Film just seems much too grand for my tale based around four friends playing Scrabble in a field on a long caravanning weekend.  Well, it just does.

So stage it is.  Simple set.  A table, four chairs, a Scrabble board.  Seaside backdrop, caravan door stage left, seagull soundtrack.  One scene (well, it is only 15 minutes from start to finish) and four characters (on the verge of being too many for the short story, but I’m hoping it works for the script) complete the simplicity.

We’re allowed to deviate from the original story if we want to, so long as there’s a good reason and this is explained in the commentary.  As it happens, I’ve kept faith with what I submitted for TMA01, and added in a more substantial and slightly darker plot.  A couple more minutes to write, but I’m hoping that by the end of the coming week there will be a fifteen minute play which I can start knocking into shape.

If you’re interested in writing stage scripts, I can recommend Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘The Crafty Art of Playmaking.’  Even though I’m only halfway through, I can see there are many gems of wisdom in there, and hopefully these will add further to the OU chapters in this part of the course.

Watch out for ‘The Final Score’ in the West End !

Fat chance!!

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