Find answers to the most common questions asked by prospective students wanting to study at the International Institute of Modern Letters.
The information below relates to the Master of Arts in Creative Writing (Page and Script streams) and our undergraduate writing workshops.
You can also visit our information and advice page for the PhD Creative Writing.
Can I apply for an undergraduate workshop without having done any previous tertiary study?
Yes. Course coordinators have the discretion to accept students without the prerequisite credits if their previous experience merits it, and if the quality of their written application is sufficiently strong.
This discretion is seldom exercised for school-leavers.
How does the minor in Creative Writing work, and will it suit me?
The subject requirements for a BA minor are at least 60 points selected from CREW 200–399, including at least 20 points at 300-level.
You should discuss the idea of a minor in Creative Writing with your Faculty in advance of applying for a CREW course.
All CREW courses have 'limited entry' status, we cannot guarantee entry into any particular course.
A minor in Creative Writing will suit students whose degree is not too prescribed; allowing you to apply for several CREW courses over the period of your degree and then arrange the minor retrospectively if you obtain the necessary points.
Can I apply for the MA even if I don't have a previous degree?
Yes. The requirement that applicants hold a previous degree may be waived in special circumstances.
Once an applicant has been accepted for the course on the basis of the quality of their written application, a waiver can be considered.
Each case is considered individually on the basis of relevant experience and publishing / literary history. Under no circumstances would school leavers be able to have the prerequisite waived.
About the application process
How many people apply? What are the chances of my application being successful?
Undergraduate courses typically receive between 20 and 40 applications for a workshop with 12 places.
For the MA in Creative Writing, we expect well over 100 applications for the 20 available places in Writing for the Page stream, and over 40 applications for the 10 available places in the Scriptwriting stream.
A high number of applications does not mean that you have less chance of being accepted. Selection is not based on chance or the order in which applications are received, but on quality.
Can I apply for more than one undergraduate course or for both streams of the Master of Arts?
Yes, but make sure you submit an application and relevant submission material for each course. If you are submitting on paper, please attach a copy of your writing sample or other submission material to each application.
Can I submit two different applications within one stream of the MA?
Yes, depending on the nature of your project proposal you may choose to submit separate applications in different disciplines eg: poetry and fiction within the Page stream. Make sure your application material is relevant to each stream. If you are considering doing this, please contact us for advice before you apply, as you may not be able to submit both applications via online enrolment system.
Can I submit a project proposal for the MA that involves revising an existing manuscript or script?
No. Your MA project proposal cannot be to revise an already completed draft. We want you to be working on a substantially new project. You cannot revise a project for which you have received a qualification on another course. Please note however that it is acceptable to already have some draft material towards your project, such as a draft chapter or two, or a few draft poems. If in doubt, contact us with a description of what you hope to do, and what portion of it already exists in draft.
Does my writing sample need to be in the genre of the workshop I am applying for?
Yes, we strongly advise this. A sample of writing in an unrelated genre can make it difficult for the selectors to judge your ability to write in the genre you have applied for. This will reduce your chances of success.
If you are relatively new to the genre you are applying for and feel you have stronger writing in another genre, you could consider submitting several short pieces or extracts, with at least one of them being in the relevant genre. In this case, do your best to choose other samples that have some relevance or connection.
Can I use the same writing sample for more than one application?
Only if your writing sample is relevant to each application. If this is the case, make sure you upload it with each application if applying online, or submit separate copies with each paper application.
Is there a requirement with regard to the format of my writing samples?
No, only an approximate number of pages as outlined on the application form (five to 10 for an undergraduate workshop and 10 to 20 for a postgraduate course).
Whether you are submitting online or on paper, please ensure that your writing sample and any other submission material is clear and easy to read.
We also recommend a 1.5 line spacing for ease of reading.
Bear in mind that the selection panel has to read a large number of submissions and will look for quality and relevance, not quantity. If your writing sample is an extract is from a larger work in progress you should mention this briefly (either with the sample or elsewhere in your application). Please don't submit entire manuscripts as these will not be read beyond the first 10 or 20 pages and we do not generally return submissions.
What should I include in a scriptwriting sample for the MA?
This is the most important part of your scriptwriting application. It is primarily what the Director will base his decision on as to who is accepted into the course.The sample should always be actual script if possible — rather than prose treatment, scene breakdowns or outlines. It should showcase how you write a script, consist of approximately 20 pages, and it can be taken from a single script or made up of a number of excerpts or short works.Submit the script or combination of scripts that you feel shows you off to greatest advantage. The script doesn't have to relate to the project you're proposing, and could even be something you write specifically for the application.
What is the purpose of the reading list required as part of the MA application and what form should it take?
During the MA year, each student is required to read and / or view extensively in an area related to your writing project, usually following an individually tailored programme, and to report on your reading. Reading books and essays related to your own writing, whether examples of the form, or about similar subject matter or the practice of writing, is an important part of the MA year. The purpose is to give you a good understanding of your writing territory, as well as to expand your writing and reading horizons, and, as always, to affirm that good writers need first of all to be curious readers.
The reading list you supply with your application material should give an indication of what you think will be most appropriate for your reading programme. This could take the form of a list of authors / playwrights / scriptwriters.
MA Scriptwriting applicants can read more about the suggested reading list and the format of the reading programme in the 'About your application' and 'About the course' sections of our Advice to Scriptwriting applicants page.
Remember that your reading list is a starting point, not a commitment; details of individual reading programmes will be settled only after admissions are decided. You are not expected to have read or obtained everything on your list before commencing the MA.
What is the purpose of the one page supporting statement requested with undergraduate applications?
The supporting statement is secondary to the writing submission, but it is a way for you to tell the selectors a little more about your writing background and experience, and why you are interested in this particular workshop. If you are submitting an extract from a larger work, you can also use the statement to give brief context to your submission.
Do you accept late applications?
We have set deadlines for undergraduate, MA and PhD applications. We do not usually accept late applications because we tend to get many more than there are places available and it takes time to read and assess them.
If you have missed an application deadline, please contact us directly as soon as possible to check whether we can accept a late application for the particular course you are interested in.
Can I get an early notification of the outcome of my application?
Not normally. Offers of places in undergraduate workshop are generally made one week after the application deadline; MA offers approximately six weeks after the deadline. We contact each applicant by email on receipt of an application to confirm the specific notification date, and will advise successful applicants by email or phone, as needed.
We understand that the waiting period can be nerve-wracking for MA applicants, and that earlier notification would be helpful for those who need to make travel, work or childcare arrangements if accepted. However, our selection process involves assessing all applications alongside each other after the application deadline. In the case of the MA, this is an intensive process of reading and consultation by a selection panel to ensure fair consideration of a large number of applications. This makes early notification very difficult unless all panel members agree at an early stage on the strength or weakness of a particular application.
If you do have special circumstances, please contact us to discuss this before the application deadline and we will do what we can to help.
If I'm offered a place but can't take it up due to a change in circumstances, can I defer it?
Unfortunately not. Each submission needs to be considered against all the others in any given round, so you will need to re-apply. Being offered a place in one course certainly indicates a good chance of success with future applications but we cannot guarantee this.
What if you don't get into the scriptwriting programme?
Please keep the following things in mind:
- Entrance to the course seems to be becoming more competitive each year, with many applicants being 'in the ballpark'.
- You can re-apply for the course in subsequent years; this has been successful for people in the past.
- There are undergraduate courses available (in writing for theatre and writing for television), within the Theatre programme of Victoria University of Wellington's School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies (an undergraduate and an Honours course in writing for theatre), and in the Wellington region (eg. at Whitireia Polytechnic), which have formed a bridge to the MA class for some writers.
- The important thing is to keep writing.
About feedback on applications
Can I discuss my writing with someone and get feedback before I apply?
No. We cannot determine whether an application is likely to be successful until it can be compared with other course applications. This cannot be done until after the application deadline. In addition, we just do not have the time or resources to give feedback to potential applicants.
How will I know what to submit so that my application is successful?
That is an impossible question to answer. Course selection is based on the quality of written applications, especially writing samples, and quality is hard to quantify. It is more useful for you to consider carefully what you judge to be your strongest writing.
As mentioned, we strongly recommend submitting poetry with a poetry application etc. However, if you are applying for a course in an area of writing you have little experience in, submit what you consider to be your best work in any genre and use the one page supporting letter to provide some context to your application.
You may find it helpful to look at some examples of work written during workshops. Mutes & Earthquakes (Victoria University Press, 1997) gives a brief history of creative writing at the University, and includes many exercise ideas from the course, essays on writing by such writers as Damien Wilkins, Joy Cowley, and Fiona Kidman, plus a wide range of writing by course graduates.
Spectacular Babies: New Writing (Flamingo; Harper Collins, 2001) edited by Karen Anderson and Bill Manhire, features contributions from all ten writers on the 2000 MA (Page) course. With extracts from personal writing journals and class exercises, as well as samples from major works-in-progress, the book offers an insight into the workshopping process itself.
Do 'literary' submissions have a greater chance of success?
As discussed above, the selection panel is simply looking for good writing. These and published books to come out of the MA programme in recent years vary widely in terms of style and approach: novels (including novels for young adults and children); collections of poetry and short fiction; and creative non-fiction, including memoir, travel writing, and essays.
If you are applying for an undergraduate workshop, it is sensible to submit a writing sample that has some relation to the workshop topic (children's writing, creative non-fiction etc.) if possible.
If I don't get into a course, can I get feedback on why my application was unsuccessful?
No. We are asked this question so frequently that we have had to make a strict, no-exceptions policy in order to be fair to all applicants.
We understand that it can be frustrating not to know exactly why your application was unsuccessful but we generally have high numbers of submissions and just don't have the resources to give feedback to everyone. Our creative writing teachers are obliged to focus on their current students.
If I don't get in, how else can I develop my writing?
The websites of the New Zealand Book Council and the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) maintain lists of writing courses and writing groups nationwide. They also offer information about upcoming literary events, competitions, grants etc and advice on everything from protecting your rights to finding a publisher.
Many community education centres also offer evening writing classes and your local council or library may be able to put you in touch with writing groups.
If you have a manuscript that you feel is close to publishable standard, the New Zealand Association of Manuscript Assessors (NZAMA) provides a professional manuscript assessment service.
In recent years, the IIML and Victoria University Press have collaborated on two books about the creative writing process, which may be helpful and interesting. The Exercise Book: Creative Writing Exercises from Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters (2011), and The Fuse Box: Essays on Writing from Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters (2017).
If my application is successful, what workload should I expect from postgraduate or undergraduate courses?
The MA in Creative Writing is a full-time research degree. Five hours per week are spent in workshops. Students also have regular meetings with individual supervisors, and research and write extensively outside formal contact hours as well as reading and providing ongoing feedback on classmates' writing.
While the exact number of hours will vary depending on your major project, you should plan for at least a forty hour writing week, including reading and feedback time.
It is hard to assess the workload for 200-and-300-level workshops. These are 20 point undergraduate courses, but many students tend to treat them as a full-time undertaking. You should certainly expect to be busy. Full-time undergraduates should expect to spend an average of 12-15 hours per week on a writing course (this figure includes workshop hours, usually three per week).
About costs and financial assistance
How much will it cost?
For current fee information, please check the online course catalogue. You can also visit Victoria University of Wellington’s Financial Matters page for more information.
Can I get financial assistance?
About distance teaching
Do you offer distance teaching or correspondence courses?
Not generally. Our courses are built around regular workshop meetings where writing and craft are discussed and feedback is shared. This workshop model is at the heart of our programme and we expect students to attend.
However, we realise this may present significant barriers to some students. If there are issues that would make it difficult or impossible for you to attend in person, please contact us as early as you can to discuss this.