Advanced Creative Writing (Online)


This is an advanced course designed for students who have completed one of the introductory courses such as Getting Started in Creative Writing, or one or more of the specialist courses such as Writing Fiction, Writing Poetry, Writing Drama, or Writing Young Adult Fiction, or a similar course.

How do authors develop an initial idea into a completed work of fiction? A practical course covering all aspects of novel writing from character creation, story development to final edit. Designed to engender confidence and good writing practice for aspiring novelists.

The development of online publishing opportunities has given rise to an increased commercial success of the self-published author. Beginning with an investigation of how fiction can be created from the writer''s own experience, this course will explore the techniques used to develop and structure a sustained piece of original prose to a commercially viable standard. We will look at character creation and development across a variety of genres. We will learn how to assess the thematic content of contemporary fiction and how this is expressed in the progression of plot. We will examine how description and metaphor are used to support narrative purpose. At the same time, we will explore the role of the writer as self-editor and how close-reading and critical thinking can enable improved confidence in the development of a unique, individual voice which will appeal to a broad readership.

This course emphasises weekly reading and writing exercises, peer feedback, and tutor guidance. Tutors prompt and moderate discussions that centre on group learning rather than workshopping personal pieces of writing. Both assessed assignments receive detailed feedback from the tutor.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1 - Write what you know

  • Inspiration and application of ideas.
  • How to write from personal experience and develop anecdote and memory into a piece of fiction.

Unit 2 - Beginnings, Middles, Endings

  • How 3 act structure shapes a story.
  • Where to start a story.
  • Analysis of crisis points and reader expectation.
  • The relationship between main plot and subplot.

Unit 3 - Character 1

  • How to create a complex protagonist.
  • Departure from expected archetypes.
  • Internal vs. external life of character.
  • The character with a secret.
  • Character growth vs. character decline.

Unit 4 - Character 2

  • Supporting characters and their function in story.
  • The difference between primary and secondary characters and subsequent influence of story development.
  • Secondary characters as chorus and jury.
  • The role of the hidden/ invisible main character.

Unit 5 - What kind of story

  • Genre expectation and how to subvert it.
  • How to fit original ideas to specific genres.
  • Commercial expectations of mainstream genres.
  • How to subvert known genres.

Unit 6 - What's it all about

  • Thematic development in story.
  • How to identify the themes in self-created writing; how to dramatise these in character development and action to fit commercial expectation.

Unit 7 - Complex plotting

  • Planning and execution in story.
  • The concept of dual-plotting, and how this can play with readers' expectation.

Unit 8 - Whose story is it anyway

  • Narrative point of view.
  • How to choose your narrator and dramatic perspective to best serve plot and character development.

Unit 9 - How to tell it

  • Use of description and metaphor.
  • How descriptive prose can reveal character; the use of metaphor to provide clues within a complex narrative.

Unit 10 - When is it finished

  • Self-editing.
  • Good editorial practice, with a focus on how to create text to the standard expected by publishers and agents.
  • How to create write synopsis and covering letter for commercial consideration.

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £635.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:


Concessionary fees for short courses


Ms Elizabeth Garner

Elizabeth Garner is a novelist and editor with 25 years of experience of story-development in both film and publishing. She was written two novels: Nightdancing, which received the Betty Trask Award; and The Ingenious Edgar Jones, which was published to critical acclaim in the UK and USA. She has also published a collection of illustrated folk tales: Lost & Found. She is a freelance fiction editor and also teaches creative writing for OUDCE.

Ms Sara Taylor

Sara Taylor is a product of Virginia and the homeschooling movement. She received her Masters in Prose Fiction and Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of East Anglia. Her novels, published by Random House, explore the social construction of identity, sexuality, and family. She acts as co-director and editor of creative-critical publisher Seam Editions, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.

Course aims

  • Understand how to develop their ideas into a coherent, engaging and commercially viable piece of fiction.
  • Become familiar with a range of fiction genres and learn how to shape their work accordingly.
  • Critically analyse and discuss their own work with an awareness of the expectation of a public and professional readership.
  • Learn the practical skills of self-editing and planning essential for the continuation and completion of their individual writing projects.
  • Further develop confidence in their own original writing style.

Teaching methods

  • Introductory section, outlining key areas of work within each unit.
  • Description of required reading and recommended reading.
  • Presentation of materials taken from additional (eg. online) sources, relevant to each unit.
  • Online discussion forum.
  • Online personal study diary.
  • Area for short responses to literary extracts from key texts.
  • Tutor responses to forum and exercises.
  • Assessment and feedback.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to:

  • Appreciate the diverse skill sets and techniques required in the construction and execution of a sustained piece of prose.
  • Be able to think critically about their own work and make editorial choices accordingly.
  • Be prepared to apply the skills acquired to continue and complete their own original, individual writing projects.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • The ability to plan and structure ideas into a coherent outline for a novel.
  • The ability to develop complex characters to the standard expected of commercially viable modern fiction.
  • Critical assessment of the thematic content of a diverse range of contemporary fiction.
  • Confidence in their ability as writers through the discovery and development of their own unique voice.
  • An understanding of good working practice and self-editing.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 5, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.