Essential Fiction Writing Skills


This wide-ranging course will introduce you to key storytelling techniques, including advice on tackling long-form fiction. Starting with strategies for maintaining motivation and commitment, this inspiring course covers sourcing ideas, constructing plot, developing characters, choosing point of view, writing dialogue and creating setting. You’ll also learn how to edit and present your completed work. Class discussion and stimulating writing exercises will be combined with analysis of published extracts. Individual tutorials will give you the chance to discuss specific issues with your writing. Your confidence will grow as you develop your creative potential in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

Programme details

Session 1

Course Introduction: explore your reasons for writing and discover how to maintain self-belief and commitment

Session 2

Ideas: how to source potential story ideas and how to make use of life experience

Session 3

Cracking Openings: how to hook your reader right from the start

Session 4

Developing Plot 1: types of plot and how much to plan ahead

Session 5

Developing Plot 2: choices and sub-plots – how these enrich and drive the story

Session 6

Creating Character: degrees of characterisation and using external attributes to convey personality

Session 7

Continuing Character: using various techniques to convey the inner life of your character

Session 8

Point of View: exploring the various options and their effects

Session 9

Dialogue: how to write believable conversations that drive scenes, plus how to avoid the pitfalls

Session 10

Setting: how to create meaning and atmosphere

Session 11

Editing and pitching: how to revise your work and put together your submission package

Session 12

Publishing Choices and Summing-up: including discussion of ways of reaching your readers, whether by traditional or independent publication




Description Costs
Programme Fee (No Accommodation - inc. Tuition, Lunch & Dinner) £850.00
Programme Fee (Standard Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1485.00
Programme Fee (Standard Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1245.00
Programme Fee (Superior Single Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1600.00
Programme Fee (Superior Twin Room - inc. Tuition and Meals) £1345.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking

  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and refunds

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to or by post to OUSSA, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid

  • Cancellations received up to and including 31 May 2021 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.

  • Cancellations received between 1-30 June 2021 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.

  • Cancellations received on and after 1 July 2021 - no refunds will be made.

    Important note: You need to take out travel insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs.


Ms Lorna Fergusson


Lorna Fergusson is a novelist, award-winning short story writer, literary consultant, editor and writing coach, who has taught on the OUSSA programme since 2002. Her website is at

Course aims

This course aims to help students focus on their writing intentions, acquire the skills they need to develop their craft, increase their confidence and find fulfilment through developing their writing practice.

Teaching methods

All summer school courses are taught through group seminars and individual tutorials. Students also conduct private study when not in class and there is a well stocked library at OUDCE to support individual research needs.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Their own creative motivation and intentions
  • How to make use of a wide range of writing techniques
  • How to analyse and debate aspects of style and technique in fiction, both in their own work and the work of others
  • How to revise and present their work professionally
  • How the modern publishing industry works

Assessment methods

Students are assessed during the summer school by either a 1500 word written assignment or a presentation supported by individual documentation. To successfully gain credit (10 CATS points) students should attend all classes and complete the on-course assignment. There is also a pre-course assignment of 1000 words set. Although this does not count towards credit, it is seen as an important way of developing a student's ideas and therefore its completion is mandatory.


To enrol online, click 'Book Now', above.  To enrol by post, please see details of the application process.

Covid-19 guidance for summer school participants

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of participants is our highest priority. We've introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in university and college buildings, in accordance with University and UK government guidelines. These measures may include: enhanced cleaning regimes and additional facilities for hand washing and hand sanitising; spaces adapted to support social distancing with clear signage and markings; a requirement for the wearing of face coverings during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces.

You'll be required to follow University and UK government guidelines whilst in Oxford, and to sign a ‘Student Responsibility Agreement’ in advance of the course, confirming that you will do so (this will be similar to the version for University students, which you can review online).  Further information is available at You should particularly review the University’s Face Coverings policy, which you will need to comply with at all times on University property.

If UK government regulations require you to quarantine on arrival in the UK, then you will need to arrange this yourself at your own expense. Unfortunately, we aren’t permitted to let you quarantine in University accommodation. Travel is not encouraged – and may not be permitted – if you are travelling from or through a country on the UK government’s ‘red list’.

If we have to cancel your course

Should it be necessary to cancel your course, we will make every reasonable effort to give you as much notice of cancellation as possible, and we will refund all course fees paid by you (including the cost of accommodation, if booked through us as part of your course). Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than in pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the date they are processed.

The Department cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. You are advised to check cancellation policies carefully and to purchase travel insurance.