Writing Fiction (Online)
Our Writing Fiction course has been designed for those who know that they want to write novels or short stories, and who may already have made some progress in writing.
Few occupations are so wrapped up with myth and misconception as writing. This course aims to debunk the myths and through refreshingly practical and down-to-earth advice help anyone with the motivation to pick up a pen and write.
Writing, someone once said, is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein. Few occupations are so bound up with mystique and mystery as writing. As a result, many would-be writers are deterred from starting; and those who start often misconstrue the difficulties they encounter as evidence that they are not cut out for the task. This course aims to debunk the myths and show that anyone with sufficient interest and motivation can write. In the company of an experienced tutor, the student learns the time-honoured techniques of good, old-fashioned storytelling and also acquires the confidence to deploy those techniques. There is a liberal supply of practical advice, down-to-earth wisdom and enjoyment; and not a whiff of Romantic agony! As the professional writers have known all along, the true secret of writing is to pick up a pen, sit down at the typewriter or computer, and open a packet of biscuits.
Listen to Malcolm Pryce talking about the course:
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
Unit 1: Essential preliminary demystification
- I could never do that
- The demon in your head
Unit 2: Getting the idea
- The joys of recombining
- Idea starters
Unit 3: Character I
- The raw materials
- Too much detail and the myth of pictoriality
- Dialogue as poetry
Unit 4: Character II
- Flat and round characters
- The human heart, simplified
- Achieving growth
- Inner turmoil
Unit 5: Plot
- Coincidence and causality
- Metaplots and three-act structure
- Turning up the heat
Unit 6: Good old-fashioned story-telling
- Don’t be boring
- Science fiction and fantasy
- Switching genres
Unit 7: The Fictive Dream I - The Big Picture
- Your heart in your mouth
- Picture the scene
Unit 8: the Fictive Dream II - The Small Picture
- Some principles
- Particularity and ‘thisness’
- Write like Emmeline Pankhurst
Unit 9: Traditional storytelling techniques
- Tips from a pro: Scheherazade
- How to be a good coquette
Unit 10: All writing is re-writing
- Setting your expectations
- Famous lost manuscripts
- You never stop learning to write
- Getting published
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.
To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:
- Lodge, D., The Art of Fiction (London: Penguin, 1992)
- Mullan, J., How Novels Work (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)
- Wood, J., How Fiction Works (London: Vintage, 2009)
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 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 £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
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.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
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.
Home/EU Fee: £375.00
Non-EU Fee: £495.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Ms Elizabeth Garner
Elizabeth Garner is a writer of fiction and screenplays, and also works as a freelance editor for both the feature film and publishing industry. She has written two novels, published both in the UK and USA to critical acclaim.
Mr Malcolm Pryce
Malcolm Pryce has written seven novels published by Bloomsbury and is currently finishing his eighth. He is best known for the ‘Aberystwyth Noir’ series of private detective novels set in an alternative-universe version of the seaside town Aberystwyth. He was described by the Sunday Telegraph as the King of Welsh Noir.
He has twice been commissioned to adapt the series for BBC Radio, firstly for Radio Wales and subsequently for Radio 4. He has also adapted the books for the stage.
In his time, Malcolm has been an advertising creative director, a BMW assembly line worker, a deck hand on a yacht in the South Pacific, a hotel washer-up, and, for a short while, the world's worst aluminium salesman. His record set in 1996 for selling the least amount of aluminium in a year stands to this day.
This course aims to:
- Debunk the misconception that you have to be someone special to write.
- Show how important it is to cultivate the right mind-set first.
- Take broad overview of the topography - from the blank page to revision and polishing, and what comes after.
- Break the process of writing down into constituent parts and reveal the art and craft at work.
- Give students the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and 'have a go.'
- Give students the opportunity to put it all together and create a short piece of fiction.
- Guided reading of texts.
- Guided use of existing websites.
- Discussions of particular issues and responses to reading in the unit forums.
- Written non-assessed exercises discussed by the group.
By the end of this course students will understand:
- How real writers work as opposed to the myth.
- How many effects in fiction are more the result of hard work than magic.
- That all writers differ and there is no right or wrong way of doing it.
- The fundamental nature of the fictive dream and how to use this understanding to write better fiction.
- That good writing is a process of distillation.
By the end of this course students will have gained the following skills:
- The ability to sail past doubt and dismiss misconceived notions of not being worthy.
- The ability to actively generate ideas rather than passively await their arrival.
- The ability to practise writing like pilots learning flying in a flight simulator: by breaking it down into individual steps and practising them.
- The ability to deploy time-honoured story-telling tricks & techniques to improve their fiction.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of between 1200-1500 words due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support