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Writing Fiction

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.
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : General/Others

Function : General

Trainer name : Ms Elizabeth Garner, Mr Malcolm Pryce

Starts on : 10th Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

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 poick up a pen, sit down at the typewriter or computer, and open a packet of biscuits.

Course Aim

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.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

  • 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.

Teaching outcomes

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

Course eligibility

Course 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.

Recommended reading

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]
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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are:

  • Essential preliminary demystification
  • Getting the idea
  • Plot
  • With this first line, I thee wed
  • Character
  • Good old-fashioned story-telling
  • Fictive dream - The Big Picture
  • Fictive dream - The Small Picture
  • Voice, point of view, endings.
  • All writing is re-writing


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