Fiction Foundations

Event information

Where: Online

Date: Online course starting 7 October 2024

Cost: £495 / £198 (bursary places available)

Type: Online Writing Course , Writing and Publishing Skills Hub

Book full price place now

The perfect entry point for beginner writers

Curious about writing fiction, but not sure where to start? Maybe you’re already writing but would like more focus, direction and discipline.

This six-week online course will help take you from random scribbler to serious writer. You’ll work in a small group of writers with an expert tutor to guide you through the process.

You’ll learn the basics of point of view and character creation, how to produce settings that add atmosphere to your writing, and all the essentials for structuring and plotting stories. We’ll also experiment with a variety of writing prompts to help you generate ideas with potential.

By the end of the course, you’ll have a portfolio of work plus the writing habits and technical skills to take yourself seriously as a writer.

Duration: 6 weeks
Skill level: Beginner
Frequency: Weekly
Sessions: 6

Bursary places for North of Tyne residents

Our funding from North East Combined Authority allows us to offer 60% off the price of this course for residents of Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Apply for a bursary place

Dr Mike Hollows, course tutor

Dr Mike Hollows is author of the bestselling WW2 historical novel, The German Nurse and a creative writing educator teaching at the University of Cambridge and Liverpool John Moores University.

Based in Liverpool, he completed his PhD in creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University, researching the impact of the Second World War on the Science Fiction genre.

As MJ Hollows, Mike has written three 20th-century historical fiction novels published by HarperCollins: Goodbye for Now, The German Nurse and The German Messenger, with a fourth novel, The Violinist’s Secret, coming soon.

When not writing historical fiction Mike works on science fiction and fantasy as well as tie-in fiction for companies including Games Workshop, and has written roleplaying games supplements for Cubicle 7. He is co-host of the Lexicon creative writing podcast, and a panel tutor on the MSt in Crime and Thriller Writing at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education.

“In six weeks I’ve gone from being terrified to share my writing to looking forward to posting it up for others to read, so a huge thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way!”

​- Shelley, Alumni

Full course information

Who is the course for?

Fiction Foundations is designed for people starting out or for writers who would like a refresher in key fiction skills, whether you’re working on short stories or a novel.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Enjoy reading fiction and would like to start writing
  • Are a non-fiction writer or use words at work, and would like to explore your creative side
  • Are already writing but could benefit from better writing habits and a more effective routine
  • Want insider info on the craft techniques writers use to create vivid characters and engaging story worlds
  • Need to master the basics of story structure and plotting
  • Enjoy experimenting with new writing prompts and techniques
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and would like to try peer feedback
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • No writing experience necessary.

What will I learn?

This course allows you to:

  • Start developing the key creative and practical skills all fiction writers need, whatever the genre or form
  • Explore your potential for writing fiction
  • Experiment with creative writing prompts and story-starters
  • Widen your reading as a writer
  • Experience through close-reading how different fiction writers use various craft skills to affect their readers
  • Learn effective ways of using point of view and time, writing character and setting, and developing structure and plotting
  • Develop an understanding of the professional skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Increase your professionalism in working with others
  • Practise giving effective feedback to other writers
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and critical judgment as you work on a final assignment.

What are the sessions?

Session 1: Becoming a Writer – We’ll start by looking at how fiction writers work and how to develop your own creativity and discipline. Experiment with automatic writing and prompt exercises to help build a daily writing practice.

Session 2: Who’s Telling the Story? – Every story needs a narrator, so we’ll look at different viewpoints to understand who’s telling the story. Explore first-person (‘I’), second-person (‘you’) and third-person (‘he/she/they’) narrators, to work out which choices feel right for you.

Session 3: Compelling Characters – Learn the importance of developing memorable characters in fiction, where effective characters come from and how to make them feel believable. Try out some of the most effective techniques writers use to create convincing characters.

Session 4: Setting and Mood – We’ll focus on creating settings that lend atmosphere to your fiction and transport your reader through time and space. You’ll experiment with using your senses, precise observation and visual prompts to create different emotional responses, and write the opening of a story to share with the group.

Session 5: Story Structure – Thinking about beginnings, middles and ends, the different shapes a story can take, and simple ways to develop plot and pace in your writing. You’ll try some flash fiction, then develop a longer piece to share with your fellow writers in the forum.

Session 6: Pull it all Together – Apply the techniques you have learned to write a final longer piece of up to 3,000 words. You might rework a favourite piece you produced in an earlier session into a short story or the beginning of a novel, or write something new. There are writing warm-ups to get the creative juices flowing, practical ways to beat writer’s block, and editing tips to help you meet your final deadline. To round off the course, there’s a live ‘meet the expert’ Q&A Zoom session with a guest author.

How much time do I need to commit to this course?

You will need to put in around 5-7 hours per week. The deadline for posting your final assignment each week is the end of Saturday. The deadline for giving feedback to others is the end of Sunday. Other than that, you can work through the course materials each week at your own pace.

What time will I need to log on?

There’s no need to log in at a set time to take part – sessions open to a timetable and you have until the end of each session to work through the materials in the online classroom.

So you can read the tutor notes and listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, analyse extracts, react to prompts and work through mini-exercises at any time of day or night that’s best for you. You can also contribute to discussions on our forums 24/7, so the online classroom feels like a rich and lively shared experience.

Most people on the course fit learning around their work and caring responsibilities, which is why we teach in this non-synchronous way. It also suits those studying in another language, and offers advantages in terms of accessibility and different learning styles. We ask that you submit your final exercise in each session by the deadline, then read and critique the work of some of your peers.

If there are live Zoom sessions in your course, your moderator will let you know the timing. If you can’t make it, you can send in questions in advance and catch up with the recording afterwards. Past sessions and any recordings remain available throughout the course – and in the alumni area afterwards – so you can revisit any of the learning, revise exercises and chart your progress at any point.

What happens after the course?

Join our alumni community

After your course ends, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:

  • Revisit all your course materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
  • Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
  • Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
  • Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
  • Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
  • Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers

Commission a report on your work

If you’d like to receive a personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing from your course tutor, this is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on what steps to take next.

Bursary information

If you are a writer based in North of Tyne, you may be eligible for a bursary discount through New Writing North.

You can submit your application through this site.

This course is open to writers all over the globe. If you are based anywhere else in the world, you can buy now here.

How it works


We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts.


You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.


You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.


Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor – a critical part of the writing process.


You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

Review and Improve

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.