Session 1: Immerse Yourself
We’ll start by focusing on reading lots of different types of short stories, asking what kind of short fiction appeals to you and what makes you want to write. We’ll look at keeping a journal and a daily senses diary, working on one sense per day to attune yourself to the small details of everyday life that bring a story to life.
You’ll meet your group and tutor for a live session on Zoom.
Session 2: Finding Inspiration
What do you do with all the details you’ve noticed and read? We’ll explore story-starter prompts, including sounds, ways to play with stories at sentence level, working from themes and thinking about why stories work. On the craft technique side, you’ll practise show not tell and the art of reading a story aloud.
Session 3: The Nuts and Bolts
This week is all about character and setting in short fiction. You’ll experiment with character-building techniques, and take a look at a setting through a character’s eyes. We’ll look at stereotyping in character-creation and ways to think differently, especially around cultural appropriation. Have fun playing with Hollywood gender roles, and transporting a setting from your own experience into a story.
This week, there will be a group session with a guest writer to read and discuss one of their stories.
Session 4: Seeing Differently
Let’s talk about point of view and dialogue. We’ll experiment with different ways to present thoughts and speech on the page, and look at the role of dialogue and body language in making transitions in a story. You’ll write an exchange between two inanimate objects.
Session 5: Story Structure
Focus on openings and endings. We’ll look at masses of openings and ask what makes a good (and dull) start to a short story. You’ll explore life experience and how to develop a fictional structure from something that happened to you, and examine why ‘real’ structures don’t make a good story form. What makes a satisfying ending? Your tutor will give you feedback on the start of a story.
Session 6: Find Your Place
Demystifying the competition and journal submission process, and thinking about when you’re ready to go for it. We’ll offer lists of places to submit, with pointers, plus tips and advice from judges and writers.
This session lasts 2 weeks to allow you time to draft, peer critique, and complete a short story of up to 3,000 words. There will also be a Group Q&A on Zoom for tutor advice on your story and next steps.
At the end of the course we’ll run an open mic session to encourage participants to read their work to the group and develop the confidence needed to power a submission.
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.
Join our alumni community
After your course, 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 courses 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.