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Fiction Workshop

Course Times & Enrolment

Mondays from 25th September 2023 (Code CW022-117) Mondays from
25th September 2023 11:10am - 1:00pm • (10 classes)
G38 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Janis Mackay MA
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Write better fiction! Create scintillating characters and formidable plots! Hone your style and learn how to present your work professionally. In a workshop setting you will be able to offer samples of your work in progress for group and tutor feedback.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

It is recommended that students should have already gained some experience in writing.

Content of Course

Classes are organised as follows: Tutor introduces topic of the week; applied writing exercise; class and tutor feedback on home assignment; tutor input on any recurring issue in students’ work that requires attention. Opportunity for one-to-one feedback when students email their work to the tutor for comments.

1. Warming Up

Developing a distinctive voice /style (by examining examples of contemporary fiction).

2. Training the Eye

Selecting details consistent with a narrative.

3. Characterisation

Sculpting dynamic and complex characters.

4. More on Character

Discovering what motivates a character: the importance of his/her back story and inner conflict.

5. More on Character - Continuation

Establishing from whose point of view a story is told (first, second or third person).

6. Plotting

An analysis of different plot structures. (The straight line and curved plots etc.)

7. Plotting - Continuation

The journey, suspense, courtroom and moral plots.

8. Dialogue

Using direct speech efficiently within a narrative.

9. The Redrafting Process

Taking a narrative and editing it beyond the initial draft.

10. Publication

Manuscript presentation, literary consultancies, agents a submission to editors.

This is a general outline but time is allocated each week to respond to individual needs.

Teaching method(s)

Practical writing exercises set in class and at home. Evaluation of work during the course by the group and tutor. Pieces of contemporary literature brought to the class to illustrate aspects of fiction-writing. Short informal lectures given on specific aspects of fiction. Individual (one-to-one) tuition / support.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the principles of writing powerful fiction;

  • Edit their own work beyond the initial draft;

  • Give and take positive and constructive class feedback;

  • Know how to present a manuscript and where to send it for publication.


Core Readings


  • Brande, D., 1983. Becoming a Writer. London: Papermac.

  • Fairfax & Moat, 1981. The Way to Write. London: Elm Tree.

  • Goldberg, N., 1986. Writing down the Bones. Boston & London: Shambhala.

  • Bell, J. & Magrs, P., eds., 2001. The Creative Writing Course Book. London: MacMillan.


  • Ray, R.J., & Norris, B., 2005. The Weekend Novelist. London: A & C Black.

  • Highsmith, P. 1990. Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Griffin.

Web Sources

Information and advice on professional development or writers and literature professions.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided for each class.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.