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Starting to Write (20 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

This is a course for beginners or those wishing to refresh the basics of writing poetry and short stories. The writing exercises are designed to build confidence and stimulate and encourage original and lively work. Learn how to revise a first draft and how to give and take critical feedback in a positive, constructive way.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge required.

Content of Course

Part 1

1. Introductions. Getting started and organised. Springboard exercises.

2. Writing from life as a way into fiction writing.

3. Close observation and the five senses.

4. Creating characters - getting into the skin; point of view.

5. Imagery: symbolism, metaphor, personification.

6. Starting a short story: thwarted desire.

7. Free verse v traditional forms.

8. Dramatic monologue.

9. How to edit your work.

10. Reading and performance of students’ work.

Part 2

1. Getting restarted. Springboard exercises.

2. Monologue.

3. Imagery 2: haiku.

4. Imagery 3: simile, metaphor & symbol.

5. Structure: the ‘shape’ of your story.

6. Journey plot & quest narrative.

7. A continuation of week 6.

8. To rhyme or not to rhyme: free verse v traditional forms.

9. A continuation of week 8.

10. Editing: presenting your work for publication.

Teaching method(s)

Teaching methods will include practical writing exercises (in class and at home); group discussion; critical evaluation of students’ work and extracts from contemporary literature. Students who submit a portfolio for credit will receive individual written feedback.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Understand how they can nurture the creative process

  • Practice elements of the craft (such as dialogue, creating character).

  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in their own work and others' work.

  • Edit their work beyond the initial draft.

  • Understand the need to experiment and practice writing to find their own confident voice.


Core Readings


  • Goldberg, Naimark, N., 1986. Writing Down the Bones. Shambhala Publications.

Background Reading:

  • Le Gum, U., 1983. Steering the Craft: Exercises for the Lone Navigator and the Mutinous Crew. London: Papermac.

  • Fairfax, J. and Moat. J., 1981. The Way to Write. Elm Tree Books.

  • Hughes, T., 1967. Poetry in the Making. Faber.

  • Sansom, P., 1994. Writing Poems. Bloodaxe.

Web Sources

Competitions, writers’ groups, events etc.

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided weekly.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


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.