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Writing Creative Non-Fiction

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 25th September 2024 (Code CW075-103) Add to Basket Wednesdays from
25th September 2024 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
LG46 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Nicky Melville MA MPhil PhD
£195.00 Concessions and discounts

Course Summary

The course aims to give students a good knowledge of the writing techniques specific to the genre of creative non-fiction and the ability to incorporate these into their own writing. In particular, it aims to give participants the opportunity to write an extended piece of commercially viable creative non-fiction.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. State of the Art

The health of creative non fiction. Who are the great exponents of nonfiction writing? What makes them so special? Is nonfiction writing as vibrant today. Does your writing pack a punch? We do a practical exercise to find out your areas of writing strength and weakness. Afterwards we learn a few tricks for improving clarity.

2. The Story

Generating ideas and collecting information. What makes a good story idea and how to find the right angle. Best ways to gather our material and why the outstanding writers ‘walk the walk’.Research exercise: honing your investigative skills. Students invited to think about topics for a full-length feature article of their own and to submit their ideas next week.

3. Leads and Justifiers

How to open a story. The importance of the ‘justifier’ and how to weave it into a story is also outlined. Lead exercise: improve the immediate impact of your writing. Students submit ideas for their own features and are given extracts to read for next week.

4. Organisation and Structure

Stock structures and creative alternatives: the standard feature structures and when to use them. How to move away from formulaic approaches. Reading discussion: what we have learnt about organising material.

5. Quotes and Dialogue

Interviews and ‘Legwork.’ How professionals gather quotes. What makes a good quote and how to isolate it. Practical exercise: dialogue writing.

6. Voice

How to develop a distinctive voice. How point of view strengthens voice in writing. Point of view exercise: use of shifting points of view.

7. Keeping the Reader Interested

Description, symbolic detail, statistics and anecdotes - how much life can be breathed into a story. Practical exercise on description and symbolism.

8. Preparing for Publication

The importance of editing and introduction to the skills involved. Where the writer’s job ends and the commissioner’s begins. Students hand in their own articles. Students given features to read for next week

9. Power of the Pen

The influence of non fiction writing on social and political issues. The class discuss extracts handed out last week. Students are given each other’s finished feature articles to read for next week.

10. Class Round-up

Workshop using the skills learnt throughout the course. Discussion of how we might build on this.

Teaching method(s)

Lectures, discussion and practical exercises.

Learning outcomes

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

  • Describe the key elements and ideas behind the genre.

  • Apply generic techniques to their own writing.

  • Write non fiction in a more creative way.

  • Produce a polished piece of creative non fiction.


Core Readings


  • Wolfe,T. 1996. The New Journalism. London: Picador. (Handouts will be given in class.)


  • Capote, T. 2000. In Cold Blood. London: Penguin. 

  • Didion, J. 2017. Slouching Towards Bethlehem. London: 4th Estate.

  • Lindqvist, S. 2003. Bench Press. London: Granta.

  • Rankine, C. 2015. Citizen: An American Lyric. London: Penguin.

  • Wolfe, T. 2005. The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. London: Vintage.

  • Woolf, Virginia. 2000. A Room of One’s Own. London: Penguin.

Class Handouts

Lecture summaries, article extracts,summaries of critical thought, student work;


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.