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Writing Creative Non-Fiction (Online)

Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 18th January 2024 (Code CW100-203) Thursdays from
18th January 2024 2:00pm - 4:00pm • (10 classes)
Online • Tutor: Nicky Melville MA MPhil PhD
This course is now closed for enrolments

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. Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker and an internet connection.

Content of Course

Week One: State of the Art
• What is non-fiction? Who are the great non-fiction writers? Is non-fiction writing as vibrant today?
• Does your writing pack a punch? Springboard exercise to get started. 

Week Two: The Story
• Generating ideas and collecting information. How to find the right angle.
• Research exercise: investigative skills
• Students discuss ideas for their own piece of non-fiction.

Week Three: Voice & P.O.V.
• How to develop a distinctive voice. How point of view strengthens voice in writing.
• Point of view exercise: use of shifting points of view.

Week Four: Organisation, Essay as fragment
• How to open a story. The importance of the ‘justifier’ and how to weave it into a story.
• Essays as fragments.

Week Five: Hybrid Forms
• Creative alternative ways to writing non-fiction.
• Thinking outside the box.

Week Six: Keeping the Reader Interested
• Description, symbolic detail, statistics and anecdotes – breathing life into a story.
• Practical exercise on description and symbolism.

Week Seven: Power of the Pen
• The influence of non-fiction writing on social and political issues.
• Students to think about topics for an article of their own.

 Week Eight: Dialogue & Preparing for Publication
• ‘Legwork’ – interviews. How to gather quotes, what makes a good one and how to isolate it.
• Practical Exercise: dialogue writing.
• Editing skills.
• Students to tidy up their pieces and send to each other before next week.

Week Nine:
• Students choose a topic to consider.

Week Ten: Class Round-up
• Overview of skills learnt throughout the course.
• Next steps.
• Students read their finished pieces of non-fiction.

Teaching method(s)

Lectures, discussion and practical exercises. This course will be delivered via live online sessions.

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.


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.