Online: The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction

The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction

An online course

  • Instructor: Mariam Tareen
  • Duration: 6 weeks
  • Start date: 25 October 2017


Have you always wanted to write? Do you have snippets of a novel tucked away in a drawer, or in a forgotten file on your computer? Do you wish to write but don’t know where to begin? Whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned storyteller, this workshop will give you the opportunity to explore the craft and practice of writing fiction and become better writers.

Our 6-week workshop is designed to guide you into the writing life in an encouraging and inspiring setting with a healthy dose of constructive critique and revision. Through hands on weekly exercises with a focus on craft, as well as insights from the works of celebrated authors, this course explores the core elements of writing fiction necessary for you to write your stories or novels. Every week, we will cover one or more aspects of writing fiction – such as character, point of view, plot, story structure, place, dialogue, scenes and description.

Our online course ensures that each writer’s voice is heard and nurtured. Each writer will get the chance to submit work that is shared with and edited by the class and in detail by your instructor. In addition, you will have the option of submitting a longer piece (either a short story or an excerpt from a novel, no longer than 10 double-spaced pages) that will be read by the instructor, who will give detailed feedback on your particular strengths, how your writing has improved over the course of the workshop, and areas of focus to further hone your skills and bring you closer to your dream of writing a novel.


 Every week

Students will read through the weekly handout, and complete any assigned readings. Each week there is at least once assignment, group discussion and feedback on your writing. Each week will help you think more deeply about your story and advance it through the readings, discussion and assignments.

Class participation is a big part of any writing workshop and will remain so in this online course. You cannot successfully complete this course without participating and providing feedback to your fellow writers every week. Remember, those who give good feedback receive good feedback, and I’m sure we all want a wide range of feedback for our writing! I will provide details of how and where to provide this feedback in individual lessons.

Week 1: Introduction/Ingredients of a Story

During the first week, we’ll cover four major topics:

  • First, we’ll introduce students to the elements of the course, expectations and what you can hope to accomplish by the end: an outline of your novel or story, and several pages of writing. I’ll provide guidelines for how to give feedback to your fellow writers that is both supportive and constructive.
  • Second, we’ll introduce ourselves to the rest of the group, and share what kind of books we like to read. The course is designed to foster participation and community.
  • Third, we’ll dive into “Getting Ready to Write”. We will discuss the writing life, why we want to be writers, and how you can organize your writing time.
  • Finally, we’ll discuss the main elements of writing any story/novel: character, setting and plot. When you think about character, you must make decisions about the other core elements of the story: plot and setting. Together, character, setting and plot make up the ingredients of all stories, and without them we cannot write a story!
    • Character: Every story is about a character’s journey. Who are the main characters of your story? Who is the protagonist (main character)? How can we ensure the protagonist is someone whose story can propel us and keep a reader’s interest in the character for the length of the story?
    • Plot: We’ll discuss the main elements of plot that are tied strongly to character: what does your character want, and why can’t the character get what they want (antagonism)? What obstacles/conflict is in the way?
    • Setting: We’ll discuss how to ground characters in time and place (setting) by creating a rich, vivid and credible world that is fundamental to your story.

Discussion: Learners will discuss examples of protagonists, plot and setting in books and movies.

Assignments: Learners will brainstorm and write about their protagonist’s goals and desires, the conflicts they face and the world they inhabit.

Week 2: Character, consciousness and point of view

Week 3: Setting and sensory detail

Week 4: Dialogue and scene

Week 5: Story structure – the three acts

Week 6: Revision, revision, revision

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