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Creative writing learning module

Creative writing learning module

Modules in Creative Writing offer students a chance to experience various forms of writing before specialising in one of poetry, fiction or playwriting their third year. There is also the opportunity in third year to explore a number of other types of creative writing in more detail in the wide-ranging ‘special focus’ courses. Other students can take a creative writing module in second year designed for non-creative writers: EN2215 Structure and Style. All students are welcome to take Special Focus in their third year.

First year creative writing students take both CW1010 and CW1020, alongside courses from their joint degree programme.

Second years chose two from Playwriting, Fiction and Poetry.

Third years take one of these on for specialist study and developing a portfolio, and take this alongside options in CW3103.

First Year Modules

CW1010: Introduction to Creative Writing

Course Convener: Professor Ben Markovits

In this module you will develop an understanding of a range of literary and cultural writing forms through reading, discussion and practice. You will look at poetry, drama and prose fiction alongside stand-up comedy, adaptation, translation, songwriting, and other forms of creative expression and articulation. You will learn how to offer clear, constructive, sensitive critical appraisals, and how to accept and appropriately value criticism of your own work.

CW1020: Why Write?

Course Convener: Dr Doug Cowie

In this module you will develop an understanding of a range historical perspectives on the function, forms, and value of creative writing. You will look at the genesis of particular genres, such as the short story, the novel and the manifesto, and consider relationships between historical genres and the contemporary writer. You will interrogate your own assumptions about creative writing and critically examine the relationship between creative writing and society.

Second Year Modules

CW2010: Playwriting

Course Convener: Dr Nick Pierpan

The first term will focus on a series of dramaturgical elements, looking at the way that these elements are exemplified in various set texts and trying to develop them through writing exercises. For example, students may be asked to read Chekhov’s Three Sisters thinking specifically about dramatic structure; in class they will also examine the second part of Aristotle’s poetics, and construct exemplary structures around dramatic scenarios offered by the group to test these ideas out. Towards the end of the first term and for the first half of the second term, the students will be engaged in developing a series of ideas for plays that they will then write in small groups; these plays will be given a performance of some kind in the middle of the second term, the experience of which will form the basis for a final rewrite before submission. During this period, the content of the classes will be driven by the demands of the developing scripts. As appropriate, specific topics (dialogue, character, subtext, etc.) will be introduced to contribute to the development of the class. For the last few weeks of the second term, students will be concentrating on their own short, single-authored plays, and we will revisit issues of structure, style, language and inspiration.

CW2020: Fiction

Course Convener: Dr Doug Cowie

This is a course option available to all second-year Creative Writing students. It is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop their fiction-writing skills within a structured workshop-based environment. The course seeks to pick up on the grounding in the theory and practice of creative writing students acquired in their first year.

The first term will focus on the short story. We will look at a selection of published short stories through the term and will use practical exercises to respond to stories and to develop skills. The course places a strong emphasis on critical feedback as a means of developing editorial and fiction-writing skills. The last part of each weekly seminar will be a workshop, led by the tutor, in which students give each other detailed and constructive feedback on their weekly assignment.

The second term will focus on the novel. Students are expected to read the novels on the reading list. The emphasis, again, is on craft so we shall read the novels as writers and discuss them in terms of character, structure, point of view, narrative voice etc, and what may be learned from them.

In this term students are working toward completing the first chapter of a novel or a long short story and so each workshop session will also include a short individual presentation in which students discuss their proposed project. It is understood that ideas may change between the planning and writing stage and students are not committed to the plans they present.

CW2030: Poetry

Course Convener: Dr Prue Bussey-Chamberlain

On this course you will work through some of the fundamental elements of poetry: subject, duration, image, language, sound, rhythm, visual poetics, performance, etc. We shall do so through encountering and discussing different approaches to and examples of these fundamental elements as they arise in poetry as well as in background readings across an historical range and between disciplinary boundaries. The course aims to develop your familiarity with a variety of techniques available to the contemporary poet, thereby informing and enhancing your own creative practice. It likewise aims to further your understanding and appreciation of poetry as an artistic medium of thought and communication. The course will concentrate on lyric rather than dramatic or narrative poetry; however, throughout the course you will be encouraged to expand your creative practice alongside your thinking; to write and consider longer sequences of poems as well as alternative styles of poetic practice.

Third Year Modules

CW3010 (Playwriting 2), CW3020 (Fiction 2), CW3030 (Poetry 2)

Students chose a specialism out of these three pathways, and are allocated a supervisor who will work with them to develop a creative portfolio of work under the relevant umbrella.

CW3103: Special Focus

Creative writing students chose two special focus options, which change each year. In 2018/19, the following options were running:

CW3103: Screenwriting

Course Convener: Dr Nick Pierpan

The screenwriting course introduces students to the craft of writing drama for the screen, both at a theoretical level and through the process of writing a 12-minute screenplay of their own. Over ten weeks, students will be introduced to a range of themes and skills, including: how to express stories visually; the 3-Act structure; genre; conflict; plot; character; dialogue and use of location. All of these topics will be taught with reference to a wide range of films, excerpts from which will be shown in class.

CW3103: Writing about Music

Course Convener: Dr Doug Cowie

Writing about Music will focus on the history, culture, and sound of music (the hills are alive with it). We’ll focus mostly, but not exclusively, on forms of popular music, including blues, rock ‘n’ roll, folk, grime, as well as a few dips into classical music. We’ll examine the contexts of these musics and the people who make them, and we’ll try different approaches to writing about music in both fictional and nonfictional forms.

CW3103: Vernacular Writing

Course Convener: Nadifa Mohamed

The term ‘vernacular’ refers to languages and dialects that are related to particular geographical, social, and cultural spaces and communities. Vernacular languages may be categorised as native or indigenous, and may be considered to be natural, naïve, and authentic in contrast with classical and institutional languages. These associations, which are often accompanied by pejorative and discriminatory judgements relating to social status and education, extend to the communities using vernacular languages.

Asking what – and who – is signified by ‘English’ language and literature, this course invites students to consider multiple, diverse English languages and literatures, or ‘Englishes’. Taking an intersectional approach to identity and community formation – that is, thinking about race, gender, sexuality, and class in relation to each other – this course provides an overview of vernacular English languages and literatures.

The course is structured historically, geographically, and thematically. The focus is on periods and writers identified with Black British and African American literatures (for example, the Caribbean Arts Movement, the Black Arts Movement, Fred Moten), but also includes Scottish, Latin American, and Asian American literatures, and themes such as music, mythology, and decolonisation. The syllabus includes novels, poetry, experimental and cross-genre writing, music, and live performance, as well as theoretical and critical texts.

CW3103: Writing for Children and Young Adults

Course convener: Philip Womack

Writing stories for children requires all the novelist’s traditional skills: the ability to create believable characters and to place those characters in a compelling plot, all enacted in a vividly realised universe.

However there are also specific challenges. The writer needs to be able to enter the minds of young people and to see the world through their eyes, to speak with their voices. Plots need to grip young readers used to the easy excitement of films and computer games.

The ‘Writing for Children’ course will help to supply aspiring children’s writers with exactly those skills. It will give a brief introduction on the history and context of children’s books. It will look at elements of plot, character, setting and voice, and how they relate to writing for children. As a whole, we will also look at why we write for children, considering if there is a didactic or even a moral element that is necessary; or if the primary motive is to entertain.

Over ten sessions, the course takes in a range of writing for children, from age 10+ to young adult. There will be two main strands to the learning process. The first will be to examine and draw lessons from some of the classics and contemporary classics of children’s literature. The second will be the detailed feedback given to the class on the work they produce.

CW3103 New Narrative: Poetics and the Self

Course Convener: Dr Prue Bussey-Chamberlain

This course will examine New Narrative writers, in order to understand the historical formation of the movement and why it has received renewed critical attention within this contemporary moment. Contextualising the New Narrative, students will initially be asked to engage with key and canonical avant-garde writing communities, as well as the better-known confessional poets, in order to understand the multiple influences that have shaped the movement. The module will then continue to consider three themes central to the movement: the self, sexuality and the community. These themes will be unpacked through collections of New Narrative writing and close-reading of texts, as well as critical theory on coteries, sex, gender, community, selfhood and creative writing.
Students will be asked to reflect on the relationship between identity and creative writing, as well as the ways in which the self can be mobilised, fragmented, and moulded. In New Narrative, selfhood is not the central point of a text, but rather a departure point for creative thinking and political exploration. The course will address a number of genres, ranging from poetry to memoir, autofiction and essays.

Discover the Department of English, home to renowned scholars and creative writers

Creative Writing: Contemporary Practice – ENG00081H

The premise of this module is that the study of literature should include your own writing practice. To understand how stories, poems, or scripts are made, there is no substitute for making some yourself. Building on the critical background and writing skills developed throughout your degree, this will be your chance to work with texts from a creative angle – learning to read like a writer, engaging with formal and genre conventions from a practitioner’s perspective, and exploring ways in which ‘creative’ writing might expand our modes of critical interaction.

The module is structured around key issues in contemporary literary practice, with discussion of texts and peer-feedback on your original writing each week. Readings will include innovative and inspiring examples of recent fiction, poetry, and dramatic writing, each linked to themes and models to inform your own creative development. In this way, the range of texts will frame our engagement with form, while the weekly topics will consider broader possibilities, including: Writing as Play, Writing as Research, Writing as Record, and Writing as Action. Although certain weeks will focus on prose, poetry, or scriptwriting, you will be encouraged to experiment across forms, developing a sense of your own strengths and interests as an author. This module is a chance to explore the relationship between critical and creative practice more generally, approaching the study of literature from a practical perspective, while developing a body of original writing that responds to the demands of genre, form, and audience.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

This module will:

  • explore key issues in contemporary fiction, poetry, and dramatic writing, in relation to recent texts;
  • support your production of a body of original writing in response to reading;
  • relate a critical understanding of trends in contemporary writing to the your own creative approaches.

Module learning outcomes

On successfully completing this module, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with key issues in contemporary writing practice.
  2. Produce a body of original work which demonstrates a critical engagement with contemporary practice in its writing and redrafting process.
  3. Demonstrate a proficiency in creative writing, including an awareness of form, genre, and audience.


Task Length % of module mark
Creative portfolio 3500 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

Additional assessment information

Students will receive peer and tutor feedback on formative work throughout the module, the work submitted in response to reading and module discussions. Work from these formative workshops will then be developed for the 3500 word summative portfolio submission, which can either include one longer creative piece (e.g. a single short story or short script) or a collection of shorter pieces, in which you are welcome to include different forms. For poetry, there will be an agreed word-equivalent based on length. The summative portfolio may also include a short critical introduction, linking the creative work to module content.


Task Length % of module mark
Creative portfolio 3500 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

  • You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
  • For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department’s Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Texts may include the following. Current Students should consult the module VLE site for the reading list:

  • Rachel Cusk, Outline (Vintage, 2014);
  • Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Penguin, 2015);
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel (Faber, 2014);
  • Raymond Carver, Beginners (Vintage, 2010).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University’s policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.