Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Practice of Fiction: Contexts, Themes and Techniques

"You’re on a journey — you’re going from here to there. It’s got to move. Even if the rhythm is very complicated and subtle, that’s what’s going to carry the reader." -Ursula Le Guin

Writing a novel is like working on foreign policy. There are problems to be solved. It's not all inspirational.” -James M Cain

Aims and Objectives:

Building upon Modes of Writing and Composition and Creative Writing, Practice of Fiction is designed to consolidate what has been learned so far and to develop more advanced fiction writing skills. This includes aspects of technique, a greater understanding of process (planning, drafting, editing), and the particular challenges that come with tackling large scale projects such as novels.

The module also seeks to develop students understanding of contemporary fiction. Students will become familiar with a range of writers and will learn to make connections between writers, trends and styles, across generations and boundaries of nationality, gender, and politics. They will be expected to develop their own reading lists from the primary texts, using recommendations in Further Reading, and their own research.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module, the student should have:

  • Further developed their fiction writing skills at a technical level, including style, precision, flow, framing, and pacing.
  • A highly developed understanding of their own personal creative process, including strategies for planning, drafting, and editing their work.
  • A refined approach to workshopping, editing, and critiquing the written work of others.
  • An understanding of some of the particular challenges of writing novels and larger works of fiction.
  • A greater understanding of the field of contemporary fiction writing, and what their place in it might be.
  • A strategy and a plan for where they will take their writing beyond university.
Teaching Methods:
This module is taught in seminars (in the first half of each term) and writing workshops (in the second half of each term). Students taking this module are also encouraged to attend related not-for-credit courses, workshops and events, such as Warwick Thursday talks and readings in the Writers' Room, or events at the Arts Centre. Attendance is not compulsory for paid events, but is recommended.
Structure of the module:
The module offers a mixture of writing workshops, critical discussions of primary texts and peer reviewing. There will be writing assignments for each unit alongside the class reading. Beginning from the end of week 6, students will submit work to be peer reviewed in writing workshop sessions.

Students will submit a portfolio of fiction (5000 words) and an essay (5000 words). The fiction may be several short stories, a single story, or an extract of a larger piece of work. The essay is a practitioner's essay on an aspect of contemporary fiction writing, demonstrating a critical understanding of the creative process and some of the challenges of modern fiction writing.



  • Meander, Spiral, Explode, Jane Alison
  • A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
  • On Writing, Stephen King
  • Steering the Craft, Ursula Le Guin
  • Journal of a Novel, John Steinbeck
  • Wonderbook, Jeff Vandemeer
  • Into the Woods, John Yorke
Term One
Please Note: it is essential that students read the primary named texts for each weekly section throughout the year. Familiarity with the books on the secondary and suggested reading lists is also highly desirable.
Week Number Session Title Reading
Week 1 Beyond the Short Story
  • The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh
Week 2 Journeys, Shapes, Maps
  • The Science of Storytelling, Will Storr
Week 3 Immersion and Pace
  • The Bone Snatchers, Charlotte Salter
Week 4 Research and Place
  • River of Ink, Paul Cooper
Week 5 Endings and Conclusions
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo
Weeks 7-10 Fiction Workshops and Readings  
Term Two
  Week 1    
  Week 2    
  Week 3    
  Week 4    
  Week 5    
  Weeks 7-10 Writing Workshops