Awarded by West Dean College of Arts and Conservation
Duration: 1 year, part-time course

This Certificate in Crime Writing is awarded in recognition of the successful completion of all three weekend course units spread across each academic term, self-directed study and a final submission of 5000 words fiction. It is delivered by two of the country’s best and most successful writers of detective novels, Domenica De Rosa (Elly Griffiths) and Lesley Thomson.

The course seeks to bring together all the key components of good detective writing into one continuing programme and to offer an insight into the writers’ toolkit necessary for developing skills and building your confidence.

Each weekend unit will be based in the inspirational environment of West Dean College’s historic rooms. It is aimed at writers who wish to commit to an extended programme of study without having to make a significant time commitment and who will benefit from a cohesive course that offers focus on the key elements of successful crime writing over the course of an academic year.

What to expect

You will be introduced to the key skills and knowledge that underpins successful detective novel writing. These include the organisational skills required for plotting, character development and narrative technique. It will also introduce you to constructive and focused critical reflection of your work and support the development of rewriting/drafting skills.

Skills development

Extend your skills around voice, style, point of view, pacing and prose in a stimulating and varied learning environment. Writing exercises will be used along with discussion, textual analysis and a review of the golden rules of crime writing. Benefit from facilitated constructive critical thinking/reflection and deepen your knowledge of editing, dialogue, suspense and narrative drive: key skills in successful crime writing.

Contextual and critical studies

Gain insight into the traditions, theory and responsibilities of the writer.
Make clear authorial and editorial choices about your developing work.

"The excellent content and teaching on the Crime Writing course, which has been superb. We were taught so much in relevant and interesting ways, and received excellent feedback on our own work. The course content was comprehensive, stimulating and enjoyable. The tutors were very generous in sharing their own experience as best selling authors, and led us as a group with sensitivity and skill. I would whole heartedly recommend this fantastic course which has been such a positive experience."

Penny Stephens, Certificate in Crime Writing student

Essay/Final writing

At the completion of the course students will submit the first 5000 words of a piece they have developed on the programme for feedback from the programme tutors at the end of March.

Programme overview

This Certificate is designed for writers who want an extended and cohesive course on writing detective novels and to take on a piece of longer fiction. It offers a deeper and broader raft of teaching designed to enable the you to identify themes within your practice, the kind of work you are looking to produce, and how to communicate this confidently. At the end of the third unit you will be asked to submit the first 5000 words of a Work In Progress for marking and feedback from the tutors.

On successful completion students will be offered an interview for the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing should they want to continue their studies and project. The MA is set up to facilitate the production of a completed novel.

Unit 1: Character and Point of View
Tutor: Lesley Thomson

4-6 November 2022 | Weekend | Intermediate | SWE11807
The first unit will include:

  • An introduction to crime fiction
  • What is a ‘detective’
  • How to build a character
  • Group work – scene construction
  • Point of View – understanding and experimenting with point of view (POV)

Unit 2: Plot and Place
Tutor: Domenica De Rosa (Elly Griffiths)

13-15 January 2022 | Weekend | Intermediate | SWE12068
This second unit will include:

  • The rules of crime fiction
  • Understanding environment (using the grounds of West Dean College and Gardens)
  • Building on weekend one – character and plot
  • Plot as a magic trick

Unit 3: Writing Your Book.
Tutors: Lesley Thomson and Domenica de Rosa (Elly Griffiths)

14-16 April 2023 | Weekend | Intermediate | SWE12069
The third and final unit will include:

  • The NEW ten rules of crime writing in the modern world
  • Suspense
  • Dialogue
  • Pacing
  • A session working with an expert detective on establishing and understanding the crime scene.

Entry requirements

  • A commitment to attending all three units
  • Some experience of writing or attending a short writing programme
  • An interest in and awareness of the crime writing genre

For standard Terms and Conditions please refer to our Short Course T&Cs, specific Terms and Conditions include a commitment to attend all three weekend course dates listed is essential to complete the Certificate and no alternative course date can be offered for any that you are unable to attend. However, the standard refund policy would apply for each weekend course.


2021/22 Certificate in Crime Writing class. Image credit Nicola Goodwin
2021/22 Certificate in Crime Writing class. Image credit Nicola Goodwin
Lesley Thomson, The Death Chamber, 2018
Elly Griffiths, The Stranger Diaries, 2018


Course fees are payable in advance of study.
£885 (non-residential, covering all three units – payable by 22 April 2022).

Accommodation for a weekend course, including dinner and breakfast, is currently available from
£139 (single occupancy). Please see accommodation costs on our website, specific to the timing of
each unit.

How to apply

Please call the Bookings Office on 01243 818300 or complete the booking form with all three course codes. All three courses must be booked at the same time.

Complete the booking form


Lesley Thomson

Associate Tutor - MA Creative Writing and Publishing
Tutor - Certificate in Crime Writing

Lesley Thomson's second novel A Kind of Vanishing was escribed by Ian Rankin as a treasure ‘and Lesley Thomson is a class above.’. The novel won The People's Book Prize in 2010. The Detective's Daughter became Amazon UK's longest running #1 in 2013. Lesley has an MA in English from the University of Sussex.

Elly Griffiths

Associate Tutor - MA Creative Writing and Publishing
Tutor - Certificate in Crime Writing

Elly Griffiths wrote four novels under her own name (Domenica de Rosa) before turning to crime with The Crossing Places, the first novel featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway. Her first standalone mystery, The Stranger Diaries, was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection and was The Times Crime Novel of the Year 2018.