Creative Writing and Publishing

Certificate in Crime Writing

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 final submission of 5000 words fiction. It is delivered by two of the country’s best and most successful writers of crime fiction, Domenica De Rosa (Elly Griffiths) and Lesley Thomson.

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

Each weekend unit will be based on the inspirational environment of the 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 an academic year.



To introduce you to the key skills and knowledge that underpins successful crime writing. These will 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

The course will offer a stimulating and varied learning environment to enable writers to develop their skills around voice, style, point of view, pacing and prose. Writing exercises will be used along with discussion, textual analysis and a review of the ‘golden rules of crime writing’.
It will facilitate constructive critical thinking/reflection and cover editing, dialogue, suspense and narrative drive: key skills in successful crime writing.

Contextual and critical studies

The course will offer insight into the traditions, theory and responsibilities of the crime writer.
Enable you to make clear authorial and editorial choices about your developing work.

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.

Programme overview

This Certificate is designed for writers who want an extended and cohesive course on crime writing. It offers a deeper and broader raft of teaching designed to enable the student to take on a piece of longer fiction. At the end of the third unit students 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

20–22 November, 2020 Weekend Intermediate SWE10151
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)

12–14 March, 2021 Weekend Intermediate SWE10330
This second unit will include:

  • The rules of Crime Fiction
  • Understanding environment (using the grounds of West Dean)
  • 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)

11–13 June, 2021 Weekend Intermediate SWE10405
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.


The Certificate in Crime Writing while not nationally validated nevertheless aims to provide
students with the ability to identify themes within their practice and to identify the kind of work
they are looking to produce and be able to communicate this confidently.

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 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.


Course fees are payable in advance of study.
£855 (non-residential, covering all three units – payable by 9 October 2020).

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

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

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.