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

This West Dean College Certificate in Fiction 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.

The course seeks to bring together the key elements of writing fiction into one continuing programme and to support the development of skills in characterisation, voice, plot and structure, and points of craft.

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 writing.

What to expect

To introduce you to the key skills and knowledge that underpins fiction writing and the development of the novel. 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 style, point of view, pacing and prose. Writing exercises will be used, along with discussion and textual analysis.

It will facilitate constructive critical thinking/reflection and cover redrafting, narrative drive and the development of voice.

Contextual and Critical Studies

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

Essay/Final writing

On completion of the course, students will submit the first 5,000 words of a piece they have developed on the programme for feedback from the programme tutors one month after the final unit (10 October 2023).

Programme overview

This Certificate is designed for writers who want an extended and cohesive course on fiction writing, delivered by successful authors and teachers. The course delivery mirrors that of the MA programme in Creative Writing and Publishing offered at the College. 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 may 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: Laura Wilkinson

24–26 February 2023, Weekend, Intermediate, Course Code SWE12501
Unit 1 will include:

  • Ideas generation, testing ideas and thinking like a writer (Friday evening)
  • Building character
  • Point of view
  • Character arc and development (what change looks like/how does the character learn)

Unit 2: Plot and Place
Tutor: Bethan Roberts

9–11 June 2023, Weekend, Intermediate, Course code SWE12502
Unit 2 will include:

  • Structure and plot
  • Sense of place (and time)
  • Narrative skills
  • Conflict and dramatic tension

Unit 3: Writing Your Book
Tutors: Bethan Roberts and Laura Wilkinson

8–10 September 2023, Weekend, Intermediate, Course Code SWE12503
Unit 3 will include:

  • The discipline of writing (time management, organisation, scene and purpose)
  • Show don’t tell
  • Dialogue and pacing
  • Writing to theme

Entry requirements

  • A firm commitment to attending all three units
  • Some experience of writing or attending a short writing programme
  • An interest in and awareness of the fiction 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 as no alternative course dates can be offered for any that you are unable to attend. Therefore no refund can be made for the course fee for any weekend you are unable to attend.


The course fees are payable in advance of study.
£969 (non-residential, covering all three units – payable by 12 January 2023).

Accommodation for a weekend course, including dinner and breakfast, is currently available from £204 per weekend (single occupancy). Please see accommodation costs specific to the timing of each unit.

How to apply

Please call the Bookings Office on 01243 818300 (option 2) or complete the booking form with all three course codes. All three courses must be booked at the same time.

Complete the booking form


Bethan Roberts

Bethan Roberts' first novel The Pools won a Jerwood/Arvon Young Writers' Award. Her second novel The Good Plain Cook was serialised on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and was chosen as one of Time Out's books of the year. My Policeman, the story of a 1950s policeman, his wife, and his male lover, followed in 2012, and was chosen as that year's City Read for Brighton. Her latest novel, Mother Island, is the recipient of a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize. She has also won the Society of Authors' Olive Cook Prize and the RA Pin Drop Award for short fiction, and written drama for BBC Radio 4. Bethan has worked in television documentaries, and has taught Creative Writing at Chichester University and Goldsmiths College, London.

Laura Wilkinson

Associate Tutor

Laura has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories. Her contemporary fiction is published by Headline Accent. These novels are Crossing the Line, Skin Deep, Redemption Song and The Family LineCrossing the Line was a Welsh Books Council book of the month and her latest, Skin Deep, has been widely praised, including a longlisting for Not the Booker Prize. Over the past nine years, she has also worked as an editor and mentor, coaching writers to competition shortlistings and publication. Laura loves to help writers find their voice and create compelling fiction.