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The Open University

Start Writing Fiction

The Open University via FutureLearn


Discover the rituals and approaches that successful fiction writers use

On this online course, established writers – including Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey – will talk about how they started writing.

You’ll consider the rituals of writing and keeping a journal; learn how to develop your ideas; reflect on your own writing and editing; hear writers talk about their approach to research; and start turning events into plot.

You’ll also have the opportunity to review the work of fellow writers and receive comments on your own, learning to read as a writer and respond to feedback.

This course is intended for those with an interest in starting to write fiction or improving their fiction writing, and does not require any previous experience of studying this subject.

Please be aware that participation in this course involves reviewing work posted by other learners. You may find some material used in these stories is of an adult nature (e.g. language, sex, violence) and although captured in context, may offend. Learners on this course are instructed to place warnings at the top of their work to indicate use of such content.

Recommended for learners age 16+.


  • Starting to write fiction
    • Introduction
    • Keeping a notebook
    • Other writers
  • The habit of writing
    • Do it your way
    • Observation and imagination
    • The blank page
  • Writing is editing
    • Reflecting on what you have written
    • Editing your work
    • Writing is your training
  • Building your story
    • Keeping a writer's notebook
    • Character and plot
    • Ideas for stories
  • Creating convincing characters
    • Character and conflict
    • Types of character
    • Sources of character
  • Developing and portraying characters
    • Revealing characters
    • Portraying characters
    • Writing a first draft
  • Reading as a writer
    • Learning from reading
    • Reading as a writer
    • Learning from fellow writers
  • Your final story
    • Sharing and reflecting on writing
    • Reflecting on your own writing
    • Carry on writing

Taught by

Derek Neale


4.1 rating, based on 21 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 927 ratings

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  • The content looked like it would be OK to good, but I departed from this course after the second week for two reasons: First, I found it to be beginner, a much lower level than I had expected. It is geared toward encouraging the inner artist (ke…
  • This course takes learners through many aspects of writing such as developing characters, observing and describing details, finding inspiration, writing and editing. It includes some peer reviews which can be varying in quality. I was lucky enough to have some of my writing reviewed by a reviewer who gave very helpful and positive feedback.
  • Anonymous
    I registered with Futurelearn on the suggestion from my wife. I've been writing for many years and thought a lightly-structured course like this might help to get back to basics. What I've found is a course that sets people up to be limited in the…
  • Arshia Malik
    Excellent course for beginners who feel overwhelmed by the technicalities of story telling and the nuances that go into getting a plot together. The reviews and discussions forums were amazing and the feel of the course generally enabled me to start writing my first novel.
  • Marilyn Cule
    I'm doing this course for the second time and finding it invaluable. A writer for many years, it still gives me ideas and discoveries which I would not have pursued otherwise. This is not only thanks to the course presentation and content but to the discussions which follow each section of the course.
    I highly recommend it irrespective of what stage you are at as a writer.
  • Anonymous
    Awesome class. Helped me out so much with the format and structure that story telling requires. Discussions were amazing and overall i feel it really did help me grow as a writer.
  • Erik
    I'm sure there might be something worth gleaning from this MOOC, but after the second week I had to drop it. You get no feedback from peers, the content is watered down and doesn't really challenge me in a way to stretch myself for my goals.
  • Leo Naves
    great one, amazing ways to do and to know. Thank you
    P.S: I love that and I thinking to do other, work and study forever.
  • The course offerese a lots of tools for beginners, specialy on how to create a character and bit on setting. It offeres some technical knowledge too. However educators are not present at all, what was main negative.
  • Anonymous
    A rather simple introduction to the very fundamentals of writing fiction. Hopefully, there will be more substantive information and material as the course progresses.
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