The Fundamentals of Prose Fiction with Ian Nettleton (Beginner)

Monday 22 January
National Centre for Writing at Dragon Hall
19.00 - 21.00
£ 250.00 - (£225.00 conc)

Take those exciting first steps into fiction writing with this friendly, supportive ten-week beginners course led by expert tutor and published writer, Ian Nettleton.

Ian has been leading sold-out beginners’ fiction courses at NCW for a number of years. Through a combination of group discussion and one-to-one feedback, he will equip you with the necessary tools to understand and write engaging stories.

The course runs at National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall, 7-9pm, each Monday for ten weeks. The final class on Monday 15 April is 6.30-9.30pm. There are breaks over school holidays on w/c Mon 19 February, w/c Mon 1 April and w/c Mon 8 April.

  • Creating characters, and the eight rules of writing
  • The strengths and limitations of the various points of view
  • Plotting your work, and how to draw your readers in
  • How to edit, rewrite and workshop your work
  • Building the world of your story
  • How to read your text as a whole and pace it just right.

Interested in meeting Ian before you book? Join us at our Dragon Hall Social on Wed 6 December for the opportunity to speak with Ian, find out more about his career as a writer, and ask him any questions you may have about this course.

I can’t fault Ian. He is so knowledgeable, a brilliant teacher, and a thoroughly nice man. Every class was engaging and I never lost interest even for a moment.

Kim Lusher

Course programme

Week one – Where do stories come from?

We will look at the origins of the short story, from its early 19th century beginnings to the present day. We will then look at a tale from Australia, to see how one writer uses this form to powerful emotional effect. Finally, we will ask the question, where do stories come from? And there will be a class exercise, focusing on how childhood experiences can lead into writing fiction and the importance of appealing to the reader’s senses.

Week two – Creating a character

This week we will begin with readings of last week’s exercise, in small groups. We will discuss Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules for writing, where characters come from and look at examples of effective characters in fiction and how much (or little) you reveal on the page.

Week three – Point of View

The point of view we choose affects the moral tone and bias of a piece of writing. We’ll look at the strengths and limitations of the various points of view, from the intimacy of the first person to the third person limited, looking at how they are used in published fiction.

Week four – Setting

The world of your story is another means of telling that story. The choice of what is described also reveals the interior life of the main character. We’ll look at how to make a setting real, through research and the use of small, distinct details, and we will look at how this is used to striking effect in a published short story.

Week five – Plotting

How does a plot work? How do we draw a reader into a story? What gets a story underway and drives it to its conclusion? We will discuss how to begin a story and look at the classic plotline and the ways in which introducing a character to the plot affects the outcome.

Week six – Editing, rewriting and workshopping

All writing is rewriting. We will look at the need to create raw material, telling ourselves the story in the first place, and how this raw material must be reworked to bring out the full potential of the story. Also, this week we will begin workshopping.

Week seven – Workshopping stories

Plus a discussion of story layout, from indenting to attributing speech to the use of line breaks.

Week eight – Workshopping stories

Plus common errors. Avoiding cliches like the plague! Also an exercise, focusing on genre.

Week nine – Workshopping stories

Plus how to end a story.

Week ten – Readings, feedback and questions

This last week will be an opportunity for general comments, discussions and questions about prose writing, along with an overview of what we have covered over the past ten weeks. It will also be an opportunity for everyone to read out their short story to the group for general feedback – fifteen minutes per person. This will be an extra-long, three-hour session.

How it works

This course takes place over ten weeks. The first five sessions focus on the essential elements of writing prose fiction, and each week there will be writing exercises during and between classes, as well as examples from published works to read and discuss. From week two everyone will get the chance to read out a piece of writing in a small group. The last five weeks give everyone the experience to workshop 500 words of prose. If you haven’t workshopped before, don’t worry – these sessions will be explained nearer the time.

  • No more than 15 students per course to maximise interaction with your tutor and coursemates
  • Live classes led by an experienced tutor, whether online or in person
  • Classes include discussion and writing exercises, along with one workshopping session for each student, in which you’ll receive detailed feedback on your work
  • Course materials and notes for each week will be accessible 24/7 during the course, and for one year after the end of the course.

Ian Nettleton

Ian Nettleton has a doctorate in Creative & Critical Writing from UEA (2003). His first novel, The Last Migration, set in the Australian outback, was runner-up for both the 2014 Bath Novel Award prize for literature and the inaugural Bridport Prize/Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award. He has also worked for the BBC as a writer and presenter, critiqued novels for The Literary Consultancy and published short fiction in a number of anthologies. He was shortlisted for the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2019, the Edinburgh International Flash Fiction Award 2020, longlisted for the Winter Reflex Fiction Competition 2019 and longlisted for the Ellipsis Flash Fiction Collection Competition 2020.

Ian has such a wide background and packs every minute of the course with information and advice. His attitude is encouraging and non-judgemental. He is the best tutor I have ever had.

Sheila Preston