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Narrative Non-Fiction Short Course

Key information

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Delivery of this module will be online due to government-issued guidelines during the Covid-19 pandemic and may be made available face-to-face subject to Public Health England recommendations. Please submit your application and, once reviewed by the module leader, you will receive more specific information about the online delivery of your module and assessments.

A solid foundation in how to write and edit narrative non-fiction, the aim of this course is to encourage and inspire students in their writing.

Why choose this course?

Open to all, wherever you live, the Narrative Non-Fiction evening course aims to give writers confidence in their ability to deliver good, clean prose, to develop their use of vivid metaphoric language and to structure effectively both long and short works.

Due to popular demand, this course is now available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so just enrol to the night that suits you best.

Led by an award winning writer, this short course will help you to develop your creativity and critical thinking, as well as your editing skills. You will be provided with the opportunity to develop your writing techniques and receive professional feedback on your work from a published writer and editor.

Additionally, you will receive an insight into the publishing industry, including advice on how to prepare a book proposal.

Taught over 10 weekly evening classes and delivered from our central London location, the course offers expert tuition and the flexibility of part-time study.

Course overview

Beginning with set exercises and moving on to the student’s work, the class becomes a workshop in which the students benefit from sharing each other's work as well as receiving guidance from the tutor.

The requirements of editors, agents and publishers are explained. Non-fiction of all genres (memoir, biography, travel, history, science and politics) is welcome.

The aim of this Narrative Non-Fiction course is to encourage and inspire, through group discussion and individual exercises. Detailed individual feedback and editing of some of the assignments is a special feature of the course, with the aim of teaching students how to edit and judge their own work.

Guidance will also be given on how to prepare a book proposal.

  • “ I am finding the course extremely useful... I want to broaden my writing and take it to the next level. Techniques I’m being introduced to will assist me in doing that. ”

    Jill Ruddock

    Former student

  • “ I've very much enjoyed the course so far, and one aspect I've found pleasantly surprising is the collaborative learning. There's certainly a high calibre of writers from whom I am benefitting. ”

    Rishi Chopra

    Former student

  • “ It does really help to have the chance to get some really constructive feedback on my writing, and to learn some brilliant writing techniques. It's not something I've had the chance to learn before! ”

    Cat Gough

    Former student

  • “ I have never had the chance to learn so much about mechanisms and styles in writing before. It was a real eye-opener for me. ”

    Rasmus Meldgaard Harboe

    Former student

  • “ Through my news journalism training in particular I've learnt to adopt quite a spare, stripped-back style. All well and good, but I've really enjoyed being encouraged to explore more fully what language can do. ”

    Kate Wilkinson

    Former student

  • “ Really stimulating and enjoyable and I've been so grateful for the incredible insights and guidance. ”

    Harriet Atkinson

    Former student

  • “ Although I do have solid journalism experience, it’s always useful to explore new approaches and get feedback. So I’m really enjoying the class. ”

    Rachel Jones

    Former student

  • “ It has been helpful to think about doing things more intentionally and to enjoy other people's writing too. ”

    Bryony Lines

    Former student

What will I learn?

What will I learn?

Over the course of 10 weekly evening classes on the Narrative Non-fiction short course, you will learn:

  • To compose reliable, consistent text for any occasion
  • Techniques appropriate for short and long-form articles
  • How to write a book proposal
  • Literary techniques that create voice and colour in your writing

You will also gain:

  • Detailed critiques and edits for up to 5 assignments
  • An understanding of a range of forms from practical composition to literary style
  • A strong workshop element, with student work at the heart of each class



English requirements

Applicants must be fluent in written and spoken English.

Teaching & assessment

Teaching & assessment

There is no assessment, but the course aims to teach students how to edit and judge their own work through exercises, both individual and in small groups, where reading aloud encourages group discussion.

The aim of this course is to encourage students in their writing and offer them the chance to improve their skills.

Guidance will also be given on how to prepare a book proposal. Guest speakers may include Julie Wheelwright, director of the MA in Creative Writing (Non-fiction) at City, University of London, and also an editor/publisher with tips on how to get published.

Recommended reading

Recommended reading

The list below demonstrates the range of narrative non-fiction available, but is not required pre-course reading.

Suggested reading:

  • Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers - a documentary account of a Mumbai slum, written novelistically.
  • Edmund de Waal, The Hare with the Amber Eyes -  a personal quest memoir.
  • Jeanette Winterson, Why be Happy When You Could be Normal - personal memoir.
  • Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways - rhapsodic, highly literary nature writing.
  • Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - the story behind a dramatic and terrible medical story and much more, the writer's relationship with one of the family coming centre-stage.
  • Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff - pioneer text of the New Journalism that spawned creative non-fiction as a genre.
  • Robert Pirsig,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - philosophic polemic/personal narrative intertwined.
  • James D. Watson, The Double Helix - pioneering work of telling science like it is.

Other reading on language and writing:

  • Guy Deutscher, The Unfolding of Language (Arrow Books). Revelatory book on the evolution of language. It will never look the same again.
  • John Whale, Put it in Writing (out of print but available very cheap from Amazon if you're quick).
  • Keith Waterhouse, Waterhouse on Newspaper Style (Revel Barker). Don't be put off by the title. All writers will enjoy Waterhouse's pithy take on language.
  • Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoot and Leaves (Fourth Estate). The classic that manages to make punctuation entertaining.

Tutor information

  • Peter Forbes

    Peter Forbes is a science writer, editor and teacher.  He has written numerous articles and reviews for the GuardianIndependentThe Times, Financial TimesAeonNatureScientific AmericanNew Scientist, World Medicine, Modern PaintersNew Statesman, and other magazines.

    He was editor of the Poetry Society's Poetry Review from 1986-2002, and played a major role in the groundbreaking New Generation Poets promotion of 1994. He then edited  Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (Viking, 1999).

    The Gecko’s Foot, a book on the new science of bio-inspired materials, was published by Fourth Estate in 2005 and was long-listed for the Royal Society Prize. Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and camouflage (Yale University Press, 2009) won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. His latest book is Nanoscience: Giants of the Infinitesimal (Papadakis), co-written with the sculptor Tom Grimsey.

    Peter has been a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, St George’s, University of London and Great Ormond Street Hospital and teaches a PhD writing workshop at UCL.  He has also run writing workshops at Goldsmiths, University of London and Buzzfeed.

Next steps

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