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Narrative Non-Fiction Short Course

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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?

This 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.

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.

  • Pauline Brown

    “ This course completely exceeded my expectations. I learned so much about the craft of writing from Peter Forbes. I feel as if it was more than a course — it was like being introduced to a skilful, kind, generous and supportive mentor. ”

    Pauline Brown

    Former student

  • “ It has been brilliant! It has given me focus and motivation and helped me to understand what I want to write about.” ”

    Rebecca Thomson

    Former student

  • “ A brilliant course. I really enjoyed it and I found it intellectually engaging. ”

    Claudio Lombardi

    Former student

  • “ This course has been one of the best educational experiences I have ever had. The classes were facilitated in an outstanding way. ”

    Dianna Lockwood

    Former student

  • “ It was a really energising course for me and helped me change from seeing myself as a hobbyist to someone who could actually write ‘properly’. ”

    Kerry Lambeth

    Former student

  • “ An excellent and extremely useful course. ”

    Andrew Gregory, Health Editor, Daily Mirror

    Former student

  • “ Thank you so much for your helpful guidance and feedback over the last ten weeks - it's been a massive help and I'm really glad I did the course. ”

    Jessica Brown

    Former student

  • “ The course was excellent. Peter is a great teacher, knows his subject well and is very encouraging. He is helpful, imparts a wealth of information and advice and I can thoroughly recommend the teacher and the course! ”


    Former student

  • “ The positive feedback and constructive criticism from one who is very knowledgeable and exposed to all sorts of writing styles has been invaluable. ”

    Yvonne Amar

    Former student

  • “ I've always wanted to write and cannot believe how much I'm learning... ”

    Mark Stipanovsky

    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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