Certificate in Fiction Writing Course at West Dean

Creative Writing and Publishing

Certificate in Fiction Writing

Applications open
College Award
Duration: 1 year, part-time course
School: Arts
Location: West Dean

The  West Dean College Certificate Award 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 over the course. 

It also offers a potential pathway to those interested in applying for the College’s Higher Education programmes in Writing and Publishing.

Course structure

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.

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.

Course units

Unit 1: Character and Point of View | Tutor: Laura Wilkinson
23–25 February 2024 | Weekend | Course code: SWE13439

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
7–9 June 2024 | Weekend | Course code: SWE13531

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
6–8 September 2024 | Weekend | Course code: SWE13534

Unit 3 will include:

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

Essay/Final writing

On successful completion students will receive a Certificate of Completion and 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.

Equipment required

Please bring your usual writing equipment, notebook and pen and/or laptop.

School of Art Credit Thom Atkinson.jpg

School of Arts

Explore and expand your work in a uniquely immersive environment with its own connections to art history. Our School of Arts students enjoy specialist studio spaces dedicated to painting and drawing, sculpture and tapestry and textile-based work as well as exceptional exhibition space.

School of Arts


The course fees are payable in advance of study.

Course fee:  £990 (non-residential, payable in one instalment covering all three units – payable by 12 January 2024).

Accommodation for a weekend course, including dinner and breakfast, is currently available from £213 per weekend (single occupancy). Please see accommodation costs specific to the timing of each unit.

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.

How to apply

To book a place, please complete the application form and send it to [email protected]. Course information, including course codes, can be found in the Course structure.

Any questions?
Email [email protected], or call us on (01243) 818 300 and select option 2.

Application form


Laura Wilkinson Tutor on the MA Creative Writing course at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Bethan Roberts

Tutor - Certificate in Fiction Writing

Bethan Roberts has published five novels and writes stories and drama for BBC Radio 4. Her books include: The Good Plain Cook (Serpent’s Tail, 2008), which was a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime; My Policeman (Chatto & Windus, 2012), the story of a 1950s policeman, his wife and his male lover (a major Amazon Original movie starring Harry Styles and Emma Corrin) and Mother Island (Chatto, 2014), which received a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize. Her latest novel, Graceland, tells the story of Elvis Presley and his mother, Gladys.