Centre for Continuing Education

Writing the Novel Course: Getting Started

Creative Writing. Express yourself with the written word.

Develop your creative style the smart way with Creative Writing courses at the University of Sydney.

This creative writing course is designed for writers who are looking to extend their skills in the Novel form. It is ideal for people just beginning a novel or who have completed some early drafts or preliminary work. This creative writing course is designed to give your novel impetus and to look at its sub-text, deep characterisation, the story arc and to refine your metaphoric patterning. The course would also suit first-time writers as it will cover basics such as self-editing, sentence structure and refining the writer’s voice.

You will be provided with tips on seeking an agent and publisher, and be given an up-to-date appraisal of the current publishing market. The presenter will provide all reading materials and edit the work of each participant.


The aim of this course is to move budding writers towards the refinement of a true and original writing voice, to assist with self-editing and to encourage students toward publication. The participant should also be well-equipped to analyse their own and other’s fiction/writing with a critical eye and using critical terms and be confident in discussing any text from the view of writing processes, sentence construction, connotation, deep imagery, structure and characterisation. The participant should also be confident in continuing, and be aware of, the life of a writer.


Upon completion of this creative writing course, participants should be able to:

  1. Have moved towards the refinement of a true and original writing voice
  2. Be able to self-edit
  3. Be well-equipped to analyse their own and other’s fiction/writing with a critical eye and using critical terms
  4. Discuss any text from the view of writing processes, sentence construction, connotation, deep imagery and structure
  5. Feel confident in continuing and/or completing a novel-length work of fiction
  6. Be aware of the pitfalls of submitting a manuscript.


This creative writing course will cover the following topics:

Meeting 1

  • Why write a novel?
  • Childhood Reading
  • Beginnings: The World in a Page – examining the first pages of given texts; looking at the work of Russell Hoban, Carson McCullers, Toni Morrison, Cormac McCarthy and Louise Erdrich; concentrating on sentence structure, syntax and image.

Meeting 2

  • Aesthetic mystery of fiction
  • Jazzing with the novel structure
  • The Roots of Story: Critical reading of the fairytale, ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.’ Examination of the text as a social document, sub-text and discussion of oral storytelling.

Meeting 3

  • Reading the Prose Poem
  • Class exercise: The book contained in one sentence
  • Characterisation: Observing your mind as you observe
  • To plot or not to plot
  • Structure as detail and metaphor
  • The novelist’s voice: Is this a story only you could tell?

Meeting 4

  • Detail is metaphor: Deep reading of your own narrative patterns
  • Student workshops.

Meeting 5

  • Text and subtext: A reading of Flannery O’Connor. A discussion of image, voice, idiom and sentence construction.
  • The industry: Finding an agent / finding a publisher
  • Memory & Place – class exercise
  • Student workshops.

Meeting 6

  • Memory and Place – class exercise
  • Student workshops

Intended Audience

This course is designed for native English speakers or for those with a very good grasp of the language wanting to learn about writing the novel. This course is NOT suitable for English language learners.

Recommended Reading

  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  • Lectures on Literature & Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Art of Fiction & On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
  • The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts
  • Paris Review: Writers at Work – any of the Paris Review series
  • Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Mystery & Manners by Flannery O’Connor


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion

What others say.

  • Our tutor is dedicated, well-prepared and an excellent writing coach, mentor and teacher. It was an excellent course.

  • I would highly recommend this course to anyone wanting to write that novel, The teacher was genuinely interested in each student, offering positive feedback and constructive criticism in a respectful manner. The class was fun and informative, giving beneficial skills to use in your writing life.

  • Our tutor was very passionate about the course and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities in creative writing. For anyone who has ever considered this type of course, I highly recommend it!

  • I didn’t know what to expect but enjoyed the course thoroughly.

  • The tutor was an exceptional and encouraging teacher. I got out of this course everything I wanted. Thank you.