Writing the Novel

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
20 August 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This is a module in which students explore the novel form both through practical writing and the reading and analysis of contemporary novels. Novelistic techniques and subjects such as inspiration, character, narrative, genre and revision will be examined. Each seminar will include a workshop based around student writing, inspired by weekly writing exercises. The final two seminars of the course are entirely given over to workshopping and revising student fiction.

Module aims

The aims of the module are:

1. To increase student awareness of the creative possibilities of the novel and discover advanced practices for developing and scoping substantial narrative creative projects.
2. To continue the practice of giving, receiving and redrafting work in response to feedback in the workshop environment.
3. To increase advanced understanding of the contemporary novel and its history and how it can inform their own creative practice.

Module learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Identify the significant formal conventions in the novel and critically evaluate their suitability to the student’s own creative practice.
2. Conceive, plan and produce original chapters of a novel.
3. Display self-awareness of writing and planning technique and the process of revision and redrafting of fiction.
4. Develop the emotional intelligence required to give and receive feedback in workshop groups.
5. Practise the habits and discipline of regular prose composition.

Module information

General Reading:
Anders, Charlie Jane, All the Birds in the Sky, 2016
Bellow, Saul, Seize the Day, 1956
Cole, Teju, Open City, 2011
Diaz, Junot, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, 2007
Forster, EM, Aspects of the Novel, 1927
Franzen, Jonathan, Freedom, 2010
Franzen, Jonathan, 'Why Bother: The Harper's Essay', How to be Alone, 1996, 2002
Kafka, Franz, Metamorphosis, 1916, 1933
Lethem, Jonathan, The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction, Genre and how to break it
Matheson, Richard, I am Legend, 1954
McCarthy, Tom, Remainder, 2005
Tom McCarthy interview in The Believer
McEwan, Ian, On Chesil Beach, 2007
Offill, Jenny, Department of Speculation, 2014
Shields, David, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, 2010, Sections 1-71
Smith, Zadie, NW, 2012
Updike, John, Couples, 1968, pp.1-22
Wood, James, 'Monica Ali's Novelties' in The Irresponsible Self: On Laughter and the Novel, 2004

Secondary Reading

Amis, Martin, The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 (Jonathan Cape, 2001).
Baxter, Charles, Burning Down the House (Graywolf Press, 1997).
Bradbury, Ray, Zen in the Art of Writing (Joshua Odell Editions, 1996).
Editors of the Paris Review, The Paris Review Interviews vol.1, vol.2, vol.3 (Canongate, 2007).
Forster, EM, Aspects of the Novel (Edward Arnold, 1927).
Franzen, Jonathan, How to be Alone (Fourth Estate, 2002).
Gardner, John, On Becoming a Novelist (Perennial Library, 1983).
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (Vintage Books, 1991).
Kundera, Milan, The Art of the Novel (Grove Press, 1988).
Le Guin, Ursula, Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, (Eighth Mountain Press, 1999)
Lodge, David, The Art of Fiction, 1992.
Mullan, John, How Novels Work (OUP, 2006).
Shields, David, Reality Hunger (Hamish Hamilton, 2010).
Thomas, Scarlett, Monkeys with Typewriters: How to Write Fiction and Unlock the Secret Power of Stories, 2012
VanderMeer, Jeff, Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction, 2013
Wood, James, How Fiction Works (Jonathan Cape, 2008).

Learning and teaching methods

Learning and teaching will take place through weekly two-hour seminars, which combine lecture, discussion, individual and group work.


  • Forster, E. M.; Stallybrass, Oliver. (2005) Aspects of the novel, London: Penguin Books. vol. Penguin classics
  • Jeff VanderMeer. (2017) Borne, London: 4th Estate. vol. 1
  • Offill, Jenny. (2014) Dept. of speculation, London: Granta.
  • Deborah Levy. (2016) Hot milk, London: Hamish Hamilton.
  • Smith, Zadie. (2013) NW, London: Penguin Books.
  • McEwan, Ian. (2007) On Chesil Beach, London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Cole, Teju. (2012) Open city, London: Faber.
  • Díaz, Junot. (c2007) The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao, New York: Riverhead Books.
  • Bellow, Saul. (1996) Seize the day, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin modern classics
  • Mark Altzart. (2008) 'An Interview with Tom McCarthy', in The Believer. (54)
  • Kafka, Franz; Corngold, Stanley. (c1996) The metamorphosis: translation, backgrounds and contexts, criticism, New York: W.W. Norton. vol. A Norton critical edition
  • Wood, James. (2005) The irresponsible self: on laughter and the novel, London: Pimlico. vol. Pimlico
  • Tom McCarthy. (2015) Satin Island: a novel, London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Shields, David. (2011) Reality hunger: a manifesto, London: Penguin.
  • VanderMeer, Jeff; Zerfoss, Jeremy. (2013) Wonderbook, New York: Abrams.
  • Updike, John. (1968) Couples, London: Deutsch.
  • Gass, William H. (2009) Finding a form, Champaign, Ill: Dalkey Archive Press. vol. Coleman Dowell series

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   5,000 word fiction submission (2 to 3 chapters of a novel, and including a 1,000 word commentary or essay)  24/04/2020  100% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Mr Matthew De Abaitua, email:
Matthew De Abaitua
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Prof Ian Charles Davidson
Professor of English and Creative Writing
Dr Celia Brayfield
Bath Spa University
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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