Writing the Novel

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
27 July 2022


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

Anticipated teaching delivery: There will be a one-hour seminar and a one-hour tutorial group each week over one term. For the seminar, there will be compulsory reading of novels, extracts from novels, and writer's commentary upon writing technique. Students should do at least ten hours of independent reading and research as preparation for each seminar group. For the tutorial, students will share their creative writing with their workshop group, and the lecturer will participate in this discussion of the work produced that week. Students should do at least eight hours of independent creative writing and two hours independent reading of the work of their study group as preparation for each tutorial.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

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

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

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



External examiner

Dr Tim Atkins
University of Roehampton
Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing
Available via Moodle
Of 1287 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1287 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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