Renee Conoulty: Start Writing Fiction


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Start Writing Fiction

Hey Everyone!

At the end of last month, I finished an eight week free online course through The Open University called Start Writing Fiction. They are running the course again in October. You can select to join now and they will email you when it is ready to begin. Here's the link if you want to check it out.

The course was taught via written articles and videos, with quizzes and practical writing tasks set each week. The best part was the interaction in the comments section with other students. It was a great way to network and encourage each other - a positive environment.

The course was designed for absolute beginners and told me many things I'd already picked up along the way from blogs and books. I found it valuable though because of the practical element. Many of the writing books I've read have tasks to do, but I never did them. With this course, I was already sitting at the computer in the frame of mind to write, so it was easier to do the activities. I also felt more accountable, I didn't want to click the "finished" button and go to the next step until I'd actually completed the activity. There were several opportunities to gain feedback and critiques on your writing, which I found very valuable.

Here's an example of one of the writing exercises from week four of the course.

Writing prompt
‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’

Points to consider with my notes
Who might she have been? Fashionista
Where was she going? to animal shelter to surrender dog
What did her appearance suggest about her mood or state of mind? Disgusted about being on public transport
How old was she? early 20's
How did she live? inner city apartment, receptionist part time
Why was she on the bus? refused to take dog in car after climbed out of her bag and relieved itself in car
Why did she have the dog and where was she taking it? bought the dog as fashion accessory - like Paris Hilton
Why did she look the way she did? Always dressed well - won't leave house without makeup
Why did the dog have a red bow? Dog always coordinated with her - fashion accessory

My flash fiction
There was a scrambling noise and a yip as the bus bounced over a speed hump. Sydney gripped the handbag tighter to prevent it sliding off the seat beside her. A small black face popped out from last season's bag. The fluffy Pekingese sported a red topknot bow that matched Sydney's sweater and the soles of her stilettos.
"Shh Bella," Sydney said, pushing the inquisitive nose away.
 Everytime Sydney picked up her handbag to go out, Bella was already sitting inside. It had only taken a couple of months for Bella to learn to sit in her handbag, but she still pooped in the house. If that wasn't bad enough, the dang dog had pooped in the car too. Thank god for leather upholstery. It cleaned up ok, but that was the end of car rides for Bella.
Sydney tried walking Bella on a diamante encrusted lead, but Bella ran circles around her, tripping her up and causing Sydney to split the seam of her favourite pinstripe pencil skirt. Back in the handbag for the rest of the walk to meet her friends for coffee. Until Sydney felt a warm wetness seep into her shirt. In the bag, really? She almost dropped the dog into the nearest dumpster, along with the bag, but that was taking things too far.
 She couldn't leave to dog home alone, though. Last time she'd done that, Bella had chewed up the throw cushions and spread stuffing all over the house. The throw cushions were easily replaced, but the teeth marks in the dining table legs were another matter. Who knew something this small could be so much work? Too much work. Too much mess.
This was the only choice left. Sydney slung the bag over her shoulder and got off the bus. She could see the sign. Animal Shelter.

It was a fun exercise, interesting to work with such a restricted number of words and to write a character I didn't like.

Have you done a writing course you would recommend?
Have you read any writing books you would recommend?


  1. Renee this sounds like a lot of fun, good luck with your writing! I am content to be a reader, happy to read your first novel when it comes out!! One thing I dislike about novels is too much descriptive narrative, flowery writing - it gets so boring. I like books that keep me engaged constantly.

    1. Thanks Janine. I find my writing is a bit lean on the description,I'm trying to put a little more in to balance it out. Flowery is not my style, so hopefully you'll enjoy mine when it's done.

  2. Good luck with the writing, Renee. The University of Iowa also sometimes offer free fiction courses. :)

    1. Thanks for the tip Vanessa. I signed up to their mailing list (& yours)