Writing Literary Short Fiction Workshop

Course Information

Where: Online
Date: TBA
Duration: 9 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate-advanced
Frequency: Weekly
Sessions: 8
Price: £1,200

Applications are currently closed. Register your interest to be notified when applications reopen.

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The Art of the Literary Short Story

Where does originality in authorial voice come from and how do you innovate in the short form? What is narrative verve and how do you sustain it while delighting readers? If good craft skills are not enough to make your work stand out when submitting to journals, competitions and anthologies, how do you develop as a writer?

The course experience will be both playful and profound, considering the big-picture issues of motivation and intention that power a story while focusing in on the drama of the sentence and poetics of word choice, imagery and detail in the condensed form. In each session you will read like a writer and editor, experiment with craft skills, workshop ideas, and consider the conversation with your reader.

Participants will emerge with a finished 3,000 word (maximum) piece of fiction and increased awareness of the submissions process.

You’ll be given a free one-year digital subscription to Granta magazine, as well as access to curated extracts from Granta books, and the magazine, podcast and video archive. Throughout the course there is insight from guest authors and Granta staff.

Entry is by application to ensure you get the most out of the course.

Course completion opens up our Alumni Space, which provides ongoing access to industry professionals, including authors, Granta editors and literary agents.

Course Syllabus

What is the appeal of a short story for you as a reader? Is the pleasure of reading a short story that of a ‘fleeting encounter’, a ‘short, sharp, shock’, ‘instant gratification’ or of a moment of recognition? All the above? What makes short fiction? What do we do when fiction intersects other forms, such as poetry, autofiction, typography, illustration and maps? This session will study both traditional forms for the short story and new, experimental approaches, exploring the limits of what language and writing can do.

There will be a group Zoom session with your tutor.

What makes your voice unique? What is originality or authenticity of voice? This session will explore intention and tone within your authorial palette, and how language is used to hypnotise the reader. You will discover the possibility of a sentence, use imagery with precision and navigate dialogue in compact writing. Who is holding your story and where are you?

There will be a tutor Ask Me Anything forum.

Explore the short story as the ‘art of the glimpse’: what do we see, and what do we miss? You will work on observation techniques – the tactile and the body – as a way to capture a moment, sentiment and atmosphere. You will work with autobiographical material to take the familiar and make it strange. Play with expectations through the lens of horror, fable, comedy, dystopian and speculative conventions. Learn to answer the question, ‘Am I allowed to do that?’. Give yourself permission to write anything in any way.

Delve into vernacular writing. How do you pursue and crystallise the realities of a world? What is the difference between replicating and dramatising? Explore the perils of stereotypes but reliability of archetypes. How can ‘othering’ of language be both a power and a potential frustration? You will work in translation and ask yourself, what is it to handle language? What is it to speak for the ‘voiceless’? What is it to ‘own’, ‘occupy’ or attempt to recreate another’s words: short story as ventriloquism.

How do you develop an internal sense and logic while dealing with the random or absurd? How do you create cohesion while writing in parts, lists or vignettes? Discover ways to develop conversation with the reader even while navigating parallels, repetition, withholding and ambiguity.

There will be a Zoom Q&A with a guest author.

The motivating force: identify your big idea and use it as a story generator. Develop a theme and test a thesis. How do you explore an issue through contradictions and grey matter? Walk through ideas on controlling and transcending your material and evoking the curiosity of the reader. In this session, you’ll begin working on the 3,000-word piece you’ll submit at the end of the course.

There will be a tutor Ask Me Anything forum.

How does a writer navigate simplicity versus complexity? Learn editing in a new way: tame the unruly, cut to find shape. Learn more about titles, last lines, where to begin and where to end. How do you know a story is complete? In moving towards a collection, how do you establish continuity, an argument? What binds the stories together? Do you see a super-structure? You will study advice and techniques from magazine and anthology editors. Here, you’ll submit 500 words from a draft of your final piece, with questions.

There will be a group Zoom with your tutor where you can ask questions about your final piece.

In your final session, there will be no formal exercises, extracts or videos. Focus on writing and applying the lessons studied over the course. This session will include pointers for journal submission and how to strengthen your competition entries. You will learn about what Granta looks for in a piece of short fiction. At the end of this session, you will submit a finished piece of short fiction - up to 3,000 words - for feedback.

There will be a Zoom Q&A with a Granta staff guest.

Throughout the course, enjoy exclusive video interviews, podcasts and transcripts of conversations between editors and authors. More information here soon.

You will also be able to attend live Zoom Q&As with publishing industry guests during the nine weeks.

This course requires up to 10 hours of study per week. Find out more about the course and teaching method from our education partners Professional Writing Academy.

Eley Williams | Course Director

Selected as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists 2023, Eley Williams’ short fiction appears in anthologies including The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story, Pilot Press’ Modern Queer Poets, and Liberating the Canon edited by Isabel Waidner. She has previously worked as a writing lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London, and served as a judge on various writing competition panels including the Republic of Consciousness Prize, the Galley Beggar Short Story Prize and the Desperate Literature Short Fiction Prize. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, her debut Attrib. And Other Stories won the James Tait Back Memorial Prize, with a second collection of short stories Moderate to Poor, Occasionally Good forthcoming in 2024.