Autobiography into fiction

Course Dates: 24/02/19
Time: 10:30 - 17:30
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Tutor: Helen Croydon

This one-day course will introduce you to some techniques for transforming personal experience into fiction or poetry. You will have the opportunity to improve your writing skills, analyse samples of life-writing and fiction and engage in exercises on developing your story sense. The challenges around using autobiographical material in fiction will be discussed.

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Autobiography into fiction


What is the course about?

This one-day course will introduce you to some techniques for transforming personal experience into fiction or poetry. You'll have the opportunity to improve your writing skills as well as your ability to give and use constructive criticism. The issues around using autobiographical material in fiction will be discussed.

Students say: "Provides a very good grounding in the basics"; "Good group atmosphere"; "Very good teaching and the exercises were inspiring"; "Really well-structured and great to have covered so many aspects"; "Enjoyed greatly and would like to do more."

The Tutor: Helen Croydon is an author, journalist and broadcaster. Her first book, a fictionalised dating memoir, became a WHSmith bestseller in 2011. She’s also written a narrative non-fiction about modern models of relationships and her third book, out next year, is a memoir about transforming from city girl to endurance athlete. As a journalist she’s written for newspapers including the Telegraph, Times, and Independent, and for magazines such as Cosmo and Outdoor Fitness. She regularly reviews papers on Sky News or the BBC News Channel and works as a freelance producer for ITV News. She is also a successful media coach.

City Lit reserves the right to change course tutors from those advertised in this outline. In line with our refund policy we are unable to grant a refund on the grounds of a change of tutor.

What will we cover?

- Recognising what makes a story
- The essential differences between autobiography and fiction
- Literary methods to recast and change elements of the original “true” story to fit a story arc
- Using different voices (third person vs first person)
- Fictionalising real-life people
- Fictionalising real-life dialogue
- Getting started, overcoming ‘overwhelm’ and channeling your ideas
- Recommended apps and software to help you organise your writing and ideas
- Legal issues you must know about when using real-life characters.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Recognise story potential in your own experiences
- Respond to, and assess, pieces of writing with sensitivity
- Write autobiographically-based fiction more effectively and confidently
- Use techniques for shaping personal material into a clear story arc
- Identify and tackle some of the challenges involved in turning real life into fiction.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

Introductory to more advanced levels. Fluency in written and spoken English is essential.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

- Presentations by the tutor
- Writing exercises to help you transform personal material into fiction
- Text analysis and group discussion to reflect each topic
- Opportunity for class discussion of your own techniques, problems and benefits in attempting to turn personal material into fiction.

All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.

For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You should bring paper and pens or pencils, or a tablet you can use to write.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

There is an Autobiographical writing course on offer throughout the year at City Lit and a Creative non-fiction course for one term. You may also like to explore regular writing classes and workshops, informal writing groups, writing at home, or even a Creative Writing MA.

All students are invited to join us at City Lit Talks Back, our monthly performance night for City Lit writers. Everyone is welcome, admission is free and there's no need to book in advance. Students are also encouraged to submit to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of creative writing. For the latest news, courses and events, stay in touch with the Department on Facebook and Twitter.

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details


Customer Reviews 6 item(s)

Write a review
If you have a story to tell and don’t know how to turn it into a story this course will give you a superb introduction. I found it really stimulating and it has given me a structure I can follow. The tutor was engaging and inspiring.
Course Rating
Review by Anne Nicholls / (Posted on 07/12/2018)
Basic summary of what to consider when turning memoir into fiction
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Review by Anonymous / (Posted on 04/12/2018)
This course is extremely helpful whether you’re writing fiction or non fiction. It is a great solution for “writers’ block”! I would highly recommend this course.
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Review by Joan / (Posted on 02/12/2018)
Come along with some ideas for themes and some of your own writing, even if it's only in draft - this course will really help you to structure your ideas and your writing in a short period of time.
Course Rating
Review by Denise / (Posted on 21/10/2018)
This is an informal and relaxed course. I found the extracts from the works of writers illustrated the tutor's points perfectly and the explanations of his own writing process encouraging and inspiring. I recommend this course to anybody who feels timid about putting their own experiences down on paper or blocked in doing so. Thank you.
Course Rating
Review by Pinky / (Posted on 27/11/2016)
A good overview of the techniques of writing fiction. That said, I've had more support and success on other, non City Lit courses. It did seem rather a long day in my opinion.
Course Rating
Review by Londonerscribe / (Posted on 01/07/2016)

Book your place

Course Code: HW080

Please choose a course date 

Sun, day, 24 Feb - 24 Feb '19

Duration: 1 session

Full fee: £59.00
Senior fee: £59.00
Concession: £24.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2717

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.