Craft focus: grammar, syntax, and style for creative writers
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HW241
Duration: 11 sessions (over 11 weeks)
What is the course about?
Great poetry and prose begin when the writer puts the right words in the right places. This new course will focus on the technical elements of the writer’s craft, how they can support meaning or aesthetic effect, and how a better awareness of them can improve your own literary style. You will be encouraged to reflect on how you write and how your language and style can be improved at the level of techne or craft. You should be prepared for technical discussion of rules, conventions and common errors in the first few weeks – and exercises which challenge their linguistic ingenuity. You will then use your knowledge to analyse passages from certain authors and identify their distinctive stylistic effects. You will also be encouraged to develop your own style through creative exercises and assignments.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
• Grammar: the rules and conventions of English, who makes them, and why they matter; common errors; the difference between a mistake and a deliberate alteration; why creative writers bend or break the rules; the differences between prose and poetry; how to use grammar for your own creative purposes.
• Syntax: the basic order of an English sentence, and why it matters; main and subordinate clauses; syntax and punctuation; paragraphs; the difference between poetry and prose; how you can use syntax to make your writing more effective.
• Style: the analogy between style and manners; elements of style; vocabulary; figurative language; impersonal and personal styles; style and ‘voice’; interesting prose styles; poetry and style; clarity and euphony; imitation, parody and pastiche; developing your own style.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Demonstrate an improved grasp of English grammar and syntax
• Use and break the rules of grammar more effectively
• Understand better how syntax works and be able to use it to your advantage
• Recognise the elements of a style, distinguish between styles, and have a better idea of the styles you like and do not like
• Demonstrate a better understanding of what you are aiming for in your own style, and have developed it through practical exercises, feedback and reflection.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
All levels – this is a technical subject approached creatively, and activities will be designed to give scope for students at different stages to develop further.
Previous creative writing experience, and awareness of other languages, is useful but not essential.
Fluency or near-fluency in English is a prerequisite.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The main methods of teaching will be writing activities, reading and analysis, class and small group discussion, and tutor feedback. Individual students should come prepared to share their own work and offer constructive criticism of one another’s productions. Each week students will be given one homework assignment on which they will be expected to spend one hour (or more if they are feeling enthusiastic). There will be a Google Classroom in which students can share ideas and access resources.
City Lit Writing endeavours to create a safe and welcoming space for all and we strongly support the use of content notes in our classes. This means that learners are encouraged to make their tutor and classmates aware in advance if any writing they wish to share contains material that may be deemed sensitive. If you are unsure about what might constitute sensitive content, please ask your tutor for further clarification and read our expectations for participating in writing courses at City Lit.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No additional costs. Please bring writing materials.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
This course should be complementary to other writing courses at City Lit, and can be taken in parallel with or as preparation for any of them, according to each student’s level. You can also choose to take other courses in the Craft Focus series to explore other specific areas of writing craft. Please call the Writing Department if you would like further advice.
All students are invited to join us at Late Lines, our regular performance night for City Lit writers. Students are also encouraged to submit their work 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.
Clare Bayley’s plays include After The Peace (longlisted for the Bruntwood Prize 2019), Family Trees (readings at Bolton Octagon 2019 and Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), The Enchantment (National Theatre, London 2007) and The Container (Fringe First and Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2007, productions in - Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, Toronto, Melbourne, Rome, Baltimore and Raleigh North Carolina). Clare won third prize in the Asham Short Story Award for Antonio’s Dream, which was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She also writes for radio (In The Van, The Secret Place, Portobello Beach). Clare runs the Oxford Playhouse writers’ scheme, Playhouse Playmakers. She is currently Visitor in the Arts at University College, Oxford. She is co-author with Fraser Grace of Playwriting: A Writer’s and Artist’s Companion (Bloomsbury 2015) and teaches Playwriting and Creative Writing at New York University in London, and mentors students at Central School of Speech and Drama. She is a fellow of the HEA and a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She has written for The Independent, The Guardian, Time Out and is former Theatre Editor of The Independent.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.