Short Course Online

Writing Lives

University of Oxford

3 months
495 GBP/full
420 GBP/full
Tuition fee
Apply date
Start date


Is there a true story that only you can tell? This Writing Lives course at University of Oxford is designed to provide you with the skills you need to turn experiences, recollections and real-life phenomena into literary works that are enjoyable and accessible to a wider audience.


Learning outcomes

Are there stories, events or circumstances in your own experience, your family's, or those of people known to you, that you've always wanted to investigate, and that you think would make good reading? This course will provide you with all you need to shape your materials into an enjoyable and accessible literary work. 'Life Writing' is prose non-fiction devoted to exploring the events and emotions of real lives. The Life Writing course at University of Oxford will enable you to recognise which things are significant, how to characterize them in way that really brings them to life, and how to structure them into a narrative that will keep a reader's interest.

Course aims

This Writing Lives course aims to provide students with insight into the major aspects affecting life-writing and to enable them to use these features confidently in writing their own creative non-fiction.

Teaching outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  •  Key features (such as perspective, dialogue, etc) in a work of life-writing 
  •  The applicability of such characteristics in their own work. 
  •  How to use at least some of these aspects of technical expertise with increased skill and confidence. 
By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:
  •  The ability to recognize and name key features in contemporary life-writing
  • Knowledge of why authors employ these features and what their different effects are.
  •  Increased confidence in their own use of such features as enhancements to the development of an individual ‘voice’ in life-writing.


FHEQ level 4, 10 CATS points

Programme Structure

Programme details:

  • Session One: Getting Started
  • Getting acquainted; how to work with the truth; memory; good practices
  • Session Two: Point-of-view
  • Memory and imagination; using the senses; finding a voice
  • Session Three: Descriptive Writing
  • Getting the surfaces right; getting below the surfaces
  • Session Four: Characterizing Others
  • Revealing motivation, psychological depths and habits
  • Session Five: Characterizing Yourself
  • Re-living your life inside and outside time and experience – making yourself knowable
  • Session Six: Dialogue
  • Writing the authentic, the important and the plausible simultaneously.
  • Session Seven: Structure
  • Finding the plot in history; realising potential and maximising drama
  • Session Eight: Sequence and Situation
  • How to form episodes combining characters, dialogue and description
  • Session Nine: Beginnings and Endings
  • How to start and where to stop.
  • Session Ten: Re-writing and Editing
  • Finishing, polishing, re-making, re-telling, expanding and cutting.

Key information


  • Part-time
    • 3 months
    • Flexible

Start dates & application deadlines


10 alternative credits



Academic requirements

We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.

Other requirements

General requirements

  • You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. 
  • This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

Technological requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Tuition Fee

To alway see correct tuition fees
  • International

    495 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 495 GBP for the full programme during 3 months.
  • EU/EEA

    420 GBP/full
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 420 GBP for the full programme during 3 months.


Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

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Writing Lives
University of Oxford


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