Crime Writing: Happy Valley Masterclass

The course

Get under the skin of the people behind the script

This one-week Happy Valley Special is a live online workshop where you have the opportunity to learn from the police advisors to Happy Valley.  

You’ll learn from not only the UK’s go-to police advisor, Graham Bartlett but Bob and Carol Bridgestock, bestselling crime writers and the police and crime consultants to the multi-award winning BBC Drama, Happy Valley. With real literary and TV examples, you’ll discover how to create credible police officers and authentic dialogue without sacrificing a second of action or compromising your characters.

Learn how to craft crime fiction and drama that weaves in police procedures seamlessly. We’ll be covering how to work with advisors whether you are a novelist or screenwriter including the importance of opening scenes, locations and working with the cast. Find out what makes a real police officer tick, how they actually communicate, and how they behave in their professional and private lives.

Bob and Carol will be hosting a specially extended live and interactive Q&A so come armed with lots of questions. You’ll also be joined by expert guests for a live and interactive Q&A

You can enrol as a standalone, or join as part of our Murder Squad subscription.

Not on UK time? Everything’s hosted in our online classroom accessible 24/7 – so you can join us from anywhere in the world and complete the Zoom element of the course through the recordings and writing tasks as if you’d been there.

Graham Bartlett

Meet your course director

Graham Bartlett

As well as being a bestselling crime writer, former detective Graham Bartlett advises more than 100 authors and TV makers, including Peter James, Mark Billingham, Elly Griffiths, Anthony Horowitz and BBC Studios. He teaches on a number of Masters programmes and has been delivering hugely successful courses for many years.

In partnership with Police Advisor

We work in partnership with experienced police procedural advisor Graham Bartlett and his team of experts who help scores of writers achieve authenticity in their crime fiction, from HBO TV dramas to the genre’s best loved authors.

How it works

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.

You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.

Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor - a critical part of the writing process.

You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

Things to know

This masterclass is designed for crime writers of all levels working on all sub-genres. It’s suitable if you:

  • Would like to make the characters and dialogue in your writing more authentic
  • Want to know more about police procedure, behaviour and jargon
  • Would like insight from insider professionals and successful script writers 
  • Like experimenting with writing prompts and learning new techniques
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of up to 30 learners
  • Can dedicate 10am-4pm (UK time) to participate in the live workshop, or are happy to watch back the recordings afterwards.

This masterclass allows you to:

  • Understand how the police communicate and work together
  • Become familiar with who’s who at the police station, its different settings, and how the various roles interact 
  • Master the jargon and acronyms 
  • Get to know the standards and discipline expected of officers
  • Learn what’s realistic in terms of conversations and humour
  • Write more accurate and effective dialogue 
  • Develop the professional skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Practise giving effective feedback to other writers and receiving critical notes
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and critical judgment as you work on a final assignment.

We start with a live day on Zoom, with morning and afternoon sessions. But many people choose to access the course by watching the playback after the event. At the end of the day, Graham sets you a writing task, to apply knowledge from the day to your own writing. You have all week to work on a piece from your novel in progress, or start something new, with access to all the content from the live session plus extra resources and a Q&A forum to ask Graham questions. We encourage you to workshop your piece with your peers. At the end of the week, Graham will offer written feedback on your work.

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

Day 1: Morning session on Zoom –

  • 10am Introductions and icebreaker exercise
  • 10.15am Graham introduces the day’s themes, with practical interactive exercises throughout
  • Learn how the different roles and career paths develop
  • Find out who’s there at the police station and who’s in charge
  • Understand how the police communicate and work together
  • Learn all about jargon, acronyms, as well as the standards and discipline 
  • Discover what makes up the DNA of a police officer
  • 12pm R.C. Bridgestock – Authentic Drama – Happy Valley
  • 1pm Lunch

Afternoon session on Zoom –

  • 1.45pm Web Chat and Q&A with Bob and Carol Bridgestock
  • 2.45pm Writing exercise brief and writing time
  • 3.45pm Final Q&A
  • 4pm Close.

At the end of the day, Graham sets you a longer writing task to apply what you’ve learned to your own work. You’ll have till the end of the week to work on this and workshop drafts in our online classroom alongside your peers, with access to all your course materials and extra resources plus a Q&A forum to ask Graham questions. We’ll upload recordings of the Zoom sessions for you to watch back.

At the end of the week, Graham will read your submission and give individual written feedback on your writing.

Join our alumni community 

After your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:

  • Revisit all your course materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
  • Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
  • Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
  • Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
  • Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
  • Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers

Feedback on your work

At the end of the course Graham will give feedback on the procedural aspect of your final submission. If you would like more detailed or ongoing feedback on your work or consultancy for an extra fee, please email [email protected] for details.

The team

Meet your course team

Graham Bartlett

Graham Bartlett

Police Advisor

As well as being a bestselling crime writer, former detective Graham Bartlett advises more than 100 authors and TV makers, including Peter James, Mark Billingham, Elly Griffiths, Anthony Horowitz and BBC Studios. He teaches on a number of Masters programmes and has been delivering hugely successful courses for many years.

More about Graham Bartlett

Start your journey


(Including taxes)

I have found this course very helpful. Each week has highlighted a different aspect of writing clearly and effectively. It has also made me realise that I probably don’t spend enough time on my writing, particularly emails to colleagues. I have enjoyed the exercises each week and the ability to use pieces of writing that I am using for work, helps me to see how these lessons can be applied to real tasks that I face each day. I think that I still need to work on my confidence as a writer but this has been a good start. Thank you Piers for all your help and support.

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Course Alumni

Meet our writers


Crime Writing: Making it Real alum

So many thanks to Graham, experts Kate and Lesley, and our moderator for a superb course. I've learnt so much, had fun and managed to be pretty productive. And everyone taking the course has been stunning - talented, highly effective and generous. What a pleasure it's been.

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