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Granta: Writing Literary Short Fiction

The course

Experimentation, narrative verve, voice

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

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

This course requires up to 10 hours of study per week. 

Applications are now closed.

Meet your course director

Eley Williams

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.

 

In partnership with Granta

Professional Writing Academy works with Granta as education partner, to design and deliver world-class writing courses and nurture new voices and writing talent.

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

Suitable for intermediate to advanced short-fiction writers well versed in core craft skills and already submitting work, but looking to become a more innovative practitioner with a distinct voice and increased confidence and ambition.

It’s suitable if you: 

  • Write fiction and would like to kick-start a new short story project or collection
  • Have experience writing short fiction and would like the guidance and support to develop a deeper craft practice
  • Want to build advanced craft skills, sustain momentum and keep the reader’s (and your own) interest
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Can dedicate 8 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners.

This course allows you to: 

  • Study both traditional forms for the short story and new, experimental approaches, exploring the limits of what language and writing can do 
  • Discover your authorial palette
  • 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? 
  • Identify your big idea and use it as a story generator
  • Discover editing in a new way
  • Delve deeper into why your writing matters and where it takes the reader, both physically and figuratively
  • Build confidence in editing and refining your story, and getting ready to submit
  • Explore ways to get your work noticed, and understand what Granta looks for in submissions
  • Practise giving feedback to other writers and receiving responses to your work
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and judgement as you work on a final assignment.

Session 1: To Be Short with You – Introduction to the form

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 call with your tutor.

Session 2: Doing Impressions – Voice, character and form

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 dialoge in compact writing. Who is holding your story and where are you?

There will be a tutor Ask Me Anything forum.

Session 3: Ways of Seeing

Explore the short story as the ‘art of the glimpse’: what do we see, and what do we miss? 

Dive into techniques on how to guide readers into your world. 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.

Session 4: Ways of Telling

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.

Session 5: Scaffolding and Freefall – Structure and the short story

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.

Session 6: Quickening – Trusting and naming your instincts

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.

Session 7: Honing – Thinking like an editor

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.

Session 8: Getting it Finished – Two-week quiet writing time

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.

Publishing and Author Guests

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

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

Join the Granta alumni community 

After finishing 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:

  • Pitch book-length manuscripts to guest agents: Agents are invited to access an exclusive online pitching forum for our alumni, where you can upload a book proposal and query letter for review. New agents are invited quarterly.
  • Join monthly live alumni events with expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers. Previous guests include authors Emmanuel Iduma, Jennifer Kabat, John Connell and Tom Bullough, alongside editors and literary agents.
  • 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

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue to another course, please get in touch for advice and more information.

The team

Meet your course team

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.

 

More about Eley Williams