Creative Writing: Starting to Write Short course

A day aimed at new writers, focusing on three things that are essential for good writing: Character, Structure and Place. 

Suitable for anyone who is interested in writing short stories or novels, whether you have some experience or none at all.

York St John University
Course fees
Fees for Self Funding Individuals: £75.
One-day Study Day
Further dates TBC
Course Leader
Mark Illis
Level and Credit:
Study Day

What will I learn?

The workshops will include discussion and plenty of writing individually and in groups. They will be intense but fun, and should leave you feeling enthused and eager to go home and write. You’ll be amazed how much you create over the space of a day, and at the end of that day you should have the tools to help you to write with more confidence. 

Character – Starting with something as simple as a watch or a shopping list, you’ll learn how to create intriguing, engaging characters, you’ll learn how to get to know those characters, develop them and use them in your work.

Structure – The screenwriter, William Goldman, said ‘Get in late and leave early.’ What did he mean? Where should you start, where should you finish, and how do you keep interest up in between? A look at beginnings, middles and ends. Basically, how to tell a story.

Place – I’m 54, but I can remember every step of the route I took from home to primary school when I was seven years old. I can bring to mind sights, sounds, smells and textures. Why are places so evocative, and how do you translate a vivid sense of place into your writing?


Date & Time:

Further dates TBC
10am - 5pm

Who is eligible to attend?

Anyone with an interest in writing is welcome to attend.

How to book

Bookings are taken on a first come first served basis.

To book your place please email

Programme specification

Further information on this course is available in the programme specification. Please note that the programme specification relates to course content that is currently being studied by students at the University. For new programmes, the programme specification will be made available online prior to the start of the course.

Disability Advice

York St John University works hard to create an inclusive environment for all our students. We offer a range of disability advice services to assist students throughout their studies.

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Fees and funding

Fees for Self Funding Individuals: £75

Please email for any queries.

Tuition fees

UK & EU 2019 / 20


Overseas 2019 / 20


Course leader biographies

Mark Illis - Mark’s Young Adult novel THE IMPOSSIBLE was published in 2017. The sequel comes out in July this year. He has previously had three novels for adults published by Bloomsbury, and two by Salt - TENDER and THE LAST WORD, which was shortlisted for the Portico Prize. His short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, and he was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize.

Mark has written extensively for TV – including episodes of EastEndersThe Bill, Peak Practice and Emmerdale. He is currently working on the CBBC show, Jamie Johnson and is developing an original drama with Lime Productions. He wrote the screenplay for Before Dawn, which won the Best Screenplay award at the Bram Stoker International Film Festival. Mark has run creative writing workshops in many settings, including the Arvon Foundation, in universities and schools, in Reading Prison and in Broadmoor Secure Hospital.

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