Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 are no longer supported. Please use a newer browser.
Concourse works best with JavaScript enabled.
UCLA logo

369745: Fiction: Essential Beginnings

  • Fall 2019
  • Section 1
  • 2 Credits
  • 10/30/2019 to 12/10/2019
  • Modified 11/20/2019


Do you aspire to write creatively but don't know where to start? This supportive workshop provides you with many techniques to motivate and guide you. You learn how to transform observation and personal experience into imaginative prose, create dynamic characters and dialogue, and write from different points of view. By the end of the course, you will have in hand a series of short sketches or a draft of a short story and key tools you need to write creatively.


In this course, students will learn to:

  • identify the basic elements of fiction writing and how those elements are used to achieve effect in a story.
  • implement the basic elements of fiction writing in their own work.
  • provide effective critiques of peer work, identifying both strengths and areas for improvement.
  • employ reading like a writer, writing frequently, and revision as part of their creative writing process.


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • write a story implementing the basic elements of fiction writing.  
  • revise a story based of feedback of their instructor and peers.
  • recognize strengths and areas for improvement in their own work, and the work of others, and thus be better editors of their own work. 
  • submit stories to appropriate markets as desired.


There are no textbooks required for this course. All materials will be provided through Canvas. 


Each week you will be required to:

  • Read a brief lecture.
  • Read and respond to the work of published authors.
  • Write three pages based on a prompt. (Writing exercises are due one week after they are assigned.)
  • Critique two brief student stories. (After you’ve posted your critique, please be sure to read through all other critiques for each story you’ve commented on.)


You can take this course for a letter grade or on a Pass/Fail or No Grade basis. When requested, grades will be based on: timely completion of writing exercises (50%), participation in weekly craft discussions (30%), written critiques of other students’ work/workshop (20%). Regular participation is expected. Please check in as often as possible.

Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Writing Assignments 500 points

Five writing assignments 100 points each - 500 points

Graded Discussions 300 points

Six graded discussions 50 points each - 300 points

Workshops/Critiques 200 points

Five workshops - 40 points each - 200 points




A+    970-1000 points 
A      940-969 points               
A-    900-939 points            
B+    870-899 points          
B      840-869 points          
B-    800-839 points            
C+   770-799 points
C      740-769 Points
C-    700-739 points
D+   670-699 points          
D     640-669 points          
D-    600-639 points
F      below 600 points       

(For those taking the course Pass/Fail, A, B, C = Pass / D, F = Fail)

Course Policies

Weekly Schedule

Weekly lectures, discussion topics, and writing assignments will be posted on Wednesday mornings at 8:00am. (A schedule of weekly topics can be found later in this syllabus.)

Graded discussion responses are due on Sundays at 8:00am

Writing assignments and critiques are due on Wednesdays at 8:00am.

It is always ok to post your work before the due date, but because this is a workshop based course, late work cannot be accepted.

Feedback for Graded Discussions

I will read through everything you post in graded discussions, and you will receive a grade for your contribution. I will not comment on every thread within the discussion, but I will provide feedback for each discussion question. I will also chime in as needed, particularly if there is an area of debate or confusion.

Feedback for Writing

I will provide feedback (and a grade) for your weekly writing assignments within a week of the due date. I encourage you to read through all feedback - including mine - for each story that you critique.

Writing Assignments

Throughout the class you will be required to write three pages each week based on a writing prompt. These exercises are meant to give you the opportunity to practice using the elements of craft we’re discussing in class, and to help you generate material that you might want to expand upon later. Weekly writing exercises do not need to be complete, fully realized, stories. In fact, it’s fine to submit just a scene or two, or an unfinished piece.

The last week of class you will be asked to revise an exercise based on feedback you’ve received in this class. (Your revision should be a complete story, 5-10 pages in length.)

Formatting Guidelines

All work for this course should be submitted in Word. (Please do not submit a PDF.) Additionally, all work should be double-spaced, in 12-point font, and page-numbered. Please use a conventional font such as Times New Roman.

Workshop Guidelines

Reading and discussing each other’s work requires a respectful environment; therefore, please abide by the following guidelines:

* Start by briefly commenting on the positive points of the work. What was special about this piece? What did the writer do particularly well? Let the writer know her or his strengths.

* When commenting on areas in the work that could be improved, focus on the technical aspects of the piece. For example: Are the characters fully developed? Is the point of view consistent? Is the ending satisfying? Try to make suggestions or observations that the writer can take into the next draft or into other pieces, and try to be specific rather than general.

* Please refrain from commenting on your own submissions until all critiques have been posted. As soon as you explain or justify your work, the reader is lost to you as a critic. Once all critiques have been posted, you may comment on your work and/or ask questions.

More detailed guidelines for critiquing each other’s work will be available week two. If you have any questions at any time, please don’t hesitant to ask.

Online Netiquette

Sharing thoughts politely and respectfully can sometimes pose a challenge when working online—we lack our usual communication tools of voice intonation, facial expression, and gestures. Also, we may well find ourselves disagreeing in our conversations about published writing and about one another’s work. So we must make an extra effort in our postings to be polite and respectful. Well-reasoned, polite, and respectful disagreement is always welcome; indeed, one of the ways we can learn from one another is by sharing different perspectives.

Underage Students

As UCLA's principal provider of continuing education, the majority of UCLA Extension courses are designed for the post-baccalaureate professional-level student. Enrollment is therefore normally reserved for adult students 18 years of age and older. The Writers’ Program may consent to enroll younger students based on special academic competence and approval of the instructor. Minors who enroll in a Writers’ Program course without first receiving permission from both the department and the instructor are subject to withdrawal.  To request approval, please contact the Writers’ Program at 310-825-9415.

Institutional Policies

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others or violation of others' copyrights. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with policy provisions which proscribe these and other forms of misconduct at:

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Service for Students with Disabilities Office at (310) 825-7851 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:


Your instructor may post the interim grade Incomplete/I if at the end of the class your overall work is of passing quality but a portion could not be submitted for understandable reasons (e.g. illness). It is your responsibility to petition your instructor for permission to submit work late and to provide an explanation, and it is his or her sole decision whether to accept the explanation. If permitted, the Incomplete/I grade will be posted and a time frame defined for you to submit the missing work, ranging from one to twelve weeks. Incomplete/I grades that remain unchanged after twelve weeks will lapse to F, NP or U. Receiving an I grade entitles you to submit only the missing work your instructor has agreed to accept late, and does not allow other work to be retaken or oblige UCLA Extension to provide continuing access to course materials via Canvas. The Incomplete/I grade is not an option for courses that do not bear credit, such as 700, 800, or 900-level courses. For complete information, see:

All Grades are Final

No change of grade may be made by anyone other than the instructor, and then, only to correct clerical errors. No term grade except Incomplete may be revised by re-examination. The correction of a clerical error may be authorized only by the instructor of record communicating directly with personnel of Student and Alumni Services.

Sexual Harassment

The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence, and that such behavior violates both law and University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates our policy.

All Extension students and instructors who believe they have been sexually harassed are encouraged to contact the Department of Student and Alumni Services for complaint resolution: UCLA Extension, 1145 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90024; Voice/TTY: (310) 825-7031. View the University’s full Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence at

Additional Items

Course and Instructor Evaluation

UCLA Extension values your feedback on course and instructor evaluations. We ask all students to take a few minutes to complete an end-of-course evaluation survey. Updates to the course and instruction are influenced by your feedback. Understanding your student experience is essential to ensure continuing excellence in the online classroom and is appreciated by your instructor and the UCLA Extension academic leadership.

Your participation in a survey is voluntary, and your responses are confidential. After instructors submit grades, they will be given an evaluation report, but this report will not contain your name.

About Your Online Course Materials

Please note the following about online course components at UCLA Extension:

  • Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use internet browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the technical requirements of Canvas and familiarizing themselves with the Canvas Learning Management System.
  • Students are responsible for keeping a copy of all assignments and work submitted, and to be aware of all assignments, due dates, and course guidelines.
  • Students are encouraged to keep and/or download a local copy of their assignment files, as access to the online environment of a specific course is limited to 30 days after the final course date, as listed in the course catalog.

    If you need assistance downloading student materials from your course, please contact Canvas Support or the UCLA Extension Learning Support Team.

UCLA Extension Canvas and Learning Support

For immediate 24/7 Canvas technical support, including holidays, click on Help (located on the menu to the left) where you can call or chat live with a Canvas Support representative.

UCLA Extension Instructional Design and Learning Support
The UCLA Extension Learning Support staff assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general and administrative questions.

Learning Support staff is available Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM (Pacific Time), except holidays:


This schedule is a broad overview and is subject to change. Detailed reading and writing assignments will be posted weekly.

Course calendar and related activities
When Lesson Notes
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Plot/Scene and Summary
Week 4
Point of View
Week 5
Week 6
Last week of class -- wrapping up...