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Start writing fiction

Start writing fiction

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Have you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This free course, Start writing fiction, will give you an insight into how authors create their characters and setting s. You will also be able to look at the different genre s for fiction.

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After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • identify strengths and weaknesses as a writer of fiction
  • demonstrate a general awareness of fiction writing
  • discuss fiction using basic vocabulary.

First Published: 09/08/2012

Updated: 14/05/2018

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Quick guide to Harvard referencing (Cite Them Right)

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There are different versions of the Harvard referencing style. This guide is a quick introduction to the commonly-used Cite Them Right version. You will find further guidance available through the OU Library on the Cite Them Right Database .

For help and support with referencing and the full Cite Them Right guide, have a look at the Library’s page on referencing and plagiarism . If you need guidance referencing OU module material you can check out which sections of Cite Them Right are recommended when referencing physical and online module material .

This guide does not apply to OU Law undergraduate students . If you are studying a module beginning with W1xx, W2xx or W3xx, you should refer to the Quick guide to Cite Them Right referencing for Law modules .

Table of contents

In-text citations and full references.

  • Secondary referencing
  • Page numbers
  • Citing multiple sources published in the same year by the same author

Full reference examples

Referencing consists of two elements:

  • in-text citations, which are inserted in the body of your text and are included in the word count. An in-text citation gives the author(s) and publication date of a source you are referring to. If the publication date is not given, the phrase 'no date' is used instead of a date. If using direct quotations or you refer to a specific section in the source you also need the page number/s if available, or paragraph number for web pages.
  • full references, which are given in alphabetical order in reference list at the end of your work and are not included in the word count. Full references give full bibliographical information for all the sources you have referred to in the body of your text.

To see a reference list and intext citations check out this example assignment on Cite Them Right .

Difference between reference list and bibliography

a reference list only includes sources you have referred to in the body of your text

a bibliography includes sources you have referred to in the body of your text AND sources that were part of your background reading that you did not use in your assignment

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Examples of in-text citations

You need to include an in-text citation wherever you quote or paraphrase from a source. An in-text citation consists of the last name of the author(s), the year of publication, and a page number if relevant. There are a number of ways of incorporating in-text citations into your work - some examples are provided below. Alternatively you can see examples of setting out in-text citations in Cite Them Right .

Note: When referencing a chapter of an edited book, your in-text citation should give the author(s) of the chapter.

Online module materials

(Includes written online module activities, audio-visual material such as online tutorials, recordings or videos).

When referencing material from module websites, the date of publication is the year you started studying the module.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication/presentation) 'Title of item'. Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

OR, if there is no named author:

The Open University (Year of publication/presentation) 'Title of item'. Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

Rietdorf, K. and Bootman, M. (2022) 'Topic 3: Rare diseases'. S290: Investigating human health and disease . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1967195 (Accessed: 24 January 2023).

The Open University (2022) ‘3.1 The purposes of childhood and youth research’. EK313: Issues in research with children and young people . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1949633&section=1.3 (Accessed: 24 January 2023).

You can also use this template to reference videos and audio that are hosted on your module website:

The Open University (2022) ‘Video 2.7 An example of a Frith-Happé animation’. SK298: Brain, mind and mental health . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=2013014&section=4.9.6 (Accessed: 22 November 2022).

The Open University (2022) ‘Audio 2 Interview with Richard Sorabji (Part 2)’. A113: Revolutions . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1960941&section=5.6 (Accessed: 22 November 2022).

Note: if a complete journal article has been uploaded to a module website, or if you have seen an article referred to on the website and then accessed the original version, reference the original journal article, and do not mention the module materials. If only an extract from an article is included in your module materials that you want to reference, you should use secondary referencing, with the module materials as the 'cited in' source, as described above.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of message', Title of discussion board , in Module code: Module title . Available at: URL of VLE (Accessed: date).

Fitzpatrick, M. (2022) ‘A215 - presentation of TMAs', Tutor group discussion & Workbook activities , in A215: Creative writing . Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=4209566 (Accessed: 24 January 2022).

Note: When an ebook looks like a printed book, with publication details and pagination, reference as a printed book.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) Title . Edition if later than first. Place of publication: publisher. Series and volume number if relevant.

For ebooks that do not contain print publication details

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) Title of book . Available at: DOI or URL (Accessed: date).

Example with one author:

Bell, J. (2014) Doing your research project . Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Adams, D. (1979) The hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy . Available at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-ebooks (Accessed: 23 June 2021).

Example with two or three authors:

Goddard, J. and Barrett, S. (2015) The health needs of young people leaving care . Norwich: University of East Anglia, School of Social Work and Psychosocial Studies.

Example with four or more authors:

Young, H.D. et al. (2015) Sears and Zemansky's university physics . San Francisco, CA: Addison-Wesley.

Note: You can choose one or other method to reference four or more authors (unless your School requires you to name all authors in your reference list) and your approach should be consistent.

Note: Books that have an editor, or editors, where each chapter is written by a different author or authors.

Surname of chapter author, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of chapter or section', in Initial. Surname of book editor (ed.) Title of book . Place of publication: publisher, Page reference.

Franklin, A.W. (2012) 'Management of the problem', in S.M. Smith (ed.) The maltreatment of children . Lancaster: MTP, pp. 83–95.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Journal , volume number (issue number), page reference.

If accessed online:

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Journal , volume number (issue number), page reference. Available at: DOI or URL (if required) (Accessed: date).

Shirazi, T. (2010) 'Successful teaching placements in secondary schools: achieving QTS practical handbooks', European Journal of Teacher Education , 33(3), pp. 323–326.

Shirazi, T. (2010) 'Successful teaching placements in secondary schools: achieving QTS practical handbooks', European Journal of Teacher Education , 33(3), pp. 323–326. Available at: https://libezproxy.open.ac.uk/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/log... (Accessed: 27 January 2023).

Barke, M. and Mowl, G. (2016) 'Málaga – a failed resort of the early twentieth century?', Journal of Tourism History , 2(3), pp. 187–212. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1755182X.2010.523145

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Newspaper , Day and month, Page reference.

Surname, Initial. (Year of publication) 'Title of article', Title of Newspaper , Day and month, Page reference if available. Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Mansell, W. and Bloom, A. (2012) ‘£10,000 carrot to tempt physics experts’, The Guardian , 20 June, p. 5.

Roberts, D. and Ackerman, S. (2013) 'US draft resolution allows Obama 90 days for military action against Syria', The Guardian , 4 September. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/04/syria-strikes-draft-resolut... (Accessed: 9 September 2015).

Surname, Initial. (Year that the site was published/last updated) Title of web page . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Organisation (Year that the page was last updated) Title of web page . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Robinson, J. (2007) Social variation across the UK . Available at: https://www.bl.uk/british-accents-and-dialects/articles/social-variation... (Accessed: 21 November 2021).

The British Psychological Society (2018) Code of Ethics and Conduct . Available at: https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/bps-code-ethics-and-conduct (Accessed: 22 March 2019).

Note: Cite Them Right Online offers guidance for referencing webpages that do not include authors' names and dates. However, be extra vigilant about the suitability of such webpages.

Surname, Initial. (Year) Title of photograph . Available at: URL (Accessed: date).

Kitton, J. (2013) Golden sunset . Available at: https://www.jameskittophotography.co.uk/photo_8692150.html (Accessed: 21 November 2021).

stanitsa_dance (2021) Cossack dance ensemble . Available at: https://www.instagram.com/p/COI_slphWJ_/ (Accessed: 13 June 2023).

Note: If no title can be found then replace it with a short description.

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Creative Writing Programs Online

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Online Undergraduate and Graduate Creative Writing Programs

Do you want to learn how to tell stories or create art through your words? If you want to write poetry, script plays, or write novels, Liberty has creative writing programs that can help you learn the skills you need. You can start with the basics and develop your skills under the teaching and mentorship of teachers who know their craft. But what program is right for you?

Associate Degrees

Liberty’s 100% online Associate of Arts (A.A.) in Creative Writing offers you the opportunity to enhance your writing skills as you prepare for a future career or a bachelor’s degree.

Apply Now   Request Info  

Bachelor’s Degrees

Bachelor of science in creative writing – christian literature, bachelor of science in creative writing – english.

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – English offers you the chance to develop a deep understanding of the English language.

Bachelor of Science in Creative Writing – Journalism

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – Journalism allows you to develop investigative and reporting abilities and build your portfolio. 

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing offers you advanced training in composition and literature, creative writing, and modern grammar.

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing – Christian Literature can help you hone your writing and critical thinking skills as you explore the works of some of the greatest Christian writers in history.

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing – Creative Writing degree offers advanced training in grammar, technical writing, and storytelling.

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing – Journalism offers you a journalism education that can teach you to write compelling stories and help you pursue exciting writing opportunities.

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Composition will guide you through the fundamentals of writing and grammar and help prepare you to teach composition at the collegiate level.

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Writing can help you craft effective communication using digital media, traditional publishing, and cutting-edge technology as you master advanced grammar and composition.

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Writing – Research Administration and Sponsored Programs blends studies in writing with practical business applications, which can help you become a more marketable job candidate.

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing is designed to help you build on your writing skills with specific workshops dedicated to the craft of fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, or screenwriting.

Creative Writing

Master’s Degrees

Composition

Professional Writing

Professional Writing – Research Administration and Sponsored Programs

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Professional Writing – Research Administration and Sponsored Programs blends studies in writing with practical business applications, which can help you become a more marketable job candidate.

Creative Writing – Christian Literature

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – Christian Literature allows you to study prominent authors and works of Christian literature of the past and present. 

Creative Writing – English

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – English offers you the chance to develop a deep understanding of the English language.

Creative Writing – Journalism

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – Journalism allows you to develop investigative and reporting abilities and build your portfolio. 

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English and Writing – Christian Literature

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing – Christian Literature can help you hone your writing and critical thinking skills as you explore the works of some of the greatest Christian writers in history.

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English and Writing – Journalism

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Apply Now Request Information  

Apply Now Request Information    

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Creative Writing – English offers you the chance to develop a deep understanding of the English language while sharpening your writing skills.

Bachelor of Science in English and Writing – Creative Writing

Liberty’s 100% online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in English and Writing – Creative Writing  offers you advanced training in composition and literature, creative writing, and modern grammar.

Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing

Liberty’s 100% online Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing can help you learn new concepts, grow your understanding, and hone your writing skills to their highest form.

Which kind of creative writing program fits my needs?

  • If you don’t have a degree and aren’t ready to commit to a bachelor’s – Liberty’s online Associate of Arts in Creative Writing gives you an entry point into creative writing. Designed as a halfway step to a bachelor’s degree, our A.A. in Creative Writing will cover foundational courses and training that can help you get started while opening the door to a more in-depth Bachelor of Science in English and Writing – Creative Writing after you graduate. 
  • If you want a full bachelor’s degree focused on creative writing and English language – Liberty’s Bachelor of Science in English and Writing – Creative Writing is designed to equip you with a thorough background in English language studies to support your creative writing skills. The skills you learn in this program can also help you pursue teaching or roles in communication and writing for business. 
  • If you already have a bachelor’s degree and want a career in writing – Liberty’s online Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing could be the best choice for you. The M.F.A. in Creative Writing is designed to help you refine your craft and gain a mastery in your writing discipline. And because an M.F.A. is considered a terminal degree, earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing can open the door to university teaching. 
Karen Kingsbury Center for Creative Writing An exciting part of our creative writing programs is that you will have the opportunity to take courses that were created in partnership with #1 New York Times bestselling author and Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury. Kingsbury has contributed course content to the degrees above, providing firsthand training in all areas of interest. We are proud to partner with her through our Karen Kingsbury Center for Creative Writing .

Potential Career Options with a Creative Writing Degree

  • Book and magazine writer
  • Business communications specialist
  • Creative writing instructor
  • Professional blogger
  • Public relations
  • Publications editor
  • Screenwriter
  • Social media coordinator
  • Website copy editor and writer
  • Writing manager

What Are the Benefits of Studying Creative Writing at Liberty University?

  • We are recognized by multiple institutions for our academic quality, affordability, and accessibility . Our commitment to excellence also helped us rank in the top 10% of Niche.com’s best online schools in America . Earning your online creative writing degree from a nonprofit university with this kind of recognition can help set you apart from others in your field.
  • Liberty University’s state-of-the-art online learning environment offers you a wide variety of learning methods, including simulations, recorded lectures, and digital collaboration tools that will help you engage with your studies and learn practical teaching skills.
  • The majority of tuition for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs has not increased in 9 years. While many other online colleges have raised tuition, Liberty has been able to keep costs low as a nonprofit university.
  • You can complete your online creative writing program in less time than you think, due to our 8-week format and 8 start times per year.

Military Benefits

Service is important to us, so whether you’re currently serving in the Armed Forces, have served, or are married to someone who serves, we’re here to serve you. Liberty’s military benefits are available to:

  • Active duty service members of the U.S. Armed Forces
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We are proud to support you in your pursuit of a flexible and affordable online education by offering you the following benefits: 

For undergraduate programs:

  • Tuition discounts –  $250 per credit hour for undergraduate courses
  • Additional discount for veterans who serve in a civilian capacity as a  First Responder (less than $565 per course)
  • 8-week courses, 8 different start dates each year, and no set login times (may exclude certain courses such as practicums, internships, or field experiences)
  • Potential college credit for military training

For graduate programs:

  • Tuition discounts – $275 per credit hour for graduate courses
  • Additional discount for veterans who serve in a civilian capacity as a First Responder (less than $625 per course)

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Choose your area of Interest:

Training Champions for Christ

Liberty’s promise to you is an education that expertly brings knowledge and faith together. Here, education is designed around you. It connects you to people and opportunities that help you develop the skills and confidence you’re looking for. At Liberty, you’ll find the knowledge, experience, and mentorship you want to make your career — and life — a fulfilling one.

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Liberty University is not just another school. It is the realization of a dream, the product of thousands of prayers. It was built to invite students into a bigger, better story. Discover the Liberty difference for yourself.

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When it comes to choosing a college, finances make a difference. That’s why at Liberty, we believe in offering you a top-notch education — that’s also affordable. Discover how Liberty can help you keep your college costs down.

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Liberty University is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and certain programs have earned additional field-specific accreditation as well.

Your Best College Essay

Maybe you love to write, or maybe you don’t. Either way, there’s a chance that the thought of writing your college essay is making you sweat. No need for nerves! We’re here to give you the important details on how to make the process as anxiety-free as possible.

student's hands typing on a laptop in class

What's the College Essay?

When we say “The College Essay” (capitalization for emphasis – say it out loud with the capitals and you’ll know what we mean) we’re talking about the 550-650 word essay required by most colleges and universities. Prompts for this essay can be found on the college’s website, the Common Application, or the Coalition Application. We’re not talking about the many smaller supplemental essays you might need to write in order to apply to college. Not all institutions require the essay, but most colleges and universities that are at least semi-selective do.

How do I get started?

Look for the prompts on whatever application you’re using to apply to schools (almost all of the time – with a few notable exceptions – this is the Common Application). If one of them calls out to you, awesome! You can jump right in and start to brainstorm. If none of them are giving you the right vibes, don’t worry. They’re so broad that almost anything you write can fit into one of the prompts after you’re done. Working backwards like this is totally fine and can be really useful!

What if I have writer's block?

You aren’t alone. Staring at a blank Google Doc and thinking about how this is the one chance to tell an admissions officer your story can make you freeze. Thinking about some of these questions might help you find the right topic:

  • What is something about you that people have pointed out as distinctive?
  • If you had to pick three words to describe yourself, what would they be? What are things you’ve done that demonstrate these qualities?
  • What’s something about you that has changed over your years in high school? How or why did it change?
  • What’s something you like most about yourself?
  • What’s something you love so much that you lose track of the rest of the world while you do it?

If you’re still stuck on a topic, ask your family members, friends, or other trusted adults: what’s something they always think about when they think about you? What’s something they think you should be proud of? They might help you find something about yourself that you wouldn’t have surfaced on your own.  

How do I grab my reader's attention?

It’s no secret that admissions officers are reading dozens – and sometimes hundreds – of essays every day. That can feel like a lot of pressure to stand out. But if you try to write the most unique essay in the world, it might end up seeming forced if it’s not genuinely you. So, what’s there to do? Our advice: start your essay with a story. Tell the reader about something you’ve done, complete with sensory details, and maybe even dialogue. Then, in the second paragraph, back up and tell us why this story is important and what it tells them about you and the theme of the essay.

THE WORD LIMIT IS SO LIMITING. HOW DO I TELL A COLLEGE MY WHOLE LIFE STORY IN 650 WORDS?

Don’t! Don’t try to tell an admissions officer about everything you’ve loved and done since you were a child. Instead, pick one or two things about yourself that you’re hoping to get across and stick to those. They’ll see the rest on the activities section of your application.

I'M STUCK ON THE CONCLUSION. HELP?

If you can’t think of another way to end the essay, talk about how the qualities you’ve discussed in your essays have prepared you for college. Try to wrap up with a sentence that refers back to the story you told in your first paragraph, if you took that route.

SHOULD I PROOFREAD MY ESSAY?

YES, proofread the essay, and have a trusted adult proofread it as well. Know that any suggestions they give you are coming from a good place, but make sure they aren’t writing your essay for you or putting it into their own voice. Admissions officers want to hear the voice of you, the applicant. Before you submit your essay anywhere, our number one advice is to read it out loud to yourself. When you read out loud you’ll catch small errors you may not have noticed before, and hear sentences that aren’t quite right.

ANY OTHER ADVICE?

Be yourself. If you’re not a naturally serious person, don’t force formality. If you’re the comedian in your friend group, go ahead and be funny. But ultimately, write as your authentic (and grammatically correct) self and trust the process.

And remember, thousands of other students your age are faced with this same essay writing task, right now. You can do it!

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