Course Syllabus

Course Information
Course Expectations

Course Information

Course Description

Creative Writing is a special Internet-based course designed to help you explore the art of writing stories, either stories that are fictional or stories based on real experiences. You will be required to complete six fiction-writing exercises. You will draft and revise a complete short story. In addition you will complete work aimed specifically at each competence for which you have enrolled. Last, you will write a Final Essay in which you reflect on your learning and experience in the course. Throughout all of this activity, you will be expected to share your own efforts, and read and comment on the work of others in the class. The writing we do in this course is public writing and requires an audience. You will become that audience for each other.

Unlike other college writing courses, there are no class meetings. During this course, you, your classmates, and the instructor will use Internet tools like e-mail, Google Docs and the online discussion forum to exchange assignments, work collaboratively, have class "discussions" and conduct workshop sessions sharing and critiquing the work produced in the course. In this environment it is especially critical that you actively seek answers to your questions.

Course Learning Goals

After completing this course, you will be able to:

Course Competencies

In this course, you will develop one or two of the following competencies:


Competence Statement and Criteria


Can analyze artistic or textual works in terms of form, content, and style. The course will teach the formal elements of story writing and so will put you and your creative process directly in touch with the impact of these elements on form, content, and style.  As a peer reviewer, you will be called on throughout the course to analyze and comment on the work of classmates.


Can create an original work of art, explore its relationship to artistic form, and reflect on the creative process. You will write fiction exercises using prompts and structures and so will be made directly aware of the impact of formal elements on the creative process.  This learning will be reflected in the major work, a complete story, which you will do in the later half of the course.


Can define and analyze a creative process. You will write an original story and reflect on this process in a Competence Specific Essay that will include some research into the nature of the creative process.  This is both a research project to learn about creativity and a reflection on your own practice.

How the Competences will be Demonstrated in this Course

A1C: Can analyze artistic or textual works in terms of form, content, and style.
The course will teach the formal elements of writing fiction and so will put you and your creative process directly in touch with the impact of these elements on form, and content. Competence in the application of these formal elements will be demonstrated in written assignments. These assignments start with six exercises and become more complex and challenging, culminating in a complete story of your own. Through your work as a peer reviewer you will learn and how the elements of fiction come together in the work of your classmates and show this learning in your comments in workshop sessions.  You will demonstrate competence in an exercise (Module 7) and in a Final Essay (Module 10), in which you to reflect on the course experience from several perspectives including your learning, the emotional impact of the course experience, and the impact of the new learning on plans for further growth.

A2A: Can create an original work of art, explore its relationship to artistic form, and reflect on the creative process.
You will write six story fragments in a series of exercises and so will gain some control of formal elements as part of the creative process. You will eventually compose one complete and original story, which will be reviewed by your peers and revised. Workshop discussions will explore the way form and content interact and the ways in which formal requirements affect the creative process. You will demonstrate competence in an exercise (Module 7) and in a Final Essay (Module 10),  Final Essay in which you to reflect on the course experience from several perspectives including your learning, the emotional impact of the course experience, and the impact of the new learning on plans for further growth.

A5: Can define and analyze a creative process.
You will write an original work of fiction and reflect on this process in a Competence Specific Essay (Module 7) that will include some research into the nature of the creative process. In addition to summarizing your research on the topic of “creativity,” this paper will reflect your experience in workshop sessions and in writing your own complete work of fiction. You will eventually write a Final Essay (Module 10) in which you reflect on the course experience from several perspectives including your learning, the emotional impact of the course experience, and the impact of the new learning on plans for further growth.

Most of the work will be done by everyone. For example, I expect everyone to do the exercises and to write a complete story. Students who take the class for A2A are aligned already with the core activities of the class – writing fiction.  Students who take the A1C competence should focus more than others on what they can learn from workshop participation since it will be in the role of peer reviewer that they will be called on to conduct the most exacting analytical work.  Students who take the course for A5 will do research into the topic of creativity and write about that in an essay which also reflect on their own experience in the course.

Course outcomes for Bachelor of Arts in Professional Studies

Students in one of Scps’s Bachelor of Arts in Professional Studies (BAPS) programs should complete the assignments for these two learning outcomes.

Course Resources

To buy your books, go to

Required Text:

Bernays, Anne and Pamela Painter. What If? 3rd ed. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 2009.

Recommended reading (not required):

Minot, Stephen. Three Genres. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Ruszkiewicz, et. al. SF Writer. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2002.
(or – other Handbook of English.)

Course Grading Scale

820 Possible Points

Grades will be based on the following percentages.

The Competence Specific  Exercises are graded separately from the other course work and are worth 100 points.  These points are not included in your average but used only to score this assignment.  This is the only assignment in the course that asks you to discuss and demonstrate competence directly and serves an important checkpoint.  Your grade on these exercises should parallel your grade for the rest of the work and validate your competence.  For example, if you have an overall average of 93% on the other work and the Competence Exercises get a grade of 95/100 (or 95%) then you would get an A for that competence.  However, if you have 93% on the coursework and get a 70/100 (70%) on the exercises, then you have not demonstrated competence at the same level and some judgment is going to have to be made about how to deal with the discrepancy.  For example, one recourse the instructor has is to split the difference and give you a B for the course.  Another would be to open a discussion with you to consider a revision of the exercises or provide some other demonstration of competence.

Course Structure

This course consists of ten modules. Each module contains a Discussion topic.  During these discussions, you will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with your virtual classmates about work in-progress. There is a Final Essay at the end of the course (Module #10). The criteria used to obtain a letter grade are described in the Course Grading Criteria section found below. You can check your grade at any time online or by e-mailing the instructor.

To see course due dates, click on the Checklist link on the top navigation bar.  This page contains module-specific checklists and due dates for the work due in the course.

Back to Top


Course Grading Criteria
Module 1 - Getting Started - 30 points total

Unit #1 – Assignment: using the Discussion Forum = 20 points

Unit #2 –Assignment: Using Google Docs = 10 points


Module 2 – Bringing Abstract Ideas to Life - Exercises One and Two - 130 points total (50 for each exercise and 15 for each discussion)

For each exercise:

Bringing Abstract Ideas to Life (due Tuesday)

Person, Place, & Song (due Thursday)


Module 3 – Character and Setting - Exercises Three and Four - 130 points total (50 for each exercise and 15 for each discussion)

For each exercise

Oh! That Sort of Person (due Tuesday)

Creating a Character's Background (due Thursday)

Module 4 – Situation and Plot - Exercises Five and Six - 130 points total (50 for each exercise and 15 for each discussion)

For each exercise

From Situation to Plot (due Tuesday)

Verbal Dance (due Thursday)

Module 5 – Short Story Beginnings - Begin A Major Work of Fiction (a short story of 2000 to 6000 words)

By week's end (Friday) submit some evidence of progress on your story to the instructor. This can be a detailed outline for the story, and abstract (statement summarizing the story, naming characters, and presenting major themes), or a collection of sample pages (parts of a first draft - along with an explanation of what is intended for the rest). (50 maximum points for acceptable evidence, submitted on time).

Module 6 - A Major Work of Fiction: Draft and comments – Full first draft of the Major Work is due on Friday

This draft should be a complete early version of the story, suitable for your peers to read and comment on. An appropriate length is 2000 to 6000 words. The spelling and grammar should be in good order (we are not proofreaders!). (50 maximum points for an acceptable draft that is submitted on time).

Module 7 – Competence Exercises - Prepare a demonstration of Competence (100 points for each competence you are taking.)

Select an exercise for each of the competences you are attempting. Do the reading and prepare a paper to submit for discussion. The exercises are found in full detail in the syllabus.

Module 8 - Peer Review

Review the stories of your classmates on Google Docs. Your comments to others over Module Seven and Eight are worth a maximum of 100 points.

8.1 Complete Google Docs Peer Review of Stories (link)

Review and comment on three of the stories posted in Google Docs. Use what we have learned in class about dialogue, ploy, character, and setting and use your own good sense of what "works" and what does not. 
The comments should be detailed enough to help guide that author as s/he makes final revisions.

Go to Google Docs and read the stories posted there. Give the authors comments that will help them revise. Be as specific as you can. You may highlight the document and embed comments in it or put comments in the margins. Do not delete text. The goal of your review is to help the author make decisions about how to revise the story so as to improve it. Look for stories with few comments to start so that everyone gets about the same amount of feedback. Leave detailed comments on at least three of the stories...

Module 9 – Final Story - Thoroughly revise your story based on the comments you have been given and your own thinking. The revision is due on Friday. Spelling and grammar should also be in good order. Hint: do a Google search on the phrase "revision process creative writing." (100 points for an acceptable revision turned in on time).

If you did a second competence exercise, revise it and turn it in this week.

Module 10 – The Final Reflective Essay – 100 points total

An Essay Reflecting on your learning in the course = 100 points

Exam Week - this time is available for students who need it to finish the writing assigned in Modules 9 and 10.  Please contact the instructor if you will be using this week and turning work in at the end of the exam period.

Grading Policies and Practices

To complete the course, you must complete each of the assignments as described and submit them to your instructor by the assigned deadline.  In addition, you must participate in the course discussion forums, respond to all instructor requests and interact with fellow classmates.

It’s vitally important that you keep up with assignments and play an active role in our workshop “discussions” of the writing generated by the class.  If your work is posted late after the group has moved on to the next post, it will not get much attention and you will have “done the assignment” but not learned much.  In this class the workshop process itself is a very important activity and I want to see everyone actively engaged.  If you are having problems keeping up, then please contact me as soon as possible so I know what’s going on and can be helpful.

General Assessment Criteria for All Writing Assignments

Unless you are doing something deliberately “experimental” I expect regular spelling and punctuation.  Other conventions for things, like the format for dialogue, should also be followed and will be taught in Exercise 4.2.  But this is creative writing and so conscious and deliberate experiments with these elements will be allowed. Sentence fragments?  Sure, no problem.  Lots of great writers use them.  Graphic elements?  Why not?  The only requirement here is that you have some coherent reason for messing about with the conventions.

Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email.

Obviously, the tutors won’t necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you’ll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit

Back to Top

Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Course Expectations" in the syllabus.

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students. Urgent matters and personal concerns should be sent to the instructor in an email.

Back to Top

Course Expectations

Time Management and Attendance

SNL's online courses are not self-paced and require a regular time commitment EACH week throughout the quarter.

You are required to log in to your course at least four times a week so that you can participate in the ongoing course discussions.

Online courses are no less time consuming than "face to face" courses. You will have to dedicate some time every day or at least every second day to your studies. A typical four credit hour "face to face" course at SNL involves three hours of classroom meeting per week, plus at least three to six hours of study and homework per week.

This course will require at least the same time commitment, but your learning activities will be spread out through the week. If you have any problems with your technology, or if you need to improve your reading or writing skills, it may take even longer.

The instructor should be notified if your life events do not allow you to participate in the course and the online discussions for more than one week. This is particularly important when there are group discussions or you are working as part of a team.

If you find yourself getting behind, please contact the instructor immediately.

Back to Top

Your Instructor's Role

Your instructor's role in this course is that of a discussion facilitator and learning advisor. It is not their responsibility to make sure you log in regularly and submit your assignments. As instructor, s/he will read all postings to the general discussion forums on a daily basis but may not choose to respond to each posting. You will receive feedback to assignments.

The instructor may choose to designate "office hours" when s/he will be online and available and will immediately respond to questions. Depending on the instructor, this response may be by e-mail, instant messenger or telephone. Otherwise, you will generally receive a response to emailed or posted queries within 48 hours.

Back to Top

Your Role as a Student

As an online student, you will be taking a proactive approach to your learning. As the course instructor's role is that of a learning guide, your role is that of the leader in your own learning.

You will be managing your own time so that you can complete the readings, activities and assignments for the course, and you will also be expected to take a more active role in peer learning.

Please also note that this is a course offered by DePaul University's School for New Learning (SNL), a college for undergraduate and graduate degree-seeking students 24 years and older. SNL welcomes the perspectives and encourages the participation of all DePaul students, and students who take this course should respect and be mindful of SNL's mission in supporting a diverse and inclusive environment. More information about SNL can be found here.

View this brief demo Taking SNL Online courses in D2L to learn how to navigate through your course.

If you’re new to SNL Online see additional resources on the course home page under Student Resources/Getting Started.

Back to Top

Course Netiquette

Online discussions are an important part of your course experience. To ensure a positive learning environment, please follow the following minimum expectations. Use your common sense, as not all situations can be covered:

Back to Top


Academic Integrity

DePaul University is a learning community that fosters the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas within a context that emphasizes a sense of responsibility for oneself, for others and for society at large. Violations of academic integrity, in any of their forms, are, therefore, detrimental to the values of DePaul, to the students' own development as responsible members of society, and to the pursuit of knowledge and the transmission of ideas.

Violations include but are not limited to the following categories: cheating; plagiarism; fabrication; falsification or sabotage of research data; destruction or misuse of the university's academic resources; alteration or falsification of academic records; and academic misconduct. Conduct that is punishable under the Academic Integrity Policy could result in additional disciplinary actions by other university officials and possible civil or criminal prosecution. Please refer to your Student Handbook for further details.

Back to Top


Plagiarism is a major form of academic dishonesty involving the presentation of the work of another as one's own. Plagiarism includes but is not limited to the following:

Plagiarism, like other forms of academic dishonesty, is always a serious matter. If an instructor finds that a student has plagiarized, the appropriate penalty is at the instructor's discretion.

Back to Top

DePaul University Incomplete Policy

The intent of the Incomplete grade is to allow students extra time to complete their final assignments. This need arises because, in the closing weeks of the course, they have an event of significant magnitude that adversely affects their ability to complete the course, e.g. serious illness, death in the family, overseas deployment, or natural disaster.

You must request an incomplete grade in writing two weeks before the end of the quarter. Incomplete grades will be considered only after you have satisfactorily completed at least 75 percent of the coursework, and you have such an unexpected, uncontrollable event that prevents you from completing your course. Do not assume that you will qualify for an incomplete. Students who are failing the course at the point where they request an incomplete will not receive one, nor will they be granted after the end of the quarter. Incomplete grades are given at the discretion of the instructor.

If you do receive permission from the instructor to take an incomplete in the course, you will be required to complete a contract with the instructor, specifying how you will finish the missing work within the next two quarters (excluding summer). See the Incomplete Grade Contract Form.

Undergraduate and graduate students will have up to two quarters to complete an incomplete. At the end of the second quarter (excluding summer) following the term in which the incomplete grade was assigned, remaining incompletes will automatically convert to "F" grades. Ordinarily no incomplete grade may be completed after the grace period has expired. Instructors may not change incomplete grades after the end of the grace period without the permission of a college-based Exceptions Committee. This policy applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional programs. NOTE: In the case of a student who has applied for graduation and who has been approved for an Incomplete in his or her final term, the incomplete must be resolved within the four-week grace period before final degree certification.

Back to Top

Description of Pass/Fail Grading Options

Students have the option of taking all SNL undergraduate courses as Pass/Fail even if a class is initially structured for a letter grade assessment. In these cases a Pass is awarded when competence is demonstrated at a level that would otherwise earn a grade of C- or higher.

In deciding to select Pass/Fail grading students should be aware that competencies assessed in a course as Pass will earn credit hours toward degree completion but will not be included in computing grade point averages. Attempted competence demonstration assessed within a class as Fail will not only be recorded as credit hours attempted but will also be included in computing a student's grade point average.

For SNL students, competencies awarded for Independent Learning Pursuits and in the Lifelong Learning Domain do not count toward the university's specification that only twenty credit hours may be earned through the Pass/Fail assessment option.

Please note:There are three SNL courses within the BA curriculum that are always assessed on a Pass/Fail basis: Foundations of Adult Learning (course number LL 250; competences L-2 and F-1), Advanced Project (course number FA 303; competences F-11 and F-12) and Summit Seminar (course number LL 390; competence L-12). These classes may not be taken for a letter grade assessment. Therefore, work that might otherwise be assessed at grades A through C- will earn a Pass in these classes.

There are an additional five SNL courses within the Lifelong Learning Area of the BA curriculum for which instructors regularly use a Pass/Fail grading system that may instead be taken for a letter grade assessment if this is a student's preference. These classes are: Independent Learning Seminar (course number LL 103; competence L1); Writing for Competence (course number LL 260; competence L-4), Critical Thinking (course number LL 270; competence L-5), Research Seminar (course number LL 300; competences L-8 and L-9), and Externship (course number LL 302; competences L-10 and L-11). In addition, SNL's undergraduate Writing Workshop (course number LL 140; competence H-3-J) regularly uses Pass/Fail, although students may request a letter grade assessment. In these instances SNL offers undergraduate students the opportunity to request a letter grade assessment from their instructor. Students who need a letter grade for tuition reimbursement may wish to consider this option, as well as those who wish to raise their GPA. Students planning to attend graduate school may also prefer letter grades to Pass/Fail assessments.

If a student wants to switch the method of assessment, either to or from the Pass/Fail option, this must be requested from the instructor in writing by the beginning of the third week of the quarter. For courses that meet fewer than ten weeks of the quarter, this request must be made by the beginning of the third week of the course. The grading basis may not be changed after these deadlines, with no exceptions.

Back to Top

For Students Who Need Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Students seeking disability-related accommodations are required to register with DePaul's Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) enabling you to access accommodations and support services to assist your success. There are two office locations:

Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD)
Loop Campus: Lewis Center 1420. (312) 362-8002
Lincoln Park Campus: Student Center 370. (773) 325-1677

Students are also invited to contact their instructor privately to discuss your challenges and how the instructor may assist in facilitating the accommodations you will use in this course. This is best done early in the term and the conversation will remain confidential.

Dean of Students Office

The Dean of Students Office (DOS) helps students in navigating the university, particularly during difficult situations, such as personal, financial, medical, and/or family crises. Absence Notifications to faculty, Late Withdrawals, and Community Resource Referrals, support students both in and outside of the classroom. Additionally we have resources and programs to support health and wellness, violence prevention, substance abuse and drug prevention, and LGBTQ student services. We are committed to your success as a DePaul student. Please feel free to contact us.

Back to Top

Protection of Human Subjects

For more information see:

Demonstrating the acquisition of competencies in this course can involve "interactions"—interviewing and or observing other people—discussing those interviews or observations with other class members and writing them up in one or more final report(s). As such, these activities qualify as "research" with "human subjects" and are subject to University and Federal guidelines. Because it takes place in the context of this course, your research is exempt from approval by the School for New Learning's Local Review Board only under the following conditions:

Back to Top

Copyright and Student Privacy

In accordance with DePaul’s Acceptable Use Policy, commentary and materials within SNL Online classes shall not be copied, reproduced or published elsewhere without the express written consent of individuals involved.

Back to Top


This course was designed and produced by Thomas H. Sullivan and staff at SCPS, School of Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University. It has been revised with the help of comments from the instructors who have taught it: Molly Dumbleton, Ezzat Goushegir, and Nina Kutty. My thanks to them all.

©2010 School of Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS during contractual interval with the Author.

Printed in the USA.

Back to Top

By week’s end (Friday) submit some evidence of progress on your story to the instructor.  This can be a detailed outline for the story, an abstract (statement summarizing the story, naming characters, and presenting major themes), or a collection of sample pages (parts of a first draft – along with an explanation of what is intended for the rest). (50 points for acceptable evidence, submitted on time).