Writing Literary Non-fiction - Online writing courses | Arts and Science ONLINE

Writing Literary Non-fiction

WRIT 290/3.0

A study of the essay as a literary form, including analysis of readings as well as a series of writing assignments. Complementing the assignments is a mandatory Grammar and Style component.

Book of literary works from previous students

THE SCENE and the Unseen is the second annual anthology of literary non-fiction by the students of WRIT 290.

Students’ culminating assignment in WRIT 290 is to compose an original work of literary non-fiction on a subject of their choice. Students are first asked to write a short proposal and to sketch out a provisional outline. Then, they are asked to transform their outline into a working rough draft. The final stage of the project asks students to revise their rough draft into a polished, publication-ready final copy. At every step of the writing process, students receive advice and feedback from their instructor and teaching assistants. Students’ final drafts are then published here with minimal further editing. The works of literary non-fiction in this collection thus represent the product of several months’ work by a group of dedicated and assiduous students of writing.

Click here for the online version of this publication.

Learning Outcomes

In WRIT 290, students will

  • learn about creative non-fiction as a literary genre (stylistic and mechanical aspects);
  • read works by recent writers working in a variety of fields (travel writing, biography, the personal essay, etc.);
  • experiment with creative non-fiction as a mode of writing.

Through these experiences, students will

  • enhance their critical reading skills through readings and discussion of course texts;
  • develop their writing skills by creating strong, organized, and original works of creative non-fiction to a publishable standard, and by participating in dialogue with markers, instructors, and other students on course
  • readings and their own work through feedback and online discussions;
  • learn to critique and edit their own work as well as that of others; and
  • see their final work published in an e-book anthology at the end of the course.


The course is divided into 12 units, each of which examines a different aspect of writing creative non-fiction:

  • Unit 1: What Is Creative Non-Fiction?
  • Unit 2: The Truthfulness of Creative Non-Fiction
  • Unit 3: Ten Writing Recommendations
  • Unit 4: Types of Creative Non-Fiction
  • Unit 5: Research and Immersion
  • Unit 6: Narrative and Narrators
  • Unit 7: Reading and Readers
  • Unit 8: Scenes
  • Unit 9: Information
  • Unit 10: Recreation and Reconstruction
  • Unit 11: Hook, Frame, and Focus
  • Unit 12: Revising Creative Non-Fiction


Literary non-fiction is a broad term describing a range of writing genres, all of which have two simple things in common: they are written in prose (as opposed to poetry) and they deal with non-fictional subject matter (as opposed to novels or short stories). In a sense, literary non-fiction is the documentary film of the literary world, as with documentaries, literary non-fiction essays and books represent a vast range of styles and subject matter. WRIT 290 offers students an opportunity to study and write works of literary non-fiction. Through readings, exercises, forum discussions, and writing assignments, students will develop a greater sense of how literary non-fiction can work as a creative form of writing. The course will culminate in the publication of an e-book containing students' final literary non-fiction writing assignments, which will be distributed to students via Dr. May's class website.


Winter 2020
Course Dates: 
Jan 6 - Apr 3, 2020
Exam Dates: 


15% - Formal Writing Assignment 1: Brainstorming Creative Non-Fiction
15% - Formal Writing Assignment 2: Research and Immersion in Creative Non-Fiction
15% - Formal Writing Assignment 3: Creative Non-Fiction Rough Draft
20% - Formal Writing Assignment 4: Creative Non-Fiction Final Version
35% - Writing Flash Drills

*Evaluation Subject to Change*


Professor Robert May (mayr@queensu.ca)

Time Commitment

To complete the readings, assignments, and course activities, students can expect to spend, on average, about 10 hours a week (120 hours total) on the course.

Course Resources


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Queen’s courses are weighted in credit units. A typical one-term course is worth 3.0 units, and a typical two-term course is worth 6.0 units. You combine these units to create your degree. A general (three-year) BA or BSc requires a total of 90 credit units.

Computer Requirements

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System Requirements:

Computer Specifications

  • Windows 8.1 or newer
  • OSX 10.13 (High Sierra) or newer
  • Dual Core 2 GHz processor
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Soundcard
  • USB Headset
  • Webcam

Supported Browsers

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  • Firefox (latest version)
  • Safari is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ
  • Edge is not recommended as it causes several known issues in onQ

Internet Connection

  • Wired high speed access: Cable or better
  • Wifi is not recommended


  • Latest version

Media Player

  • Flash (latest version)

Adobe Reader

  • Latest Version


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