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When you take my Fundamentals of Fiction writing course, you can expect individual feedback on your assignments and answers to your questions with every lesson. Click here to see examples of the types of lesson feedback you can expect.

Taking your course has been so good for me — teaching me new skills and providing me with great feedback.

– Mel-Lynda Andersen, writer

I really enjoyed your class, and I learned A LOT. This was my first writing class in 20 years. The online format worked really well for me, since I work full time and have two small kids. I will highly recommend your class to others. Thanks — you will be the first editor I call to help on the final polishing (when I finish my book, of course).

– Erin Misgen, writer

I was a student of Marg Gilks' "Fundamentals of Fiction" class. Ms. Gilks was an outstanding teacher. She provided easy-to-understand lessons that were educational and entertaining...Ms. Gilks eliminated the endless guesswork that every writer must go through when they receive a rejection letter. Her lessons gave insight to what editors look for...I feel confident that by following Ms. Gilks' advice, I can remove my manuscript from the "amateur" category.

– Merry Muhsman, author of Peddler's Trials

Muhsman cover

I am so glad I enrolled in your class. It has made such a difference in how I think. On the one hand I'm excited and ready to rip ahead. On the other hand, I'm often apalled by what I don't know.

– Peter Jones, writer

I would like to thank you for an excellent course. I had no idea how little I knew about writing. I learned an enormous amount.

– Jim Jasper, writer

Thanks again — I really loved your class, and I learned a great deal.

– Kimberly Stempel, writer

I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed your "Fundamentals of Fiction" course. I really feel that I've learned a lot. Receiving feedback for my work has been great.

– Amber Herrel, writer

For the first time in my life I enjoy writing. Thank you.

– Jay Lockie

Writing course

An in-depth, 8-week e-mail correspondence course on writing fiction that includes one-on-one feedback from a professional editor and published writer — only $250 CAD.

Payable by PayPal or by check.
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On this page:

Course description; Course outline; About the instructor;
Refund policy


You've written a novel or short story that just doesn't seem quite right, but you don't know how to fix it — or even what needs fixing. Or perhaps the piece has been rejected several times, and you'd like to figure out why. Haven't written it yet, but you'd like to make your story the best it can be, and avoid common pitfalls along the way? If you nodded "yes" to any of the above, then this course is for you.

Each lesson covers a fundamental element of fiction writing — showing instead of telling, characterization, point of view...all the way through to putting the final polish on your manuscript. Learn what each element is, what part it plays in a story, how to utilize it successfully and why, and how to recognize problems and fix them. By the time you've finished this course, you'll have a manuscript ready for submission — or you'll know how to create one.

Originally offered through in June 2002 and again in March 2003, Fundamentals of Fiction accommodates both types of students — those who prefer the more formal "classroom" atmosphere of hand-in assignments and those who prefer to work on their own. Weekly hand-in assignments are designed to lead participants through to completion of a short short story, while students who prefer not to hand in assignments can do the self-directed exercises included in each lesson and ask me questions instead (ideal for those who already have a novel or short story in progress).

This course is conducted entirely via e-mail. No class meetings or chats are required; you participate on your own time — reading lectures, doing the exercises and assignments, and asking questions when convenient. I ask only that you submit assignments or questions within the week of that section of the class.

I normally mail lessons every Monday morning, unless I'm notified to "pause" them, or you choose another day on which you'd prefer to receive lessons.

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What is a story?
How should I tell my story?
Scenes — the stepping stones of a story
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

Lesson 2: PLOT & PREMISE
Premise: what the story is about
Plot: problems move the story along
Common problems and solutions:
In the beginning
Help the reader understand
Ending things
Exercises and assignment

Characters and story
Creating realistic characters
Developing characters
Introducing characters in context
Main characters, minor characters, and bit players
Creating characters that aren't human
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

What is point of view?
Different viewpoints
What is narration?
Three narrative forms
Controlling point of view
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

Why the opening is so important
Your opening hook
Holding reader attention
When to introduce the story problem
What to include in the introduction
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

You have to know it all, but the reader doesn't
Teasing the reader
Let readers form their own opinions
Show, don't tell
Sneaking in information
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

Lesson 7: DIALOGUE
Purpose of dialogue
Silent dialogue
Speech patterns, dialect, jargon
Dialogue tags
Common problems and solutions
Exercises, assignment, and further reading

Avoiding over-writing
Mechanics and why they matter
Self-editing your manuscript
Formatting your manuscript for submission
Exercises and final project: 1,000 word short short story
Recommended references and resources

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Marg Gilks is a freelance editor who specializes in fiction. For over ten years she has worked one-on-one with authors to prepare their manuscripts for publication, and has edited and/or evaluated over forty novels and nonfiction books, as well as countless short stories, cover letters, and synopses. A writer herself, she's written two novels and has a list of writing credits for poetry, articles, and short stories that spans twenty years and includes publications as diverse as Seventeen Magazine, Cats Magazine, Home Business Journal, Inkspot,, The Writer, Tales of the Unanticipated, Eternity Online, and Orpheus Romance.


If you find that you are not able to take the course, the drop policy is as follows:

  1. If you wish to drop the course before it begins, notify me immediately and you will be reimbursed the course fee less handling fees.

  2. If you wish to drop the course after you receive the first lesson, you must notify me within 48 hours of receiving the lesson. You'll receive a 75% refund.

  3. If, after the second lecture, circumstances make it impossible for you to complete the course, notify me within 48 hours and you'll receive a 50% refund. Any cancellations after that are not refundable.

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