My writing life is a bit crazy at the moment. The reason? I’m on week seven of a sixteen-week intensive course on Contemporary Dark Fiction. It is an online course taught by Richard Thomas through Storyville Studio. And, boy, it is a lot of work. Most of last year I made monthly payments as my personal anxiety about the course grew and grew. I’ve been looking for a way to push my writing to the next level and become more productive as a writer. This class is doing that for me.

What We Do

Each week we have an article to read, a smallish writing assignment, and a short story to read. Each month we read a full novel and must produce a complete short story, as well as comment on short stories written by the other seven classmates. We have a weekly video conference where we discuss the article, short story reading, and the assigned portion of that month’s novel for the week. Sometimes the short story author is on the call to take questions.


Bird Box with lots of post it flags

All this work is pushing me as a writer. I’ve never had a college course on literature. I’ve never learned how to pick literature apart and learn new things to apply to my own writing. These first weeks have been a real eye-opener. And the discussions are wonderful. I love hearing what everyone else has gleaned from the reading. Here’s my copy of Bird Box all marked up and flagged.

I don’t know how I do it every week. Each time the assignment is more difficult than the last. But I always come up with something on the day before the class discussion, and, each time, it has been an idea worth saving. I’ve come up with more story inspiration in the past 6 weeks than I’d come up with in all of 2019!

It is also wonderful work-shopping fiction with other writers who work in a similar genre. Where I live, most of the writers are literary with a smattering of science fiction and fantasy. I’ve not met too many Dark Fiction or Horror writers in the area.

And, once I complete the course, I’ll have four brand new short stories to work with. I’ve already completed the first, and the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been amazing and will help to produce a much better draft later.


This class is valuable to any writer who wants to work in the darker genres. (Also, so you know, if you mention me when you sign up for any of Richard’s classes I get a bit of a benefit, like discounts on his other courses. But I wouldn’t pitch any of this to you if I didn’t believe it was worth it.)

If you’ve been writing for a bit, and have general experience with writing short stories, it’s okay to start with this course:

But if you are still getting your feet wet, I recommend trying out his LitReactor course on Short Story Mechanics first: I say this for two reasons: 1. Short Story Mechanics focuses on teaching the basics on producing a functional short story, and 2. Short Story Mechanics is a lot cheaper and is only two weeks long, a wonderful way to dip your toes, before jumping in.

All that said, I’m having a blast. It is a ton of work, but I am being creatively pushed further than I ever have been.

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