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How To Write A Novel

 You will find many articles here to help you on your writing journey. Use the search bar or browse through the categories to get a taste of the kind of insights and shortcuts deployed to fast track our writers. 

Top 10 Writers Apps: Tooled Up for 2019

Dec 09, 2018
 

Put these writing tools on your Christmas list and get ready to make a clean start in the New Year.

Writing Apps

#1 Scrivener.

It had to be you. We have tried them all. Ulysses, Novelr, and more and we are unanimous that if you're tackling a big project, the organizational engine of Scrivener will ensure everything goes off to plan.  Who uses Scrivener? Authors, journalists, copywriters, lawyers, novelists, screenwriters, students, translators... If you're tackling a major document, go for it. Scrivener for iOS won both Productivity App of the Year and the over all UK App of the Year at the UK App Awards 2017.  Scrivener 3.1.1 has just launched (November 2018) and the list up updates and additions is very long and comprehensive. In truth, Scrivener works best for Mac. The Windows version is less virtuous but still worth getting.

Our members can enjoy a 20% discount on Scrivener at our Members' Library. (One of the many discounts available...

Read on...

The Midpoint of a Novel.

Dec 02, 2018
 

If you're about to write a novel, start with the midpoint. That's the place to begin to build your world around.

The midpoint is the point of no return in the story, where the character undergoes a crisis, enlightenment cracks the shutters. The main character begins to wake up to the the qualities necessary to reverse the misfortune or pursue the action of the book through to a resolution she or he can live with and accept. 

This is the point in the story at which the main character is most challenged and at their lowest. It speaks volumes about your true intentions for the book.

You may not be clear about these at first draft - I am usually a little in the dark - but locating the belly button will help you sort out 'what the hell is this book really about.' The idea is developed in John Yorke's book Into The Woods as a convention axiomatic to the development of screenplays.

'The midpoint in our change paradigm corresponds to the moment of Vogler's 'supreme ordeal'... the...

Read on...

The End.

Nov 25, 2018
 

Hurry, little ones...

As the end of the year approaches our writers are making haste to down tools on Christmas Day. We will be running a word count in December keeping track of our progress.

I have made a list and been checking it twice. The scores on the doors on Monday were taken for 31 writers who are aiming to finish up a first draft by Christmas. Members can view the tally here.

The plan for our writers is as follows:

  1. Finish first draft by Christmas 
  2. Let that novel lie a month
  3. Edit that novel in a month from the last week of January
  4. Using the Editing Your Novel course prepare a submissions package  of first three chapters and synopsis
  5. Enter the first chapter into our annual Firestarter Competition closing date March 1st

The winners are voted by our members with each member getting one vote. 

The entries with most votes and merit will be presented, with the agreement of their authors, to our literary agency friends providing the author has a...

Read on...

Tim Lott Joins The Novelry.

Nov 18, 2018

The Novelry is delighted to announce that Tim Lott is joining us as a member and guest tutor in 2019. 

Tim's first novel, White City Blue (1999), a vivid and comic contemporary portrait of a group of young male friends, won the Whitbread First Novel Award. He has written 9 novels (listed below) in commercial, literary and Young Adult genres.

The Novelry's Classic Course generates YA fiction ideas and story planning, so I have been seeking an accomplished YA tutor/mentor to introduce to The Novelry as a member and tutor to advance the careers of my YA writers.  But the prowess of Mr Lott as a writer's writer, a plot guru, described by John Yorke as 'one of the few novelists who truly understands the demands of story structure' will be a boon to The Novelry's stable of published and aspiring novelists.

As a person, Tim is droll; a dry wit, warm and encouraging. He's given me some pithy advice in the past. I'd not hesitate to seek his opinion on my work - and...

Read on...

Tales from A Writers' Retreat.

Nov 11, 2018

The writers gathered, windswept and willing, in the vale of Marshwood on Tuesday afternoon last week.

We'd come past Stonehenge, down through valleys with breathtaking views, hilltops with clusters of Autumn-clad trees.

We were met with a warm welcome from the hostess, the Lady of Marshwood Manor, Romla Ryan. She showed us to the luxurious cottages with standalone baths, plushly-laundered beds and kitchens stocked with fresh milk, ground coffee and cafetieres. What more could a weary writer need?

I sat down on the sofa in my recessed sitting room, and looked out at an ancient oak tree from my cottage across the fields and thought - wow, this is quiet. Not a sound. No road noise.

'People say - we came the wrong way,' said Romla, 'but I say - no, there's only one road. It's just rural.'

As dark fell, writers gathered for tea and homemade cake and began telling each other the story of their novels. They discussed their plans for the sacred week. A chance to regroup,...

Read on...

Get Inside Your Novel.

Nov 03, 2018
 

I have made a discovery in the last few weeks. 

Creativity can be unleashed by structure. I remember from my days of advertising how awful the creative work was if the brief wasn't tight. I've broken stride in writing my new novel to perform a stringent edit on it, and I think there's something to be said for this method.

So, if you are on first draft, and feeling concerned about it, then this hybrid method which combines writing forwards and editorial 'retrospective' planning might work for you. 

It might help you, as it has me, to stop loafing around on the outside of your novel, and get inside it.

For my method you will need:

- about 10k minimum words of material; love it or hate it, it's not important.

- title, hook, and synopsis for your book revised in the last few days. Phase Two of the Editing Your Novel course has you work through the beautiful logic of these to nail them. I'm going to assume you have followed the course and created a...

Read on...

Creative Writing Courses. Would You, Should You, Could You?

Oct 28, 2018
 

Creative Writing - Can You Learn It?

Hanif Kureishi famously dismissed the teaching of creative writing, saying that writing a story is:

'a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don't think you can.'

(According to Philip Hensher, Kureishi teaches creative writing at Kingston University, 'ineffectually')

We all learn to write. If you're serious about something, generally you will want to learn how to do it well. I wonder why some writersfeel they need to look down on aspiring writers once they have been published and claim writing is some 'mystical gift'. It's not; it's a skilled craft. It's one you need to keep learning; you never reach a golden plateau.

Serious writers have always sought and will always seek teachers long before their work gets to an editor's desk.

In defence of teaching creative writing, Kurt Vonnegut said:

‘A tough guy, I forget which one, is asked to speak to a creative writing class....

Read on...

How To Get The Idea For Your Book.

Oct 21, 2018

The idea for your novel doesn't often come to you whole and complete. If you're writing historical fiction then it may do, as mine did for This Human Season which is set in Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1981. That came to me on the platform of Clapham North tube station in 2003. I watched a few trains come and go as it dawned on me. But my other three novels came to life in stages.

Usually, the final novel is the result of an idea that has grown and acquired more substance like the proverbial rolling stone.

It seems to me though that there are elements to the idea which remain in place through the multiple drafts you will write. The details shift and change as you feel for what's most moving, most provoking, most important. A novel is a long struggle and it's good, necessary even, to get a first draft down in a season as we do in The Ninety Day Novel course. But you will return to it at second draft and amend it as new realities and truths...

Read on...

There Are No Rules

Oct 14, 2018
 

 There are no rules, only tools.

'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.'

Somerset Maugham.

You will find tools at The Novelry. Use them, try them, pick them up, put them down. Do not consider them rules. I can't abide rules, and I guess you can't or you probably wouldn't be writing.

There is no formula. Did you know that some writers' books can stay unborn, in their amniotic sac of rules and regulations, attached to the umbilical spreadsheet for years? It's an awful condition and one we can't abide at The Novelry where we get novels done.

'I don’t think there are any universal rules. I really don’t. We each make our own rules, and we stick to our rules and we abide by them, but you know rules are made to be broken. … [If] any rule you hear from one writer doesn’t work for you, disregard it completely. Break it. Do what you want to do. I have my own rules that I follow, but...

Read on...

Nine Signs Of Breakthrough

Oct 07, 2018
 

From my privileged position as 'Miss', I see breakthroughs weekly in my writers' work and I thought I'd share some of the signs with you of a step-change in the quality of the work, from good to bloody brilliant. (Next stop publication!)

1. Hard work made harder. A writer has a work emergency or an illness and decides to work harder. Bingo, breakthrough. No hard work ever goes unrewarded when it comes to the craft of writing. A writer goes to extraordinary lengths, gets tired, loses patience with herself and cuts to the chase in her prose, and lo and behold we have writing worth reading, and then some. Sometimes you have to slog it. That first chapter, though! I don't exaggerate when I say to you I rewrite mine 1000 times. It can seem bloody-minded at times. Moving words in and out. You worry it will lose its liveliness. It doesn't. You cut the pretty bits. Someone's foot moves in a reflexive action off-camera, and you're on it. Your eyes are all over the scene suddenly. Write on,...

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