From the Desk of Emylia Hall.
We were lucky to have a live session with suspense writer Kate Hamer at The Novelry recently. Kate spoke about the importance of creating a potent atmosphere, particularly in the opening chapters where we’re really focusing on drawing the reader in. She told us that a childhood favourite of hers was Treasure Island, and how she remembered the arrival of Blind Pew being so affecting.
‘So things passed until, the day after the funeral, and about three o'clock of a bitter, foggy, frosty afternoon, I was standing at the door for a moment, full of sad thoughts about my father, when I saw someone drawing slowly near along the road. He was plainly blind, for he tapped before him with a stick and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea-cloak with a hood that made him appear positively deformed.’
When Jim Hawkins goes on to recall ‘I never saw in...
Two of our writers describe their recent adventures in fiction with The Novelry. With thanks to Justine Gilbert and Sir Dexter Hutt.
From the Desk of Justine Gilbert.
The art of reversing everything you were taught in school about writing.
I was a teacher for 25 years. For the majority of my career, I was 'Head of English'. I knew my job, and the children in my care did well in exams. I taught KS2 English, GCSE English and I tutored A level English. I was also a dyslexia specialist. If you brought me a child that was underperforming, I could diagnose what was needed to help them improve.
I wrote short stories, poems, and children’s plays, some of which were performed. I read avidly - particularly children’s fiction and I advised pupils on suitable books to read. My writing lessons followed the National Curriculum. I taught many genres of writing: letters, journalism, speech writing, essay writing. My story writing...
It is a fine thing, growing older, as a writer. One has experience to draw upon, of people and all their animal behaviour, but also where to draw the line. Where to end the sentence. Enough said. Maybe we speak to each other in shorthand as we get older. There is the unspoken ellipsis that follows a word or a phrase, which draws on a hinterland of colourful experience. The Marquee Tent.... And so many moments come to mind for both the user of the word and the recipient. One develops a reticence to say more. Or maybe much.
Writers develop over time. No bad thing maybe that you weren't published at nineteen. I was struck this week by the changes in the work of the author Norman Mailer (1923-2007). Over time, he wrote leaner and cleaner. (I see a similar thing in Orwell's work, the same with Graham Greene. Happy the young writer who cracks it early.)
In Normal Mailer's novel, Barbary Shore (1951) one is struck by the coddy language. It's so over-written...
As I entered into the fourth draft of my current novel, set in Brooklyn where I lived happily for a few years at the turn of the century, I turned back to console myself that the redrafting process was ever the same, even in the glory days and checked my process for my first novel.
I decided to look at first draft vs. final draft to see 'what gives', and to examine some other authors' first and last drafts too.
It was 19 years ago this month, July, that I set about writing my 'proper' first novel. I had two in the drawer and I meant business. I was heavily pregnant (due November) and had two boys under 5 at home in Brooklyn. I had a premise which started out as pretty hokey in February 2001 but by July I'd been turning it around in my mind for a few months.
This was what I set down in July when I began:
The working title for what was to become 'Becoming Strangers' was 'The Last Resort'. I must have felt at some point...
Emylia Hall, a bestselling author of four novels and a Richard and Judy Book Club favourite is joining The Novelry as a tutor. She's a wonderful teacher, a mother, a fellow of The Royal Literary Fund, and she's currently at work on a murder mystery. Read more about Emylia here. Our writers are invited to come and meet Emylia via Zoom on Thursday at 6pm BST.
From the Desk of Emylia Hall.
When I was 27 I left my job in a London advertising agency and went to work in the French Alps as a chalet chef. At the time I called it a career break, but it turned out to be the start of something much more. I’d wanted to shake off some responsibility and go snowboarding, but I also had the ambition to try to write a book. I had a few abandoned paragraphs on a floppy disk (this was 2005) but I’d got no further with it. Perhaps if I’d found the right inspiration or intervention, I might very well have applied myself to writing in London but, as it...
The bestselling author of The Girl in the Red Coat, Kate Hamer, is joining The Novelry for a Suspense Writing live Q&A session on Monday 27th July at 6 pm BST.
Our sessions with guest authors are proving gripping viewing, and this class should give yet more power to your writing elbow.
In this week's blog, Kate explores the story starter of 'fairy tales' which is where the magic of our Classic course begins, the course designed to help writers find the story they're meant to write, or possibly afraid to write...
From The Desk of Kate Hamer
Perhaps it’s these strange lockdown times.
As ever I aim to get to my desk by 9.30 am – the time I used to start work in my job. Sometimes, I admit I’m late, the irony being I’m probably a whole lot harder on myself about that than any boss I’ve ever had would’ve been. So maybe the time of starting and finishing is sometimes a little *cough* flexible, but somehow there is never a question mark...
Finding an Agent.
From the desk of Katie Khan.
Many of you may be putting the final tweaks on the third or fourth draft of your novel (or later!) and considering the right time to query an agent. There are a few things to bear in mind when doing so, and in the Big Edit course at The Novelry we demystify the submission package: the query letter, the synopsis, and your opening chapters.
Most agents find writers through their slush pile. It’s a terrible name given to something so vital to the publishing business – the ‘pile’ (nowadays likely an email inbox) of unsolicited manuscripts sent in by hopeful writers. There is no shame in your novel sitting in slush; there is a long, pervasive misbelief that publishing works on ‘who you know’. It’s simply not true.
In 2015, I sent my unsolicited novel to eight agents I had never met. Each of them replied to me. Six offered to represent me. I didn’t know anyone! The only thing I knew was my own...
His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and his debut novel, Sleepyhead was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. His latest novel is Their Little Secret. A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a series based on In The Dark and Time Of Death was broadcast on the BBC in 2017. Mark lives in London with his wife and two children. When he is not living out rock-star fantasies as a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, he is hard at what he claims is 'laughably' called work; writing his next novel.
Enjoy his tip-offs, my dark-hearted writers.
TEN TIPS FOR WRITING CRIME FICTION
(SOME MORE SERIOUS THAN OTHERS.)
'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.' Somerset Maugham.
It's the same for story. Numerous books have been writing on the matter, none have proven definitive. Our philosophy at The Novelry is simple—tools, not rules. We don’t believe in a format, template or boilerplate novel, or grand definitive maxims.
A novel can offer one of the most intimate experiences of your life. Something like a beach blanket conversation with a dear friend. It can also be more like a movie in your head, like a funfair ride. Sure, you know this ride was designed for maximum impact, but you’re enjoying the thrills and spills. It is quite possible to enjoy novels of either kind and everything in between. There is no novel rule book. And if there were most writers are so wonderfully wilful they’d throw it out the window.
We believe in you, the writer, and your novel. We are here to breathe life...
There was something in the air at The Novelry last week, the 'sense of an ending' one might say, the changing of seasons, and we saw many of our writers slamming down the first draft of their novels in fine style. Congratulations to all of you.
You know the drill! At the end of the Ninety Day Novel course, we prepare you to raise your sights for second draft with a month off, reading good works, ready to return to your novel as a reader rather than a fond and indulgent parent. The Big Edit course is a big step up, as we set sights on publication. From creator, you become a professional author, driving the story hard, and get help with the heavy lifting from your tutor.
The month off between drafts allows for some gluttonous reading enabling the writer emerging from hibernation with their novel to blink at some bright new writing, catching up with what's hot and what's stood the test of time. I've been greedily reading through lockdown poring through Bukowski, Camus,...