The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
Sometimes I wonder, do you, what people who don't write do with their thoughts? And what they plan to leave behind them too.
'Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' Mary Oliver.
I started writing by putting down thoughts in poem form, and I think many writers start that way. We forget over time that here was the spark, and as our novels develop, it's good to be reminded of the ache of the thing, or the mischief of it; the pilot light. In this week's blog, our tutor Emylia Hall serves up some light for your darker days.
From the desk of Emylia Hall.
When I’m in the middle of a sprawling novel draft, I turn to poetry. You’ll find me with my head bent over my collections just like a beachcomber looks for treasure, hoping for a secret from the deep. Maybe it’s because there’s something particularly possessable about a poem: a few spare stanzas glint with the kind of truth that you can hold in the palm of your hand; a...
There are many choices to make when you begin writing a novel. Some you can choose from a starter menu - present or past tense, first person or third? - while others you will discover off-menu along the way, making what may feel at the time like a mistake. Personally, I’m fearful of going off-menu after learning, at the tender age of nine, that frogs taste like chicken, but with a lot more tiny bones.
Fiction is more forgiving. The brilliant thing about making mistakes in novel writing is you can fix many of them in a later draft. If you read your novel like a critical reader, rather than as the writer, and you’re willing to do the work, you can absolutely salvage and sharply improve the book.
Writing is rewriting.
But let’s talk about the menu because choosing wisely at the outset can save pain later. The first thing I like to do, when I have a plot and story in mind and ready to be written, is to audition the voice.
First, I pick my narrator....
From the Desk of Clare Pooley:
Let me share a secret with you: The Authenticity Project is not actually my first novel. Lurking in the very bottom of a bottom drawer, is a bound, annotated and rather dusty manuscript of another book called Can’t Get You Out of my Head.
That story did the rounds of most of the literary agencies in town, and out of town, and gathered a full gamut of form rejections. I read and reread all the usual platitudes; we receive thousands of submissions, the market is extremely competitive, we hope you find the right home for your novel. I even had a couple of requests for the full manuscript, leading to weeks of refreshing my email inbox in feverish anticipation, composing the victory speech for my book launch in my head, before receiving a whilst there was much to admire, we just didn’t love it enough. Looking back at it now, I see that my first book had a pretty good premise, some interesting characters and a rollicking plot. What it...
Blood Orange was my first published novel. It was not, however, my first completed manuscript. I started writing back in 2009, beginning with a short story about a man who deliberately killed the tree that he and his wife had planted in memory of their dead son. Its hold on her was too great, so he gouged at its roots and poured in salt. Thinking about it, it wasn’t a bad story, although I had no idea how to present it on the page. Despite years of reading, and a degree in English, I couldn’t work out how to present dialogue. And at barely two thousand words, it gave me no confidence that I could complete a longer narrative.
My next (and last) short story gave me a little more encouragement. I was very proud of the first line, ‘It was the twelfth of August, and the grouse were preparing to die.’ Sadly, no one else appreciated that genius, nor did the rest of the story live up to it in any way. But at five thousand words, it showed I could go on for...
August is the cruellest month for writers. As it draws to a close, we salute all of you who have made it through the month with your manuscript a few words longer.
August is that 'jolly' month with the pitter-patter of Fitflops about the house, the teens and their friends rattling around your writing desk, presuming upon your goodwill, enjoining you to take part and have 'a good time'. It's a curse on the cardigan-clad novelist misanthrope trying to write pleasant things about humankind by dint of the contrivance known as fiction.
Lunch with a glass of wine in the sunshine with your loved ones? Again? Really? Must we?
We know you’d rather be writing. But how about writing when you’re not writing? Here’s how to get away with it and not be caught. (Followed by some September advice for getting back to work in earnest, Hemingway.)
Perhaps one of the defining characteristics of writers is that we like our own company; we value the quiet...
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