The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
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,...
I’ve been a reader longer than a writer, and I think that’s true for most people who pick up a pen to write a story. More and more I’ve been thinking about my Year 5 teacher, Mrs Murphy, who read to us each day at 3pm on the carpet in the corner of our classroom, a veritable cavalcade of fantasy fiction: Alan Garner. Redwall. The Dark is Rising sequence. I can likely trace my love of other worlds back to sitting cross-legged on an itchy carpet in north London, where the end-of-day bell would ring and thirty children would groan in disappointment. ‘But what happens next?’ It’s the question that’s come to haunt my adult life.
I’ve published two novels with Penguin Random House. My first, Hold Back the Stars, is about a couple falling in space with only 90 minutes of air remaining, intercut with their love story on a utopian Earth. I learnt by doing with this novel – particularly when it comes to the publishing industry. I...
The first chapter of a novel needs to do some heavy lifting to start the story. Once you realize that what needs to be done follows a fairly clear format, it makes light work of the task.
- to put your reader into the world (location/setting/era)
- to pose a question the reader wants to get an answer for (create mystery or intrigue)
- to introduce the main character
- to set the mood
- to kickstart the plot development
But what's essential for a story to start in the space between you and the reader?
In the video with this blog, you'll find a clip from a lesson with Justin Cronin in which he describes the basic layout as:
- where and when are we?
- who are the major players?
- what's the point of view?
- What's the story's larger moral and cultural setting?
"There's nothing wrong with just flat out declaring this information at the start of a narrative. I...
'Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction.' William Zinsser.
'Gritty professional memoirs are the hot publishing trend.' Financial Times, November 2019.
'I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everybody likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.' David Mamet.
How to begin writing a memoir? What to include? What to leave out?
Typically, an author, whether they're trained as a fiction writer or non-fiction will start with a theme which might be summed up as a powerful relationship important to their lives.
For Haruki Murakami, in his memoir 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' this was the almost spiritual proximity...
Louise Doughty describes the strange lure of station platforms that inspired her to write the wonderful suspense thriller, her latest book, Platform Seven, published by Faber & Faber.
Louise Doughty writes...
I had a strange yearning the other day, an overwhelming desire to do something wild and reckless, to leave my house and travel to somewhere that seemed unbelievably enticing and exotic. I really, really wanted to go to Peterborough Railway Station.
I could picture myself doing it. It’s possible to walk to Kings Cross Station from where I live. I went down there on one of my daily exercise outings a week or so ago – standing for a moment on the vast, airy concourse, shops and cafes all shuttered and closed, listening to the announcements to nobody echoing across the empty space. The fifteen thirty LNER service to Leeds will depart from Platform One. This train will be calling at… if I had wanted to, I...
Get on the list!
Get the Sunday paper for writers to your inbox.