The Novelry Blog

Where the writers are.

Veronica Henry on Trusting the Process. Apr 11, 2021

Veronica Henry is the bestselling author of romance novels and a journalist whose first novel was published in 2002. Her novel 'A Night on the Orient Express' won The Romantic Novel of the Year Award in 2014. Her new novel 'A Wedding at the Beach Hut' is published in May 2021. Members of The Novelry can look forward to an uplifting Live Session with Veronica on 10th May and hear more about what she's learned about the process after writing 22 novels! (Writers of The Novelry – look out for her 'hero book' in this piece - psst, by the primroses...)


From the Desk of Veronica Henry. 

Just before Easter I pressed send on my 22nd novel. That’s roughly 2 million words I have sent out into the world over the past twenty years. I guess I must have learned something about novel writing in that time, yet I feel as if I know nothing. Because here’s the thing – it doesn’t get any easier. (Sorry!) And nor should it. It’s not supposed to be easy.

...

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Sarah Winman on Still Life. Apr 04, 2021

Sarah Winman is the bestselling, prize-winning author of When God Was a Rabbit,  A Year of Marvellous Ways and Tin Man. Her new novel Still Life is published in June 2021. Still Life is a beautiful, big-hearted, richly tapestried story of people brought together by love, war, art, flood... and the ghost of E.M. Forster.

Sarah will be our guest for a live session for members Monday 6pm BST, 26th April. Come and meet her then!


From the Desk of Sarah Winman.

I’ve just finished my book Still Life.

The editing, the copy- edit, the three rounds of proofreading, and the recording of the audiobook. All done now. It’s out of my hands.

And for the first time I can feel the letting go; that weave of mixed emotion that shifts into the void. What I’m mostly left with, however, is the marvellous adventure of it all. One that started in 2015, when I was having a late lunch in a Florentine restaurant.

I was alone, left amongst the detritus of other...

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Erin Kelly on the Connection Between Music and Writing. Mar 28, 2021

Erin Kelly is the author of eight novels, the bestselling author of psychological thrillers. Her sixth novel He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the Sunday Times top 10 bestseller list, and was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick (as was her first novel and her seventh novel!) Her latest novel - Watch Her Fall - will be published April 2021.

Erin is our guest author for a Live Session with our writers at The Novelry on 12th April.


From the Desk of Erin Kelly.

I have always loved my headphones. From the moment I got my first off-brand ‘Walkman’ as a little girl, everything I’ve done, everywhere I’ve been, every stage of my life from schoolgirl to student to young woman, from cassette player with foam headphones to Discman to iPod to smartphone has had a soundtrack only I know about.

Memories are tied to albums: George Michael in Rome on a school trip, Nick Cave in Portugal (irony!), Joanna Newsom on the train to Brighton on the...

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High-Concept Fiction Mar 21, 2021

From the Desk of our Tutor Katie Khan.

The publishing industry – and Hollywood (especially Hollywood) – has come to idolize high-concept fiction in recent years. A high concept can be summed up in one line, with a clearly communicable premise. This makes it very commercial because a strong hook, ‘elevator pitch', or a one-line premise is invaluable for an agent pitching your novel to a publisher. It’s also invaluable for your publisher’s sales team to pitch your novel to retailers. And it’s invaluable for the press to describe your novel to readers… And for readers to recommend your book to other readers… Have you seen the film about a shark terrorising a small town? Have you read the love story where we meet a couple on the same day each year? What about the book and film where a billionaire brings dinosaurs back from extinction to create an amusement park?

High-concept fiction is all about premise. If you’re writing high...

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Val McDermid On Writing. Mar 14, 2021

From the Desk of Val McDermid.

One of the reasons for the popularity of crime fiction is its faithfulness to the idea of narrative. Crime novels provide their readers with stories that engage with their hearts and minds, but most of all, stories that make sense.

I’m often asked where my ideas come from, and my answer is that stories are everywhere. Once you train your antennae to hear them and see them, you can’t avoid them. But a story is only the beginning of the process of producing a novel.

What’s just as important as story is structure – how we tell that story. The stories that satisfy us have a beginning, a middle and an end. But they don’t necessarily come in that order. Think of how you tell an anecdote in the pub or at work. Sometimes you begin at the beginning. ‘John picked me up to go fishing this morning.’

Sometimes you begin in the middle. ‘So there we were, out in the middle of the loch, when John suddenly realized...

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The Firestarter 2021 Mar 07, 2021

The video above will reveal to you the name of the winner of this year's Firestarter at The Novelry. (You may wish to hold off until you've read the following.)

This the fourth year of our annual competition for the best opening to a novel, and previous winners are Kathy Brewis-Dunn (2018), Cate Guthleben (2019), Walter Smith (2020).

Entry is open to all but strongly recommended for those on the second draft and beyond and as ever, the results bear out the importance of editing, editing, editing. We never envy one another at The Novelry, where we work together because we darn well know how hard each and every writer has worked to get that novel over the line. All the art's in the redraft, and that's a comforting thought. It allows for time and space to make mistakes and play in the first draft. There's nothing to fear, no need to be nervous when you're writing a novel, folks. You get to choose when you hit send, and no one needs to see your workings! So play! Be wicked. (Oh, go on,...

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Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Feb 28, 2021

Our new tutor at The Novelry, the bestselling author, Harriet Tyce, weighs in on the big question with her own experience as a student.

From the Desk of Harriet Tyce.

We all remember the good teachers that we’ve had. We also remember the bad. I’ll never forget Mrs Podd, who told my parents I’d never be any good at English (never let it be said that I hold a grudge). Or Mr Marsh, who first introduced me to TS Eliot, and the idea that I might study English at university. He also told me that my poetry was too self-indulgent. (I found some recently – all I can say is that he wasn’t wrong.)

I’ve had a lot of teachers over the years. I’ve done a lot of courses. After school, I’ve been taught English Literature, Law, Cookery, Gardening, Piano.... and Creative Writing. Lots of Creative Writing.

A course was my first introduction to writing; a course led me to being signed by an agent, and ultimately being published.

There’s...

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Nikesh Shukla - Blood On The Page. Feb 21, 2021

 

From the Desk of Nikesh Shukla.

A lot of writers talk about the importance of voice, so I’m going to talk to you about the importance of soul. Because the best writing, the writing that moves, excites, commiserates, calms, saddens or breaks the heart of the reader, the writing that makes them laugh and cry and gasp and sigh and pump a subtle fist at their waist in celebration is the writing that bleeds on the page.

It’s the only way I know how to write and the only thing I like to read. I’m not interested, as a writer, in intellectual gymnastics. I am not bothered by experimentation for its own sake. I cannot spend time with characters who are cyphers for an author’s grandstanding political point. I want your blood on the page.

Because otherwise, what is the point of this big undertaking? Why write a novel? A novel is as the old saying goes, a sculpture you’ve made after many attempts to shovel sand into a box. A novel is a moment in time, a...

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It's a Love Story. Feb 14, 2021

'Marry me, Juliet. You'll never have to be alone.'

Taylor Swift.

The end of solitude? Or a value choice? What's behind a love story? In a time in which we are all ragged, estranged, and feeling peculiarly close-to-the-edge sentimental, our blog this week explores a different kind of love story. One in which you can make peace with yourself. So if the events of the last year have left you in a bruised and battered relationship with yourself, a 'golem' as one writer recently described it, then here's hope. Happy Valentines, writers.

From the Desk of Emylia Hall. 

There’s a passage in the brilliant closing chapter of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins which goes:

This is a love story, Michael Deane says. But, really, what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery, or the chase, or the nosy female reporter, who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely the serial murderer loves his victims, and...

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Writing Dystopian Novels Feb 07, 2021

From the Desk of Polly Ho-Yen

I’ve written a dystopia.

It feels like a confession I have to make. I see their eyes glaze over a little when I tell people because really, right here, right now, why would we want to sink ourselves into a world with an inescapable, nightmarish quality built into its core? 

I didn’t mean to do it, I sometimes say, remembering how it began.

It started with a sentence: ‘Mimi was three the last time that I saw her’. I only knew two things as I blindly wrote these words: this story was set in a world where parenting was being monitored to an excessive degree and the mother, my protagonist, would be separated from her young daughter.

I shudder now to remember how little I knew going in. 

I’d had the idea about parenting being monitored after experiencing school inspections as a teacher. They’d filled me, and my colleagues, with such dread, cloying paranoia and a constant sense of failure that placing a...

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