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May 31, 2020



From the desk of our tutor, Tim Lott.

The protagonist of a story almost always has a desire they wish to fulfil and will be proactive - sooner or later - in trying to achieve it.

This is particularly the case in single-protagonist stories, less so in multiple protagonist ones. Lizzy Bennett does not start Pride and Prejudice with any particular desire for anything, neither does the 'Inciting Incident' of Charles Bingley's arrival at Netherfield spark one. It is her mother’s desire, to see her daughters married, that drives the narrative - along with Darcy's desire for Elizabeth.

It’s not so much that a character has to have a desire, more that desire has to govern the narrative.

But ensuring your protagonist has a practical want or need, does make a story easier to tell.

This desire cannot be too general – like ‘to be happy’ or ‘to find love’. It has to be the concrete goal that the protagonist thinks will achieve those...

Read on...

Meet Katie Khan.

May 24, 2020


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...

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Chapter One

May 17, 2020


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. 

What should you be looking to achieve in the first chapter? These are some of the things you might consider:
  • 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...

Read on...

Common Writing Mistakes

May 10, 2020

Oh, Dear.

Since the beginning of time in the history of writers writing, every writer has sought a writing pal, they admire and esteem to help them look at their work another way. A pair of wise eyes. Hemingway had Gertrude Stein. T.S. Eliot had Ezra Pound. Scott Fitzgerald fought with Hemingway, but took his advice. Every decent writer turns to another writer for help at some time. And even author tutors have author tutors. We all need sound advice from someone who knows a thing or two about writing. I turn to my friend Tim Lott as my sounding post, and he gives me pithy, smart insights. So naturally, the first person I wanted to add to our tutors at The Novelry was Tim. Tim's got nine novels behind him, and you can review his accolades and achievements here, but he's something of a story expert too. He's fascinated by how stories work or fail.

It seems crucial to me that you have someone you respect and trust to aid your development of every novel you write, whether you're an...

Read on...


May 01, 2020


'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...

Read on...

Meet Tim Lott.

Apr 26, 2020

The author of nine novels, winner of The Whitbread First Novel Award and the Pen/J.R Ackerley Prize, Tim Lott has joined The Novelry as a tutor offering one-to-one coaching for your online writing course alongside Louise Dean. 

You can find out more about Tim Lott and his books and booking your coaching sessions with him here.

This week has seen the publication by Simon & Schuster of Tim's new novel in paperback.

'When We Were Rich' finds the characters introduced in Tim Lott's award-winning 1999 debut, White City Blue, struggling to make sense of a new era. Sad, shocking and often hilarious, it is an acutely observed novel of all our lives, set around the period of the Millennium. New Labour are at their zenith. The economy booms, awash with cheap credit. The arrival of the smartphone heralds the sudden and vast expansion of social media. Mass immigration from Eastern Europe leaves many unsettled....

Read on...

Louise Doughty on Writing Platform Seven.

Apr 19, 2020


As part of our online writing course outreach programme to bring brilliant writers into your homes, we are delighted to announce that the bestselling author of Apple Tree Yard, Louise Doughty, has joined The Novelry as a guest tutor offering writing classes to our members. Read more here.

In this week's blog, 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 –...

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The Unplanned Story.

Apr 12, 2020


Now, if you read our blog recently on how to plan your novel, you'll be well served by knowing there's another side to the story too. Writers write in different ways at different times. We won't prescribe how you should write your novel, but we will show you all the wonderful ways to writing bliss.

So, you have a fully fleshed-out scene by scene, beat by beat, blow by blow plan for your story. The plot clock's ticking (check), we're heading to conflict (check) and a happy ending (check). The whole thing is on point.  You've planned it to the Nth degree as Iris Murdoch describes: 

‘Well, I think it is important to make a detailed plan before you write the first sentence. Some people think one should write, George woke up and knew that something terrible had happened yesterday, and then see what happens. I plan the whole thing in detail before I begin. I have a general scheme and lots of notes. Every chapter is planned. Every conversation is planned.' Iris...

Read on...


Apr 05, 2020


 A Dirty Word?

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable; an instance of this, a metaphorical expression. Cf. metonymy n.simile n.

+ meta = In ancient Greek and Hellenistic Greek μετα- is combined chiefly with verbs and verbal derivatives principally to express notions of sharing, action in common, pursuit, quest, and, above all, change (of place, order, condition, or nature)

+phor = + ϕορά carrying ( < the o -grade of the stem of ϕέρειν to bear, carry)

Early use:

a1500  (c1477)  T. Norton Ordinal of Alchemy  Thei made theire bokis to many men ful derk, In poyses, parabols, & in methaphoris alle-so, which to scolers causith peyne and...

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Starting To Write A Novel.

Mar 29, 2020


On the 16th of February, I was walking my dog with a friend who is in his late Sixties. He was telling me about his grandmother. His mother was bullied by a girl when she was a child in the 1920's and her mother sent her back to school with a homemade rhyme. It went something like this: Apple pie is very nice, and so is apple pasty, but Betty Jones messed her shirt, and that was very nasty. The rhyme caught on in the playground. He went onto tell me that his grandmother was a leading light of the Band of Hope, a temperance movement quite big during her lifetime with banners on their marches touting 'Bread Not Beer'. As she was a heavy drinker, the Band of Hope was certainly apposite regarding her membership.

When I came home I googled it, and saw that the movement was started in 1847 when a 72-year-old Irish Presbyterian lady joined forces with a young Baptist minister Jabez Tunnicliffe and they decided to warn children of the dangers...

Read on...
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The Novelry.