The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
Answer: Get good at taking criticism.
As a published author of four novels, Booker longlisted and a few awards, the major step-change in my writing came when I learn to take it on the chin. I became hungry for criticism, harsh criticism because I wanted to get better at my craft fast. Taking the blows - in style - was the difference between being an amateur and a pro.
A published book has seen many interventions post the author's first draft. Better to get these under your belt sooner rather than later and go out looking dandy when you show your work to the big guns - the agents, publishers and readers. For that reason, all insults, slurs and calumnies should be most gratefully received at any point between second draft and twenty-second.
Order of merit.
- You crit. (The Editing Course, after resting that first draft for a month to become a reader.)
- Peer crit.
- Prof crit.
- Publisher crit.
- Publish - and don't look back!
Choose your moment. You should never show...
The Novelry is the elite finishing school for aspiring authors. Here are our top novel writing tips - you're unlikely to find them elsewhere.
'Contrary' is how we roll, 'counterintuitive' are our methods.
Creativity has a lot to do with wit - outflanking expectations with bold leaps - based on more than a hunch. The Novelry helps busy people write novels. We give you tools, not rules, and they're tools you're unlikely to find anywhere else, they're practical and effective, fast.
Here are a few.
- You're the author, you get to play God. This is the only part of your life you control. Sure, you can claim the characters speak to you and guide you. But my bet is you'll whip them pretty hard before they do. Whip them harder, make them behave badly, and against their interests or instincts. Throw some mystery into the story. In great novels, there's often something that doesn't make sense. Indulge yourself. Don't go by the book.
- Attach emotion to your story. Use the things...
It is with modest boldness, I say to you that creativity is about putting two things together which should not go together.
Such as modesty and boldness.
The greater the opposition between the two things, the more attention the new construction merits.
You start with the idea for your novel itself and you take this through your practice in prose.
This creative method is practical and simple.
'Convenience Store Woman'.
This week I have been reading Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2018). It was described in The Guardian review as 'sublimely weird.'
'This deadpan Japanese tale of an oddball shop assistant possesses a strange beauty.' Julie Myerson.
A literary prize-winner that's also a page-turner, it sold 660,000 copies in Japan alone and won Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Akutagawa Prize. Convenience Store Woman is a portrayal of contemporary Japan through the eyes of a single woman who fits into the rigidity of its...
This is one of my favourite forms; the mystique of the elusive hero-figure.
It's a 'bystander' narrative, often first person, concerning a mysterious acquaintance, replete with puzzled admiration, with rumours as clues on the trail of charisma. It's a paeon to the allure of 'personality'.
It's a youthful form, an age-defying treatment. After all, it's a youthful idea that personality can succeed.
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away." (Scott Fitzgerald on Jay Gatsby.)
As one ages, one comes to see that if there is such a thing as personality, it fails. We let it drop, and accept the rump of commonality with humility. Apart from a few odd traits, we are not so different. 'Personality' lets a person down...
The ailment of overwriting afflicts most first drafts. It is the writer's common cold. If you have been multiply rejected by literary agents, I can almost guarantee you suffer from this illness. Your writing obscured the story. You have probably sent out your work too soon.
You must treat your manuscript for this sickness before you share the novel with anyone. The advice which follows is to be taken lightly by those writing a first draft. You've got to get the material down by any means necessary and forgive it on first draft. But those on second draft and beyond should seize this advice firmly.
What do I mean by overwriting?
If you're writing a rollicking good yarn, a plot-driven story, then you won't want overwriting to detract from 'what next'. A chapter advances the character's problem inexorably.
Overwriting is a handbrake turn, or a slow tedious slide back down the hill. The reader-passenger is slamming their foot on their imaginary gas pedal,...
In the Beginning.
Once upon a time, you told yourself you couldn't write a novel. "I’m too old, too young, too stupid, too clever, too reclusive, too sociable, too lazy, too busy... I’m nervous.”
That's the first thing a writer says to me when they take the plunge and commit to writing a novel. But a whole raft of other unkind self-doubts above lurk right behind that word 'nervous'.
When you open the door and come into The Novelry, it's all rather jolly, warm, unpretentious and friendly and so very do-able. The work you have to do is bite-sized daily.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." (Emma Lazarus.)
The recipe for confidence at The Novelry is fast-acting. We salute you from the moment you arrive. You are welcomed with warmth by our members, because they know full well it's a big step, and that you're nervous on arrival, but we all know you've come home too.
Thank you all for taking part.
With the sad news of the death of the original Firestarter himself, it is to Keith Flint we dedicate these offerings.
We have had a bumper crop of first chapter entries to this year’s competition, a great turnout at the polling station, and here are some sneak previews of the range of writing currently on fire at The Novelry.
A hapless estate agent is unwittingly touched by the beauty of nature in the first chapter of Alex Ireson’s ripe and robust comedic novel 'Above & Beyond.' 'And then the magic happens. The orange light of the dying sun hits the cottage.’ One misadventure leads to another in this rollicking darkly comedic tale.
A big-hearted period novel from Romla Ryan, in which loyal Lyle provides support to 'The Antics of Atticus Ashworth' for a fast-paced, ribald romp. Atticus Ashworth loves women and his gentle appreciation brings warmth to the first chapter which opens on ‘dying embers from...
Writing with the Old Masters.
Plumbers take apprenticeships. So why do writers imagine they can learn their craft without taking one? That's effectively what we offer writers when you join The Novelry, a working, practical apprenticeship to your mentor author. You learn on the job.
Serious writers study the works of the great fiction writers, the way painters copy the old masters. Part of our method at The Novelry is to encourage working novelists to read and re-read a 'hero book' during the course of writing their first draft. First for the story, then for the technique and to abide with this one book during the writing of a first draft as a training frame. The act of faith, abiding with it, is good discipline in itself for sticking with the novel, but when you read a masterful novel, it reveals itself to you in layers which you will only perceive after many readings.
This week's blog post comes from our member, Viv Rich, who inspired by our recent writer's...
This week's Member's Story comes from Walter Smith from Alabama.
'Props' to him - a new word he has taught me. See story for details...
There is a silver bowl in a box around here somewhere that I received in eighth grade for winning a fiction award. I keep it in case I become strapped for funds and need to melt it, though I suspect it may be silver-plated, not sterling. The award bore the name of a writer named Conrad Richter, and the presenters were thoughtful enough to include a copy of one of his books inscribed by his daughter offering best wishes and prosperity, the usual pap. To be truthful, I thought little of the book. It involved American Indians and frontiersmen as I recall, something they erroneously thought might intrigue a pubescent male. Sort of Hawthorne-lite, but lacking wonderful names like Natty Bumppo and the imprimatur of countless freshman English syllabi.
One story published in a regional magazine. It told the inspirational tale of my...
The value of revision becomes manifestly abundant over the course of our very intense weeks on retreat at The Novelry, with writers taking prose through rounds of work towards a shining, tight truth by the end of our time together.
At tour recent retreat, I began the week with a lesson on 'Glamour' - and how what is concealed up front in your novel will of necessity be revealed. We begin our story by showing that to all appearances all's well but the veneer conceals a lie. It's the nature of THE LIE which is at the heart of your story, and it's the chipping away at it, the revelatory process which drives the plot. If you're a writer in search of an idea, start with a big lie.
We looked at how with The Great Gatsby it was Scott Fitzgerald's intention from the start to establish a veneer of glamour in his prose and story. He had his eyes on the big lie - the American Dream - which he foresaw as doomed.
I told my writers how Hunter S...
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