The Novel Writing Blog.

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You will find advice here to help you on your writing journey. Use the search bar or browse through the categories to get a taste of the kind of insights and shortcuts we use to fast track our writers. 

Novel Writing Tips The Hero Three Wise Drafts Perspective Don't Try So Hard! How To Begin One Hour A Day Admit Your Ambition

This is the life. More advice from Annie Proulx.

Sep 17, 2017
 

There is a commonality to the writing writer’s writing life. It is a love of reading and the joy of the craft and getting better at it.

The joy of the craft comes from daily tickling. Tickling that joy with good habits and wise reading is what we do at The Novelry for 90 days on the trot, then it’s there for life.

A funny bone, on the house.

It took Annie Proulx almost 60 years to write a novel. In the video interview, she says she's still learning; it's her life.

Proulx briefly went to college in the early 1950s, but left to get married. There were two further marriages, all of them unhappy. She raised three sons alone. It was a time of grinding poverty.

'I had a talent for choosing the wrong people . . . I'm just the sort of person who should never be married. I like living by myself. It's odd, but I think in my whole life I have had almost no one understand what I was trying to do with the writing, or why it was so intensely important to me. So it was...

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Painting by Punching. (The Knockout Novel with Advice from Annie Proulx.)

Sep 10, 2017
 

There's a time for brushstrokes, and there's a time to paint by punching.

Perhaps you're working too finely, that's all well and good when you're laying down a first draft with uncertainty but when you've got wind of your story you need to land a few blows on the 'characters' in your work in progress.

Let insults pelt the page, and injuries accrue upon the person leaving behind a dense impression of a life being lived the way we live them - in suffering - punctuated with occasional rare joys.
 
Look at your 'main character' the person pushing your novel and see a slow-moving morass of personable misery. Suited. Booted. Custom made, their plight tailored to them by your prose. We want to see the lumpen shape of slow-moving misfortune. Your job is to wound him or her, in order to get them to wake up and live the life they've been given against their wishes.

Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize winning 'The Shipping News' delivers a masterclass in 'character' creation via the hapless,...

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Tense? Point of View?

Sep 04, 2017
 

My writers often ask about first or third person, past or present tense and all the wonderful variations of those.

One of my favourite books of all time, and Mr Graham Greene's too, is Ford Madox Ford's 'The Good Soldier.'

The clue is most certainly in the title. 'The Good Soldier' is meant as in 'the good sort' or 'the good egg'. It's sly.

Ford Madox Ford writes as 'I' with what turns out to be knowing 'melancholy' about an event in the recent past, and the self-pity is pure cyanide.... it could not have been written in present tense, because he is an unreliable narrator.

He begins the book with formidable élan, unreliably, apparently with heartfelt poignancy. "This is the saddest story I have ever heard."

As Julian Barnes put it 'What could be more simple and declaratory, a statement of such high plangency and enormous claim that the reader assumes it must be not just an impression, or even a powerful opinion, but a "fact"? Yet it is one of the most misleading first...

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How I wrote my novel with The Novelry - by Cate.

Aug 20, 2017

By Cate Guthleben

I've started many books over the years but, until today, I'd only finished one. That one came from an MA in Creative Writing and took nearly two years to write. After I'd finished I sent it off to agents and publishers and got some nice comments on my writing, but no enthusiasm at all for the book. I knew it was flawed but didn't know how to fix it.

A little while later I started another. This one was going to be the one. It had a cracking premise and a protagonist I really cared about. I took a synopsis and three chapters to a Writers' Workshop conference in York and got really positive feedback from three agents. One wanted to see it as soon as I had finished. But I couldn't finish it. I got stuck somewhere around the middle and stayed stuck for a year. Then I read a review in the Sunday Times of my book. Same premise, same setting, same main character name for God's sake!

I wallowed for another year, flip-flopping between writing mine anyway and throwing it...

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The Word Counts of Famous Novelists - The Daily Deed.

Aug 14, 2017

Are you normal?

As part of our peering over writers' shoulders to see whether we are in any way 'normal' please find here the calibrations. 

I write hundreds of thousands of words to reduce down to the 80k or so for a novel. This is a fool's economy of course, but then as Dolly might have said 'it takes a lot of money to look this cheap'.

During the first draft, please don't worry about word count, you will find your way, just be regular.

If you need to get your novel done in ninety days, then aim for 1000 when I tell you 'GO!" which is after we have got your concept nice and tight and made sure you're well prepared. Otherwise, Graham Greene found he could knock out a novel every 9 months this way at 500 a day. It's better to go slow and steady.

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#amwriting

Aug 13, 2017

A cautious accounting would reckon on some 3.5 million words of serious writing chalked up between us all at The Novelry so far this year.

From our collaboration as novelists working side by side - shush - beyond The Novelry prescription of discipline and routine-  have popped three things in the last few weeks:

  •  the worth of moving between longhand writing to the keyboard and back, when and why
  • journalling the big write and to keep the first draft productive ‘deep’ play
  • and we have have been fairly gobsmacked that the process and it’s blues - or ‘motion sickness’ as we call it at The Novelry is so damned commonplace

We're hunkering down for another season’s write, beginning September, driving forward first or second drafts, propelled by the knowledge that writers from Steinbeck to Stephen King came to know the virtue of the 90 day write. 

We know now that a draft of a novel is not only possible but more possible than not,...

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How I wrote my novel with The Novelry - by Janice.

Aug 08, 2017

By Janice Cumberlidge.

If you’re anything like me, you have a new idea for a story as often as you change your pants. Not only that, you also want to write them all. You might even start writing, but maybe lose your way or simply lose interest, so you stop, and start on your next big idea instead. This was my life until I joined The Ninety Day Novel course at the end of May 2017.

 I’d been trying to finish a novel--not even a finished novel, just a first draft--for about 6 months, but always got stuck knowing whether my story was ‘good enough’ or knowing how to go from a few chapter ideas to a complete novel. In short, I didn’t have the confidence to follow through and finish the damn thing!

Desperate for help, I Googled something in the vein of ‘novel mentor’ and up popped Louise Dean’s course. Apart from the series of daily lessons and vlogs she provides, I saw that included was a monthly chat with Louise, where I could discuss...

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Gore Vidal foresaw a man like Trump - My Galle Literary Festival Experience.

Jul 30, 2017

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic." Gore Vidal.

In 2008, I was invited to the Galle Literary Festival to speak on conflict having published a work of historical fiction on The Troubles in Northern Ireland which detailed the Blanket Protest in the run up to the Hunger Strike. 

For 'This Human Season' I had spent an year interviewing participants from both sides - the 'RA and the Proddies, been to the West and East Belfast on alternating visits, and sat with former prisoner officers, mothers, priests, and former 'soldiers' from either side including some of the most senior ranking members. I told the story of one mother and her son (in Long Kesh) and a former British soldier, 'looking after' her son as a prison guard in alternating chapters, one chapter female and Catholic, one male and Protestant. The book 'This Human Season' received kind praise both in...

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Ten Top Tips For Novel Success.

Jul 29, 2017

 Ten tips for writing a novel:

1. At the core of every good concept is a paradox. (Find it, and you've got a story.)

2. Don't write for money. Don't write for free. In other words, don't write to make sure you can eat, but don't spill your words without getting paid for them. Making it your living is the best way to keep your standards high. Besides no one wants anything that's free.

3. A novel is best with one timeline for the main story, written in the present tense, narrated in the third person.Now we have that sorted let's move on.

4. 'The voice' is yours. Fix your mind on someone you care about and feel relaxed enough with to be yourself, probably someone dead, and talk to them. Sing your heart.

5. In the first chapter everything changes. It's all fucked up now. But remember, you and me both know it's going to get a whole lot worse for Mrs Wright or Mr Wrong.

6. Stop making excuses for not writing, like plotting or research. Do research late into the writing.

7. The plot...

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Who can write a novel in 90 days?

Jul 29, 2017

Ninety Days???

Dear hearts don't be faint-hearted. It can be done. Don't be hard on yourself. Get your first draft down in 90 days so as to become acquainted with the story in a real sense.

 

I commend to you Mr John Steinbeck's good counsel:

1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have...

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The Novelry.