The Novelry Blog
Where the writers are.
If you're about to write a novel, start with the midpoint. That's the place to begin to build your world around.
The midpoint is the point of no return in the story, where the character undergoes a crisis, enlightenment cracks the shutters. The main character begins to wake up to the the qualities necessary to reverse the misfortune or pursue the action of the book through to a resolution she or he can live with and accept.
This is the point in the story at which the main character is most challenged and at their lowest. It speaks volumes about your true intentions for the book.
You may not be clear about these at first draft - I am usually a little in the dark - but locating the belly button will help you sort out 'what the hell is this book really about.' The idea is developed in John Yorke's book Into The Woods as a convention axiomatic to the development of screenplays.
'The midpoint in our change paradigm corresponds to the moment of Vogler's 'supreme ordeal'... the...
The Second Writing Session - the End of the Day.
As our members know, one of our practical methods is dubbed 'The Two Pedals.' A writing machine (that's you the novelist) comes with two pedals - writing and reading. When one runs out of juice, you turn to the other.
Our method at The Novelry is to show you how to write a novel in one hour a day, and we have you walk the talk for 90 days with The Ninety Day Novel course. We show you how to harness the power of the subconscious in the 23 hours which remain. It works beautifully, transforming even the dullest events into material. Your wicked and wondrous mind does the work.
When you're on a big push, as many of us are right now, it pays to double up. We run a one-hour-a-day writing method at The Novelry but in these wonderful writing days of winter, I've been pushing on with two hours writing and two hours reading.
I've found the new writing slot for the busy working mother - the bedtime shift. Drafting the scene...
Katie Khan - Our member's novel now a movie.
We are thrilled to announce that our member Katie Khan's novel 'Hold Back the Stars' is being made into a movie!
Two of Hollywood's most sought-after young stars are joining forces for the sci-fi love story. Stars Wars actor John Boyega and Black Panther actress Letitia Wright are attached to star in the adaptation of the novel that centres on a man and a woman who revisit memories of their love affair on a utopian Earth while they are trapped in the vast void of space with only 90 minutes of oxygen.
We are so proud of Katie. Conceptually, Katie dares to dream and aims high, and she works hard. Not only does she have a full-on day job but she writes novels with fierce determination. She began her second novel 'The Light Between Us' when she started the Ninety Day Novel course with us in August 2017 and it was published by Transworld in August 2018. She's an author who is generous towards her teammates...
The writers gathered, windswept and willing, in the vale of Marshwood on Tuesday afternoon last week.
We'd come past Stonehenge, down through valleys with breathtaking views, hilltops with clusters of Autumn-clad trees.
We were met with a warm welcome from the hostess, the Lady of Marshwood Manor, Romla Ryan. She showed us to the luxurious cottages with standalone baths, plushly-laundered beds and kitchens stocked with fresh milk, ground coffee and cafetieres. What more could a weary writer need?
I sat down on the sofa in my recessed sitting room, and looked out at an ancient oak tree from my cottage across the fields and thought - wow, this is quiet. Not a sound. No road noise.
'People say - we came the wrong way,' said Romla, 'but I say - no, there's only one road. It's just rural.'
As dark fell, writers gathered for tea and homemade cake and began telling each other the story of their novels. They discussed their plans for the sacred week. A chance to regroup,...
Creativity can be unleashed by structure. I remember from my days of advertising how awful the creative work was if the brief wasn't tight. I've broken stride in writing my new novel to perform a stringent edit on it, and I think there's something to be said for this method.
So, if you are on first draft, and feeling concerned about it, then this hybrid method which combines writing forwards and editorial 'retrospective' planning might work for you.
It might help you, as it has me, to stop loafing around on the outside of your novel, and get inside it.
For my method you will need:
- about 10k minimum words of material; love it or hate it, it's not important.
- title, hook, and synopsis for your book revised in the last few days. Phase Two of the Editing Your Novel course has you work through the beautiful logic of these to nail them. I'm going to assume you have followed the course and created a virtuous title (see my 'Walking Method'), a...
Creative Writing - Can You Learn It?
Hanif Kureishi famously dismissed the teaching of creative writing, saying that writing a story is:
'a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don't think you can.'
(According to Philip Hensher, Kureishi teaches creative writing at Kingston University, 'ineffectually')
We all learn to write. If you're serious about something, generally you will want to learn how to do it well. I wonder why some writersfeel they need to look down on aspiring writers once they have been published and claim writing is some 'mystical gift'. It's not; it's a skilled craft. It's one you need to keep learning; you never reach a golden plateau.
Serious writers have always sought and will always seek teachers long before their work gets to an editor's desk.
In defence of teaching creative writing, Kurt Vonnegut said:
‘A tough guy, I forget which one, is asked to speak to a creative writing class....
The idea for your novel doesn't often come to you whole and complete. If you're writing historical fiction then it may do, as mine did for This Human Season which is set in Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1981. That came to me on the platform of Clapham North tube station in 2003. I watched a few trains come and go as it dawned on me. But my other three novels came to life in stages.
Usually, the final novel is the result of an idea that has grown and acquired more substance like the proverbial rolling stone.
It seems to me though that there are elements to the idea which remain in place through the multiple drafts you will write. The details shift and change as you feel for what's most moving, most provoking, most important. A novel is a long struggle and it's good, necessary even, to get a first draft down in a season as we do in The Ninety Day Novel course. But you will return to it at second draft and amend it as new realities and truths...
'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately
, no one knows what they are.'
There are no rules, only tools.
You will find tools at The Novelry. Use them, try them, pick them up, put them down. Do not consider them rules. I can't abide rules, and I guess you can't or you probably wouldn't be writing.
There is no formula. Did you know that some writers' books can stay unborn, in their amniotic sac of rules and regulations, attached to the umbilical spreadsheet for years? It's an awful condition and one we can't abide at The Novelry where we get novels done.
'I don’t think there are any universal rules. I really don’t. We each make our own rules, and we stick to our rules and we abide by them, but you know rules are made to be broken. … [If] any rule you hear from one writer doesn’t work for you, disregard it completely. Break it. Do what you want to do. I have my own rules that I follow, but...
I see breakthroughs weekly in my writers' work and I thought I'd share some of the signs with you of a step-change in the quality of the work, from good to bloody brilliant. (Next stop publication!)
1. Hard work made harder. A writer has a work emergency or an illness and decides to work harder. Bingo, breakthrough. No hard work ever goes unrewarded when it comes to the craft of writing. A writer goes to extraordinary lengths, gets tired, loses patience with herself and cuts to the chase in her prose, and lo and behold we have writing worth reading, and then some. Sometimes you have to slog it. That first chapter, though! I don't exaggerate when I say to you I rewrite mine 1000 times. It can seem bloody-minded at times. Moving words in and out. You worry it will lose its liveliness. It doesn't. You cut the pretty bits. Someone's foot moves in a reflexive action off-camera, and you're on it. Your eyes are all over the scene suddenly. Write on, but return again and again to each...
'The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!'
If you're new to us, welcome to The Novelry.
This a place where words are important and serve the story, and we are story-telling animals. We live, breathe and create stories every second of every day. That's what the mind likes to do - it creates connections all the time between past experience and predicts based on not only experience but its vast library of stories, either a tragedy or a happy ending, depending on your mood or inclination.
The Novelry is a place where we make novels. Together. Side by side.
Part factory, part library, part quiet study, and plenty of revelry. Sometimes we come together, brawny-armed, dark-hearted and vocal and you can hear almost the shouting from the workshop floor at our members' group online. But we live in an era where technology allows us to work quietly too,...
Get on the list!
Get the Sunday paper for writers to your inbox.