The Novelry Blog

Where the writers are.

Artifice - How to Write a Damn Good Novel. Nov 24, 2019

One of the sweetest old chestnuts beloved of writers is the notion that a story is driven by what a character wants. Quite so.

It's a convention, it's a construction and it's a fakery of the highest order, yet we must have it so.

In real life, people are not propelled by singular obsessions, they are in fact a mess of conflicting wants, warring desires and to-do lists. This does not make for a great story. The ruse of a story is that the heroine or hero has a one-track mind. Those of you enjoying the BBC TV series 'Gold Digger' may not have stopped to consider how likely it is that a professional man in his late thirties with a family is obsessed with his mother's new boyfriend being a tad on the young side? Sure, in real life, he'd raise an eyebrow then get back to his in-box. But then there would be no story.

An entertainment requires some stage machinery that's about as sophisticated as a canon that fires one canon ball. We entertainers pull a fast one on the...

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Orwell's Writing Style - Part Two. Nov 17, 2019

The second of a two-part special blog on Orwell's own development as a writer to greatness. (Continued from this blog.)

I believe that novels happen in major leaps, via fits of destructiveness as much as creativity. What's more, an author's creative output is not a steady and static production line. Many writers find their voice, nail their theme, hit the sweet spot of storytelling art, inventiveness and lucidity in their later years.

So, how did Orwell make the leap from The Clergyman's Daughter to works like Animal Farm and 1984, from more conventional middle-of-the-road writing, small themes and safe prose to the stark, and bolder books of his last years? To 'prose like a windowpane'?

‘What I have most wanted to do… is to make political writing into an art’ George Orwell.

He wasn't quite there in 1939 after Coming Up For Air. So what happened to Orwell's writing in the years before Animal Farm written at the end of the war?

"If I had to make...

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Orwell Writing Style - Part One Nov 10, 2019

The first of a two-part special on Orwell's own development as a writer to greatness.

How did Orwell make the leap from The Clergyman's Daughter to works like Animal Farm and 1984, from more conventional middle-of-the-road writing, small themes and safe prose to the stark, and bolder books of his last years? To 'prose like a windowpane'?

Write the book only you can write, the book you're meant to write, I counsel writers on our novel writing courses, but how do you locate the book you can write freely and truly and honestly with cleanliness? Let me show you how Orwell, the author of that phrase, found his way.

Eric Arthur Blair was born 25 June 1903 (and died at just 47 21 January 1950 - which gives this ageing writer pause for thought.)

“I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a...

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The Winner of The First Line Fiesta Nov 03, 2019

 Viva La Fiesta!

We had 75 entries from our member writers to the First Line Fiesta, our competition to find the most appealing first line of a novel in progress. (Read some of the most famous first lines of all time).

The standard was very high with high-scoring entries mostly from our writers either now with agents or on second drafts, taking The Big Edit, poised on the brink of bagging agents and publishing contracts. But we had one or two surprises from our first drafters!

Voting has been one member, one vote, and a first past the post system. Given the range of lines and the quality of the prose, I was surprised to see clustered results around a few front runners.

A contest like this is a bit of a beauty parade. The lines that stand out most boldly will secure votes. And the contestants don't have the opportunity to impress their judges with their plans for world peace as with our Firestarter Competition in February for the best first chapter.

But a great first line...

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How Do I Know If My Fiction Writing is Good? Oct 27, 2019

How do you tell if your writing is sweet, or whether it sucks?

 

We get word-blind. Over the course of a couple of drafts, the word blindness can get worse. You're clinging to your darlings, but the story's changed, and they're possibly no longer on point. (Our enforced reading break in between drafts, and the astringent Editing course are the citrus you need in your writing diet, but even so, it takes a lot of bad parenting to know how to treat your beloved manuscript roughly for its own good.)

WhenI read a writer's work, I evaluate it very simply. Here's how:

Cross Mark on Apple iOS 13.1 1. There is nothing wrong with it. It looks clean and good. There are no typos, and the grammar is right. (Don't ever hit send to anyone before using Grammarly.) It's not backstory-heavy. It's not blighted with how he or she 'feels'. Each paragraph leads to the next and inevitably so.

Warning on Apple iOS 13.1 2. It feels real. The characters are reasonably credible, feel true to life, and are not complete...

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