The Creative Writing Blog

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Welcome to The Novelry blog. Your first stop for all things to do with novel writing. Peruse the articles to troubleshoot your writing problems and get that novel done! Happy writing!

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Annie Proulx Books and Writing 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 ninety days on the trot with the Ninety Day Novel Course, then it’s there for life.

Annie Proulx Started Writing Late

It took Annie Proulx almost 60 years to write a book. But as 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...

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The Word Counts of Famous Writers 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.

Daily Word Counts of Some Authors:

Graham Greene wrote 24 novels as well as travel books, children’s books, plays, screenplays, and short stories. His daily writing goal was only 500 words.

"Over twenty years I have...

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About The Novelry 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 according to The Novelry prescription of discipline and routine, we have discovered a few 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 been fairly gobsmacked that the process and its 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 novel.

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

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Meeting Gore Vidal Jul 30, 2017

From the Desk of Louise Dean.

"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'...

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How to Write Better Books Jul 29, 2017

Top tips for writing better books.

From Booker listed, award-winning author of literary and historical fiction, Louise Dean.

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 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...

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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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Getting Started as a Writer Jul 09, 2017

When I was living in New York in the late 1990's, in my early twenties, I wanted to be a writer. I was writing short stories and poems and thinking about writing a novel. I decided to learn as much as I could about the craft from writers themselves so when a great writer was in town, I was there. In those days everything was possible. I used to sit on the sidewalk downtown with my notebook and sketch in words what I saw passing me by which in New York was varied and bizarre enough to fill notebooks. A man riding a bike with an elephant trunk strapped to his face. A large black woman who has roughly whitewashed her body. These things moved me terribly.

Seamus Heaney came to read from his work and after the talk he gave I jogged up to him and asked him in my naive way - I was twenty five then - what it was all about, writing? He had kind eyes and a wry, bemused avuncular manner and he said to me 'It's all about starting and stopping and starting again.'  I went to hear Annie...

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James Baldwin Writing Advice Jun 20, 2017

“You write in order to change the world ... if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” James Baldwin

James Baldwin was an essayist, playwright and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer with works like The Fire Next Time, Giovanni's Room, Another Country and Just Above My Head as well as essays like Notes of a Native Son. 

What Can James Baldwin Teach Writers?

Born on August 2, 1924, in New York City, to a young single mother, Baldwin never knew the name of his biological father. In 1946, Baldwin moved to France. The shift in location freed Baldwin to write more about his personal and racial background. "Once I found myself on the other side of the ocean, I see where I came from very clearly...I am the grandson of a slave, and I am a writer. I must deal with both," Baldwin once told The New York Times.

As a gay black man, fatherless, who chose to leave his country, he looked beyond the binary...

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Fear of Plotting Jun 04, 2017

Almost every one of my writers tells me that plotting is their concern. 

The Novelry has a no-nonsense approach to plotting.: stop it, and write!

Some writers do prepare an outline and some don’t. I think more writers across all genres don't prepare a detailed plot than do. It's a received idea that thriller writers must work to a plot. Yet even someone like Stephen King avoids plotting.

"I start a book ... knowing just two things: the basic situation and that the story will create its own patterns naturally and organically if I follow it fairly...and by fairly I mean never forcing characters to do things they wouldn't do in real life...For me, the first draft is all about story. I trust that some other part of me—an undermind—will create certain patterns."

Instead, he chooses pace of creation, writing his first drafts of novels in a season or ninety days. 

I prepare a rough plot outline and then I ignore it. I work out what I’m doing in draft after...

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Me & Coetzee May 20, 2017

I read Disgrace by JM Coetzee in the year 2001 when I was living in New York. I had written two books; flops. Disgrace focused my intentions. It became apparent to me that there were heights almost unattainable that could only be reached by careful, quiet, slow work.

Writing with The Slow Man

During the nine months of my last pregnancy I sat at my desk in Brooklyn overlooking the garden every morning and wrote. At night I read either Chekhov, Carver or Coetzee; most likely the latter. I broke my routine on September the 11th when my husband called me downstairs and we watched the news on the television then went outside and from our brownstone stoop saw the second plane hit the Twin Towers.

My daughter was born at the end of November. I'd finished the book a couple of days before. In the spring I sent the book to agents, then it went to publishers. Happy days.

After it was published, I sent it to John Coetzee in Australia.

He replied.

It was a breathless moment to stand...

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