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:
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.
2. It feels real. The characters are reasonably credible, feel true to life, and are not complete...
If the agent of change in the novel is a person and you’re telling the story as an outside observer.
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald.
“Elmer Gantry was drunk.” Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis.
“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.” On The Road, Jack Kerouac.
If the agent of change is the narrator.
“You don’t know about me, without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by a Mr Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.” Mark Twain.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before...
To the Battle!
The battle in the classics of Tolkien and others is often a bit of a let down.
There’s a long walk, a lot of fine talk, plenty of awe then either the human hero finds an exit and postpones the battle or there’s a divine intervention which crushes evil a tad unfairly I think.
So, we have a complete rout, or evil sneaks off. There’s not much in the way or real prolonged suffering, no lingering in the mud of the trenches here. But hey ho. We’ve all been surprised by our first punch and children milk-fed on reading books are no doubt the most sucker-punched of all. But we all know there’s no alternative without completely compromising the experience of wonderment.
Tolkien approaches the battle in short sentences. You will know one’s coming because his word count between full stops drops dramatically. This seems to me to prove that discretion really is the better part of valour.
Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff...
It's crucial to invest in the groundwork of story before going on to potter in prose if you mean business (i.e, to sell books.)
Our 'big story' course - the Classic course, one option in our series of online novel writing courses - is good for all writers but absolutely essential for those who are world-building - which is to say writing Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult and Children's. Pack it in your writer's kit bag, toss it behind you back and whistle all the way to the literary agency (nail that theme tune en route).
I'll be referring to the 'classics' in this blog but don't worry, I'm not being lofty and referring to works of Ancient Greece etc, I'm being low-brow. Populist! (Hoorah!) I'm referring to the golden classics of fiction, the bestsellers enjoyed by adults and kids. The genre-busting crossovers!
The course delves into the cunning plots of seven of the ten bestselling books of the last hundred years. (With apologies for the omission of...
I get to see a lot of novels-in-waiting as you might imagine. Sometimes my writers will share with me the editorial reports or feedback they have had from other writing courses and agents and ask me to interpret them. I don't read them before I make my own diagnosis. But after I have read the work and made some recommendations, I do take a look.
"The action feels generic and doesn’t feel specific enough for the predicament to be entirely engaging in my opinion." Er, ok.
But sometimes, and especially when you get feedback from agents who want a product that's more or less finished on their desk, you'll get something like the remark above - that they just don't like the main character. Of course, at the end of the day, the problem is in the writing not Cheryl!
Remember, you are not defective as a writer, this is not about you. A novel can be fixed.
Yes, we can and we will fix it. That's what we do at...
The Novelry is delighted to announce the launch of our own publishing imprint.
We have the inside track on some fine work at The Novelry, and it seems natural and right that we offer an additional publishing route for the wonderful work which comes to our attention here first.
For some while, I have been considering the route to market for works of literary fiction, those books which wouldn't automatically bag a mainstream publishing deal. These are the books which get awards listings and are thus propelled to success.
There are some wonderful small publishers taking a chance on books like these - Galley Beggar Press with its Booker Prize shortlisting for Lucy Ellman's book Ducks, Newburyport - Salt, Fitzcarraldo Editions and others but these publishers are only able to take on a handful of titles a year, sometimes just two or three.
More small publishers, bold and independent, are needed!
If you're writing commercial fiction, we will send you to...
Happy is the writer with a habit! If you want to write a book fast, write daily. Routine wins the race. Most of my writers follow the encouragement we give to write first thing, fresh from dreams, emboldened by coffee and in advance of the maddening crowds, the kids and the day job.
Part of our method for getting writers to complete their novels is blatant bribery. I suggest writers grant themselves a few perks during the writing of the first draft and bribe themselves out of bed. Upgrade your coffee-making, get a few indulgent pastries in. (No one said you'd lose weight writing a novel.) The course has you prepare your time and space before you start writing so that you get out of bed and go somewhere really special to you.
It's a great feeling to have your really important work out of the way before you attend to lesser emergencies! Don't switch on that phone, don't check email, take one hour for yourself and you'll see how enriching it is not just...
Pushkin will publish Susie Bower's children's debut next year.
Susie decided to turn her hand to children's fiction and took the Classic Novel Writing Course at The Novelry. She wrote her novel with The Ninety Day Novel course and edited with our Novel Editing Course, of course! The Novelry was pleased to introduce Susie's work to our partner literary agency PFD.
A home run!
Sarah Odedina, editor-at-large for Pushkin Children’s Books, has bought UK and Commonwealth rights in School for Nobodies from Silvia Molteni at PFD.
Odedina said: "This lovely novel has the perfect blend of excitement, emotional power and magic to hook any young reader and Susie’s super confident world-building makes this one of the most assured debuts I have read for some time."
Bower lives in Bristol and when she is not writing fiction she writes audio scripts, transporting children anywhere from the Jurassic age to the depths of the ocean. She is also known for writing and...
Louise Tucker has won the inaugural Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize for her "tender, moving, beautifully drawn" novel.
The award for unfinished manuscripts was launched earlier this year by Peters Fraser + Dunlop e-book imprint Agora Books.
Tucker wins a consultation with an Agora editor and a PFD agent. She was selected from 377 entries by a judging panel of Agora publisher Kate Evans, Bookseller Rising Star and PFD literary agent Marilia Savvides, author Laura Pearson, and book blogger Amanda Chatteron.
Her novel is described as a “touching tale of aging, grief, and self-discovery” about main character George, whose day of celebration turns into one of misery.
Tucker said: “I am so delighted to win the Lost the Plot Work in Progress Prize. The main character,...