In celebration of our two-year anniversary at The Novelry, I thought to compile a list of our novel writing tips, since you're unlikely to find them elsewhere.
'Contrary' is how we roll, 'counterintuitive' are our methods.
Creativity has a lot to do with wit - outflanking expectations with bold leaps - based on more than a hunch. The Novelry helps busy people write novels. We give you tools, not rules, and they're tools you're unlikely to find anywhere else, they're practical and effective, fast.
Here are a few.
It is with modest boldness, I say to you that creativity is about putting two things together which should not go together.
Such as modesty and boldness.
The greater the opposition between the two things, the more attention the new construction merits.
You start with the idea for your novel itself and you take this through your practice in prose.
This creative method is practical and simple.
This week I have been reading Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2018). It was described in The Guardian review as 'sublimely weird.'
'This deadpan Japanese tale of an oddball shop assistant possesses a strange beauty.' Julie Myerson.
A literary prize-winner that's also a page-turner, it sold 660,000 copies in Japan alone and won Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Akutagawa Prize. Convenience Store Woman is a portrayal of contemporary Japan through the eyes of a single woman who fits into the rigidity of its...
This is one of my favourite forms; the mystique of the elusive hero-figure.
It's a first person 'bystander' narrative concerning a mysterious acquaintance, replete with puzzled admiration, with rumours as clues on the trail of charisma. By charisma - I mean the sound of a life better lived in another room.
The allure of 'personality'.
It's a youthful form, an age-defying treatment. After all, it's a youthful idea that personality can succeed.
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away." (Scott Fitzgerald on Jay Gatsby.)
As one ages, one comes to see that if there is such a thing as personality, it fails. We let it drop, and accept the rump of commonality with humility. Apart from...
The ailment of overwriting afflicts most first drafts. It is the writer's common cold. If you have been multiply rejected by literary agents, I can almost guarantee you suffer from this illness. Your writing obscured the story. You have probably sent out your work too soon. If you're writing the first draft, as I explained in last week's blog, you will catch most of it in the second draft.
You must treat your manuscript for this sickness before you share the novel with anyone. The advice which follows is to be taken lightly by those writing a first draft. You've got to get the material down by any means necessary and forgive it on first draft. But those on second draft and beyond should seize this advice firmly.
If you're writing a rollicking good yarn, a plot-driven story, then you won't want overwriting to detract from 'what next'. A chapter advances the character's problem inexorably.
Overwriting is a handbrake turn, or...
Once upon a time, you told yourself you couldn't write a novel. "I’m too old, too young, too stupid, too clever, too reclusive, too sociable, too lazy, too busy... I’m nervous.”
That's the first thing a writer says to me when they take the plunge and commit to writing a novel. But a whole raft of other unkind self-doubts above lurk right behind that word 'nervous'.
When you open the door and come into The Novelry, it's all rather jolly, warm, unpretentious and friendly and so very do-able. The work you have to do is bite-sized daily.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." (Emma Lazarus.)
The recipe for confidence at The Novelry is fast-acting. We salute you from the moment you arrive. You are welcomed with warmth by our members, because they know full well it's a big step, and that you're nervous on arrival, but we all know you've come home too.
With the sad news of the death of the orginal Firestarter himself, it is to Keith Flint we dedicate these offerings.
We have had a bumper crop of first chapter entries to this year’s competition, a great turnout at the polling station, and here are some sneak previews of the range of writing currently on fire at The Novelry.
A hapless estate agent is unwittingly touched by the beauty of nature in the first chapter of Alex Ireson’s ripe and robust comedic novel 'Above & Beyond.' 'And then the magic happens. The orange light of the dying sun hits the cottage.’ One misadventure leads to another in this rollicking darkly comedic tale.
A big-hearted period novel from Romla Ryan, in which loyal Lyle provides support to 'The Antics of Atticus Ashworth' for a fast-paced, ribald romp. Atticus Ashworth loves women and his gentle appreciation brings warmth to the first chapter which opens on ‘dying embers from the...
Part of our method at The Novelry is to encourage working novelists to read and re-read a 'hero book' during the course of writing their first draft. First for the story, then for the technique and to abide with this one book during the writing of a first draft as a training frame. The act of faith, abiding with it, is good discipline in itself for sticking with the novel, but when you read a masterful novel, it reveals itself to you in layers which you will only perceive after many readings.
This week's blog post comes from our member, Viv Rich, who inspired by our recent writer's retreat has taken an old-school approach to taking a fresh look at her work in progress. Her chosen hero book is The Great Gatsby. You can find our suggested hero books listed here, there's one for every genre and they are chosen for the virtuous story structure which teaches novelists as they read.
Hunter S. Thompson typed out The Great Gatsby and A Call to Arms...
This week's Member's Story comes from Walter Smith from Alabama.
'Props' to him - a new word he has taught me. See story for details...
There is a silver bowl in a box around here somewhere that I received in eighth grade for winning a fiction award. I keep it in case I become strapped for funds and need to melt it, though I suspect it may be silver-plated, not sterling. The award bore the name of a writer named Conrad Richter, and the presenters were thoughtful enough to include a copy of one of his books inscribed by his daughter offering best wishes and prosperity, the usual pap. To be truthful, I thought little of the book. It involved American Indians and frontiersmen as I recall, something they erroneously thought might intrigue a pubescent male. Sort of Hawthorne-lite, but lacking wonderful names like Natty Bumppo and the imprimatur of countless freshman English syllabi.
One story published in a regional magazine. It told the inspirational tale of my...
Last week, we were on our annual residential writing course 'The Full English' in Dorset. The value of revision became manifestly abundant over the course of a very intense week taking prose through rounds of work towards a shining, tight truth by the end of our seven days together.
I began the week with a lesson on 'Glamour' - and how what is concealed up front in your novel will of necessity be revealed. We begin our story by showing that to all appearances all's well but the veneer conceals a lie. It's the nature of THE LIE which is at the heart of your story, and it's the chipping away at it, the revelatory process which drives the plot. If you're a writer in search of an idea, start with a big lie.
We looked at how with The Great Gatsby it was Scott Fitzgerald's intention from the start to establish a veneer of glamour in his prose and story. He had his eyes on the big lie - the American Dream - which he foresaw as doomed.
I told my writers...
We are delighted to announce that The Novelry has won 2 of the 7 categories for Best Online Creative Writing Courses as judged by the formidable John Fox aka The Book Fox.
Winner - Best Course for Writing Your Novel
Winner - Best Course for Editing Your Novel
"I’ve gone through all 100 video lessons and loved it — and you can get extra personalized feedback from Louise Dean herself (both over Skype and through written feedback)." John Fox.
For a limited period you can try 14 days of the Ninety Day Novel course free.