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!
The video above will reveal to you the name of the winner of this year's Firestarter at The Novelry. (You may wish to hold off until you've read the following.)
This the fourth year of our annual competition for the best opening to a novel, and previous winners are Kathy Brewis-Dunn (2018), Cate Guthleben (2019), Walter Smith (2020).
Entry is open to all but strongly recommended for those on the second draft and beyond and as ever, the results bear out the importance of editing, editing, editing. We never envy one another at The Novelry, where we work together because we darn well know how hard each and every writer has worked to get that novel over the line. All the art's in the redraft, and that's a comforting thought. It allows for time and space to make mistakes and play in the first draft. There's nothing to fear, no need to be nervous when you're writing a novel, folks. You get to choose when you hit send, and no one needs to see your workings! So play! Be wicked. (Oh, go on,...
Our new tutor at The Novelry, the bestselling author, Harriet Tyce, weighs in on the big question with her own experience as a student.
From the Desk of Harriet Tyce.
We all remember the good teachers that we’ve had. We also remember the bad. I’ll never forget Mrs Podd, who told my parents I’d never be any good at English (never let it be said that I hold a grudge). Or Mr Marsh, who first introduced me to TS Eliot, and the idea that I might study English at university. He also told me that my poetry was too self-indulgent. (I found some recently – all I can say is that he wasn’t wrong.)
I’ve had a lot of teachers over the years. I’ve done a lot of courses. After school, I’ve been taught English Literature, Law, Cookery, Gardening, Piano.... and Creative Writing. Lots of Creative Writing.
A course was my first introduction to writing; a course led me to being signed by an agent, and ultimately being published.
From the Desk of Nikesh Shukla.
A lot of writers talk about the importance of voice, so I’m going to talk to you about the importance of soul. Because the best writing, the writing that moves, excites, commiserates, calms, saddens or breaks the heart of the reader, the writing that makes them laugh and cry and gasp and sigh and pump a subtle fist at their waist in celebration is the writing that bleeds on the page.
It’s the only way I know how to write and the only thing I like to read. I’m not interested, as a writer, in intellectual gymnastics. I am not bothered by experimentation for its own sake. I cannot spend time with characters who are cyphers for an author’s grandstanding political point. I want your blood on the page.
Because otherwise, what is the point of this big undertaking? Why write a novel? A novel is as the old saying goes, a sculpture you’ve made after many attempts to shovel sand into a box. A novel is a moment in time, a...
'Marry me, Juliet. You'll never have to be alone.'
The end of solitude? Or a value choice? What's behind a love story? In a time in which we are all ragged, estranged, and feeling peculiarly close-to-the-edge sentimental, our blog this week explores a different kind of love story. One in which you can make peace with yourself. So if the events of the last year have left you in a bruised and battered relationship with yourself, a 'golem' as one writer recently described it, then here's hope. Happy Valentines, writers.
From the Desk of Emylia Hall.
There’s a passage in the brilliant closing chapter of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins which goes:
‘This is a love story, Michael Deane says. But, really, what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery, or the chase, or the nosy female reporter, who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely the serial murderer loves his victims, and...
Writing a Dystopian Novel.
Five Reasons To Write A Dystopia.
(Warning: Spoilers for ‘We’ by Yevgeny Zamyatin, ‘1984’ by George Orwell, ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood and ‘The Children of Men’ by PD James.)
- Utopia and Dystopia are a hair's breadth apart
Utopia came first. Written in Latin and published in 1516, Thomas More first coined the phrase as the title for his work of fiction and socio-political satire – ‘a little, true book, not less beneficial than enjoyable, about how things should be in a state and about the new island Utopia’. More portrays a socialist idyll of hospitals and shared food. (Not all the details are so homogenously equal but considering the time it was written, there’s a lot that seems remarkable.) But utopia literally means ‘nowhere’, from Greek ou ‘not’ and topos ‘place’; this was somewhere that could not be found.
Moving on to...
Silvia Molteni is a literary agent at PFD. Peters Fraser + Dunlop (PFD) is one of our twelve partner literary agencies. We submit our writers work in preference to these warm-hearted, reputable, leading agencies who act on behalf of authors globally to secure enviable publishing contracts with The Big 5 publishers worldwide. It's a mutually rewarding arrangement. Our partner agencies look forward to seeing our work, as it's of a reliably high standard, and in return they come back to us like lightning with their thoughts. No slush pile for our writers.
Our agents pop into The Novelry from time to time to give our writers a heads up on what's hot in the publishing world and how to ensure your novel is firing on all cylinders, and the wonderful Silvia Molteni will be joining us Monday 1st February at 6pm for a live Q&A session. A chance for our writers to get their questions answered and meet the agent in person. Putting faces to names is a huge pleasure for...
Emma Stonex is the author of several books written under a pseudonym. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an editor at a major publishing house. The Lamplighters is her debut novel under her own name. It's the eagerly-awaited 'super-lead' title for Picador, published this Spring.
Emma will be our guest author for a live session for members in March.
From the Desk of Emma Stonex
I wrote nine novels before the one I knew nothing about. There aren’t any lighthouse keepers in my family, I haven’t (thank goodness) mourned a missing person, I don’t even live by the sea. The Lamplighters isn’t based on my experience on any direct level, and yet strangely it’s the only story to date I’ve felt an urgent need to tell. The advice is to write what you know, but I’m not sure I agree. Writers are curious. If this isn’t a job about occupying new worlds, what is?
A writer’s trade is her imagination.
She has a responsibility to learn about...
Ruth Hogan will be our guest for a Live Session at The Novelry on 15th February.
Ruth Hogan is the bestselling author of the Sunday Times bestseller and Richard & Judy Readers' Award winner - The Keeper of Lost Things. She's the author of bestsellers - The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel and the forthcoming Madame Burova (due to be published April 2021)
From the Desk of Ruth Hogan.
For me, writing isn’t a choice – it’s an obsession. A compulsion. Getting published was better than winning the lottery (and the odds were not dissimilar!) and I count myself lucky every day that I get paid for doing what I love.
But even if no publishing deal had come along, I know that I would still be writing at every opportunity. I always describe myself as a ‘method’ writer. Whenever I start a new book, I surround myself in my writing space with pictures and things that relate to the plot and the characters. I create...
'Every writer I know has trouble writing.'
Almost 99% of writers exist in a state of some doubt that they're any good at this writing business. The other 1% aren't very good at it.
Only a fool thinks their writing is much good while they're mid-novel. Sure, you get flashes, moments, in which a line soars, an insight cuts, or a mysterious space opens up and you think - yup, that's why I do this. And even, damn that's good. But mostly one goes to the manuscript word document in a state best described as faintly appalled.
You're not alone. Confidence is quite properly an elusive quality for this craft. You'd be useless with too much of it. Confidence and doubt keep the work human and humane, and above all else tender. After all, the novel is the art form singularly concerned with the frailty of the creature that knows God but is no god, that has the appetite of an animal, but is not quite as reliable.
We seem to see our novel as the...
From the Desk of Kate Riordan.
Someone once said to me, ‘It’s a shame, isn’t it, that being a writer was your dream but you don’t really like it’. I turned to him, completely taken aback. ‘But I love writing!’ I said. He laughed. ‘You’ve got a funny way of showing it.’
He had a point. I know quite a few writers but I’d never come across one more resistant to the actual writing than me. ‘Just do a little bit every day!’ well-meaning people would say, to which my answer was a bitter laugh. Every day? I’d gone weeks without even opening my work-in-progress. Obviously, the guilt was crippling.
I wasn’t unique in this, of course. A cursory trawl on Twitter revealed plenty of writers discussing their displacement activity of choice: manic decluttering, doing their tax early, watching videos of dogs launching themselves into piles of leaves. Anything, anything, not to just crack on and write the...
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