The Novelry Blog

Where the writers are.

Val McDermid On Writing. Mar 14, 2021

From the Desk of Val McDermid.

One of the reasons for the popularity of crime fiction is its faithfulness to the idea of narrative. Crime novels provide their readers with stories that engage with their hearts and minds, but most of all, stories that make sense.

I’m often asked where my ideas come from, and my answer is that stories are everywhere. Once you train your antennae to hear them and see them, you can’t avoid them. But a story is only the beginning of the process of producing a novel.

What’s just as important as story is structure – how we tell that story. The stories that satisfy us have a beginning, a middle and an end. But they don’t necessarily come in that order. Think of how you tell an anecdote in the pub or at work. Sometimes you begin at the beginning. ‘John picked me up to go fishing this morning.’

Sometimes you begin in the middle. ‘So there we were, out in the middle of the loch, when John suddenly realized...

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The Firestarter 2021 Mar 07, 2021

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,...

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Can Creative Writing Be Taught? Feb 28, 2021

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.

There’s...

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Nikesh Shukla - Blood On The Page. Feb 21, 2021

 

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...

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It's a Love Story. Feb 14, 2021

'Marry me, Juliet. You'll never have to be alone.'

Taylor Swift.

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...

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