You will find advice here to help you on your writing journey. Use the search bar or browse through the categories to get a taste of the kind of insights and shortcuts we use to fast track our writers.
The writers gathered, windswept and willing, in the vale of Marshwood on Tuesday afternoon last week.
We'd come past Stonehenge, down through valleys with breathtaking views, hilltops with clusters of Autumn-clad trees.
We were met with a warm welcome from the hostess, the Lady of Marshwood Manor, Romla Ryan. She showed us to the luxurious cottages with standalone baths, plushly-laundered beds and kitchens stocked with fresh milk, ground coffee and cafetieres. What more could a weary writer need?
I sat down on the sofa in my recessed sitting room, and looked out at an ancient oak tree from my cottage across the fields and thought - wow, this is quiet. Not a sound. No road noise.
'People say - we came the wrong way,' said Romla, 'but I say - no, there's only one road. It's just rural.'
As dark fell, writers gathered for tea and homemade cake and began telling each other the story of their novels. They discussed their plans for the sacred week. A chance to regroup,...
I have made a discovery in the last few weeks.
Creativity can be unleashed by structure. I remember from my days of advertising how awful the creative work was if the brief wasn't tight. I've broken stride in writing my new novel to perform a stringent edit on it, and I think there's something to be said for this method.
So, if you are on first draft, and feeling concerned about it, then this hybrid method which combines writing forwards and editorial 'retrospective' planning might work for you.
It might help you, as it has me, to stop loafing around on the outside of your novel, and get inside it.
For my method you will need:
- about 10k minimum words of material; love it or hate it, it's not important.
- title, hook, and synopsis for your book revised in the last few days. Phase Two of the Editing Your Novel course has you work through the beautiful logic of these to nail them. I'm going to assume you have followed the course and created a...
Hanif Kureishi famously dismissed the teaching of creative writing, saying that writing a story is:
'a difficult thing to do and it's a great skill to have. Can you teach that? I don't think you can.'
(According to Philip Hensher, Kureishi teaches creative writing at Kingston University, 'ineffectually')
We all learn to write. If you're serious about something, generally you will want to learn how to do it well. I wonder why some writersfeel they need to look down on aspiring writers once they have been published and claim writing is some 'mystical gift'. It's not; it's a skilled craft. It's one you need to keep learning; you never reach a golden plateau.
Serious writers have always sought and will always seek teachers long before their work gets to an editor's desk.
In defence of teaching creative writing, Kurt Vonnegut said:
‘A tough guy, I forget which one, is asked to speak to a creative writing class....
The idea for your novel doesn't often come to you whole and complete. If you're writing historical fiction then it may do, as mine did for This Human Season which is set in Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1981. That came to me on the platform of Clapham North tube station in 2003. I watched a few trains come and go as it dawned on me. But my other three novels came to life in stages.
Usually, the final novel is the result of an idea that has grown and acquired more substance like the proverbial rolling stone.
It seems to me though that there are elements to the idea which remain in place through the multiple drafts you will write. The details shift and change as you feel for what's most moving, most provoking, most important. A novel is a long struggle and it's good, necessary even, to get a first draft down in a season as we do in The Ninety Day Novel course. But you will return to it at second draft and amend it as new realities and truths...
'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately
, no one knows what they are.'
You will find tools at The Novelry. Use them, try them, pick them up, put them down. Do not consider them rules. I can't abide rules, and I guess you can't or you probably wouldn't be writing.
There is no formula. Did you know that some writers' books can stay unborn, in their amniotic sac of rules and regulations, attached to the umbilical spreadsheet for years? It's an awful condition and one we can't abide at The Novelry where we get novels done.
'I don’t think there are any universal rules. I really don’t. We each make our own rules, and we stick to our rules and we abide by them, but you know rules are made to be broken. … [If] any rule you hear from one writer doesn’t work for you, disregard it completely. Break it. Do what you want to do. I have my own rules that I follow, but...
I see breakthroughs weekly in my writers' work and I thought I'd share some of the signs with you of a step-change in the quality of the work, from good to bloody brilliant. (Next stop publication!)
1. Hard work made harder. A writer has a work emergency or an illness and decides to work harder. Bingo, breakthrough. No hard work ever goes unrewarded when it comes to the craft of writing. A writer goes to extraordinary lengths, gets tired, loses patience with herself and cuts to the chase in her prose, and lo and behold we have writing worth reading, and then some. Sometimes you have to slog it. That first chapter, though! I don't exaggerate when I say to you I rewrite mine 1000 times. It can seem bloody-minded at times. Moving words in and out. You worry it will lose its liveliness. It doesn't. You cut the pretty bits. Someone's foot moves in a reflexive action off-camera, and you're on it. Your eyes are all over the scene suddenly. Write on, but return again and again to each...
'The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!'
If you're new to us, welcome to The Novelry. Take a look back through our blog posts here and you will find solutions for problems you didn't even know you had!
This a place where words are important and serve the story, and we are story-telling animals. We live, breathe and create stories every second of every day. That's what the mind likes to do - it creates connections all the time between past experience and predicts based on not only experience but its vast library of stories, either a tragedy or a happy ending, depending on your mood or inclination.
The name change of Kritikme to The Novelry reflects the truth of the matter - this is a place where we make novels. Together. Side by side.
Part factory, part library, part quiet study, and plenty of revelry. Sometimes we come together, brawny-armed, dark-hearted...
I have this crazy notion that I used to write novels without planning them overly, that I was guided like some seer, by the character and their predicament and the story unfolded before me as I sat down to write it.
That's about 10% true.
I probably did write my first two unpublished novels that way; the ones in the drawer.
I was obliged to plan my first novel because I had a few daft runs at it to work from.
My second novel was planned with military oversight, I had the theme of the thing, a key scene, and then I worked out the story, had a pinboard with places and characters and spent close to a year researching and writing to the programme (plot) I'd set myself.
The Classic Course takes you step by step from idea to planning and you leave it with a beautiful plan based on the lessons of all-time bestsellers. The Ninety Day Novel course plans alongside you, for writers who've got started, got stuck, got half an idea, got a bad idea. If you've no idea but you love to...
Fiction is not mathematics. Yet, when we work at a draft a number of times it starts to feel that way. We write a novel step by step the first time, then we go over it at second draft to check how each chapter serves the story, each paragraph, each sentence, we look at how one thing leads to another and how they add up. Yes, this is how to write a novel, but no it is not everything. Sometimes addition can become subtraction.
You have to be really careful not to lose the mystery, those non-linear lines in your fiction which defy logic. These are the curious sentences whispered to you as you fall in and out of dreams and daydreams. They are the very soul of the novel.
With my first novel, I had a sentence which haunted me and it was really the 'x' that marked the treasure for me writing that novel 'Becoming Strangers'. That sentence was 'I am coming to you for help, I don't know why.'
I set it in a dream sequence in which my hero, who is dying of cancer, sees...
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
For those of us in our prime, Autumn is the season of making good. A season is, according to Stephen King, the right time frame to write a novel. So, it's time to push your novel to completion using our novel school methods: