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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!
I've worked with dual perspectives before. In my historical novel, This Human Season, I told the story set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland chapter by chapter, alternating between a former English soldier prison guard, and a Catholic mother of one of the prisoners. I wanted to show how the two sides had much in common by running them alongside each other to tell the story of the events leading up to the Hunger Strike. The story came first, and I told it blow by blow, with the timeline in 'real-time' for both parties, day by day. The structure of your novel can serve its theme, it should serve its theme, and it can almost perform the theme.
This time, I'm writing a novel with dual timelines. I didn't mean to, I confess. I had a story drafted out in contemporary 'real-time', told in chronological order, but a character emerged, the grandfather of my hero, and I wanted to show the way our family history weighs on us...
We were lucky to have a live session with suspense writer Kate Hamer at The Novelry recently. Kate spoke about the importance of creating a potent atmosphere, particularly in the opening chapters where we’re really focusing on drawing the reader in. She told us that a childhood favourite of hers was Treasure Island, and how she remembered the arrival of Blind Pew being so affecting.
‘So things passed until, the day after the funeral, and about three o'clock of a bitter, foggy, frosty afternoon, I was standing at the door for a moment, full of sad thoughts about my father, when I saw someone drawing slowly near along the road. He was plainly blind, for he tapped before him with a stick and wore a great green shade over his eyes and nose; and he was hunched, as if with age or weakness, and wore a huge old tattered sea-cloak with a hood that made him appear positively deformed.’
When Jim Hawkins goes on to recall ‘I never saw in my life a more...
Two of our writers describe their recent adventures in fiction with The Novelry. With thanks to Justine Gilbert and Sir Dexter Hutt.
From the Desk of Justine Gilbert.
The art of reversing everything you were taught in school about writing.
I was a teacher for 25 years. For the majority of my career, I was 'Head of English'. I knew my job, and the children in my care did well in exams. I taught KS2 English, GCSE English and I tutored A level English. I was also a dyslexia specialist. If you brought me a child that was underperforming, I could diagnose what was needed to help them improve.
I wrote short stories, poems, and children’s plays, some of which were performed. I read avidly - particularly children’s fiction and I advised pupils on suitable books to read. My writing lessons followed the National Curriculum. I taught many genres of writing: letters, journalism, speech writing, essay writing. My story writing...
It is a fine thing, growing older, as a writer. One has experience to draw upon, of people and all their animal behaviour, but also where to draw the line. Where to end the sentence. Enough said. Maybe we speak to each other in shorthand as we get older. There is the unspoken ellipsis that follows a word or a phrase, which draws on a hinterland of colourful experience. The Marquee Tent.... And so many moments come to mind for both the user of the word and the recipient. One develops a reticence to say more. Or maybe much.
Writers develop over time. No bad thing maybe that you weren't published at nineteen. I was struck this week by the changes in the work of the author Norman Mailer (1923-2007). Over time, he wrote leaner and cleaner. (I see a similar thing in Orwell's work, the same with Graham Greene. Happy the young writer who cracks it early.)
In Normal Mailer's novel, Barbary Shore (1951) one is struck by the coddy language. It's so over-written...
As I entered into the fourth draft of my current novel, set in Brooklyn where I lived happily for a few years at the turn of the century, I turned back to console myself that the redrafting process was ever the same, even in the glory days and checked my process for my first novel.
I decided to look at first draft vs. final draft to see 'what gives', and to examine some other authors' first and last drafts too.
It was 19 years ago this month, July, that I set about writing my 'proper' first novel. I had two in the drawer and I meant business. I was heavily pregnant (due November) and had two boys under 5 at home in Brooklyn. I had a premise which started out as pretty hokey in February 2001 but by July I'd been turning it around in my mind for a few months.
This was what I set down in July when I began:
The working title for what was to become 'Becoming Strangers' was 'The Last Resort'. I must have felt at some point...
Emylia Hall, a bestselling author of four novels and a Richard and Judy Book Club favourite is joining The Novelry as a tutor. She's a wonderful teacher, a mother, a fellow of The Royal Literary Fund, and she's currently at work on a murder mystery. Read more about Emylia here.
From the Desk of Emylia Hall.
When I was 27 I left my job in a London advertising agency and went to work in the French Alps as a chalet chef. At the time I called it a career break, but it turned out to be the start of something much more. I’d wanted to shake off some responsibility and go snowboarding, but I also had the ambition to try to write a book. I had a few abandoned paragraphs on a floppy disk (this was 2005) but I’d got no further with it. Perhaps if I’d found the right inspiration or intervention, I might very well have applied myself to writing in London but, as it was, the move gave me the freedom and confidence to make a proper start. I was simultaneously...
The bestselling author of The Girl in the Red Coat, Kate Hamer explores the story starter of 'fairy tales' which is where the magic of our Classic course begins, the course designed to help writers find the story they're meant to write, or possibly afraid to write...
From The Desk of Kate Hamer
Perhaps it’s these strange lockdown times.
As ever I aim to get to my desk by 9.30 am – the time I used to start work in my job. Sometimes, I admit I’m late, the irony being I’m probably a whole lot harder on myself about that than any boss I’ve ever had would’ve been. So maybe the time of starting and finishing is sometimes a little *cough* flexible, but somehow there is never a question mark over the fact there IS a start and finish time, but it’s only recently in this new reality we find ourselves in has it occurred to me to question, why? Why on earth do I – we – have this compelling urge to take to our notepads and computers...
Many of you may be putting the final tweaks on the third or fourth draft of your novel (or later!) and considering the right time to query an agent. There are a few things to bear in mind when doing so, and in the Big Edit course at The Novelry we demystify the submission package: the query letter, the synopsis, and your opening chapters. Writers on our novel writing courses get pitched directly to our roster of leading literary agencies and we ensure the query letter and submissions pack we send is in the very best shape, and have a very high success rate.
Most agents find writers through their slush pile. It’s a terrible name given to something so vital to the publishing business – the ‘pile’ (nowadays likely an email inbox) of unsolicited manuscripts sent in by hopeful writers. There is no shame in your novel sitting in slush; there is a long, pervasive misbelief that publishing works on ‘who you know’. It’s simply not...
Our guest tutor, Mark Billingham, is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. His series of novels featuring DI Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel of the Year Award and his debut novel, Sleepyhead was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. His latest novel is Their Little Secret. A television series based on the Thorne novels starred David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a series based on In The Dark and Time Of Death was broadcast on the BBC in 2017. Mark lives in London with his wife and two children. When he is not living out rock-star fantasies as a member of the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, he is hard at what he claims is 'laughably' called work; writing his next novel.
Here are Mark Billingham's top crime writing tips.
TEN TIPS FOR WRITING CRIME FICTION
(SOME MORE SERIOUS THAN OTHERS.)
- Write the kind of book you would like to read.
- Know what the rules are before completely...
'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.' Somerset Maugham.
It's the same for story. Numerous books have been writing on the matter, none have proven definitive. Our philosophy at The Novelry is simple—tools, not rules. We don’t believe in a format, template or boilerplate novel, or grand definitive maxims.
A novel can offer one of the most intimate experiences of your life. Something like a beach blanket conversation with a dear friend. It can also be more like a movie in your head, like a funfair ride. Sure, you know this ride was designed for maximum impact, but you’re enjoying the thrills and spills. It is quite possible to enjoy novels of either kind and everything in between. There is no novel rule book. And if there were most writers are so wonderfully wilful they’d throw it out the window.
We believe in you, the writer, and your novel. We are here to breathe life...
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