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!

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Member's Story Jun 07, 2020

 

There was something in the air at The Novelry last week, the 'sense of an ending' one might say, the changing of seasons, and we saw many of our writers slamming down the first draft of their novels in fine style. Congratulations to all of you.

You know the drill! At the end of the Ninety Day Novel course, we prepare you to raise your sights for second draft with a month off, reading good works, ready to return to your novel as a reader rather than a fond and indulgent parent. The Big Edit course is a big step up, as we set sights on publication. From creator, you become a professional author, driving the story hard, and get help with the heavy lifting from your tutor.

The month off between drafts allows for some gluttonous reading enabling the writer emerging from hibernation with their novel to blink at some bright new writing, catching up with what's hot and what's stood the test of time. I've been greedily reading through lockdown poring through Bukowski, Camus,...

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Meet Katie Khan. May 24, 2020

 

I’ve been a reader longer than a writer, and I think that’s true for most people who pick up a pen to write a story. More and more I’ve been thinking about my Year 5 teacher, Mrs Murphy, who read to us each day at 3pm on the carpet in the corner of our classroom, a veritable cavalcade of fantasy fiction: Alan Garner. Redwall. The Dark is Rising sequence. I can likely trace my love of other worlds back to sitting cross-legged on an itchy carpet in north London, where the end-of-day bell would ring and thirty children would groan in disappointment. ‘But what happens next?’ It’s the question that’s come to haunt my adult life.

I’ve published two novels with Penguin Random House. My first, Hold Back the Stars, is about a couple falling in space with only 90 minutes of air remaining, intercut with their love story on a utopian Earth. I learnt by doing with this novel – particularly when it comes to the publishing industry. I...

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Chapter One May 17, 2020

 

The first chapter of a novel needs to do some heavy lifting to start the story. Once you realize that what needs to be done follows a fairly clear format, it makes light work of the task. 

What should you be looking to achieve in the first chapter? These are some of the things you might consider:
  • to put your reader into the world (location/setting/era)
  • to pose a question the reader wants to get an answer for (create mystery or intrigue)
  • to introduce the main character
  • to set the mood
  • to kickstart the plot development

But what's essential for a story to start in the space between you and the reader?

In the video with this blog, you'll find a clip from a lesson with Justin Cronin in which he describes the basic layout as:

  • where and when are we?
  • who are the major players?
  • what's the point of view?
  • What's the story's larger moral and cultural setting?

 

"There's nothing wrong with just flat out declaring this information at the start of a narrative. I...

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Louise Doughty on Writing Platform Seven. Apr 19, 2020

 

Louise Doughty describes the strange lure of station platforms that inspired her to write the wonderful suspense thriller, her latest book, Platform Seven, published by Faber & Faber.


Louise Doughty writes... 

I had a strange yearning the other day, an overwhelming desire to do something wild and reckless, to leave my house and travel to somewhere that seemed unbelievably enticing and exotic.  I really, really wanted to go to Peterborough Railway Station.

 I could picture myself doing it.  It’s possible to walk to Kings Cross Station from where I live.  I went down there on one of my daily exercise outings a week or so ago – standing for a moment on the vast, airy concourse, shops and cafes all shuttered and closed, listening to the announcements to nobody echoing across the empty space.  The fifteen thirty LNER service to Leeds will depart from Platform One.  This train will be calling at…  if I had wanted to, I...

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Metaphor. Apr 05, 2020

 

 A Dirty Word?

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

A figure of speech in which a name or descriptive word or phrase is transferred to an object or action different from, but analogous to, that to which it is literally applicable; an instance of this, a metaphorical expression. Cf. metonymy n.simile n.

+ meta = In ancient Greek and Hellenistic Greek μετα- is combined chiefly with verbs and verbal derivatives principally to express notions of sharing, action in common, pursuit, quest, and, above all, change (of place, order, condition, or nature)

+phor = + ϕορά carrying ( < the o -grade of the stem of ϕέρειν to bear, carry)

Early use:

a1500  (c1477)  T. Norton Ordinal of Alchemy  Thei made theire bokis to many men ful derk, In poyses, parabols, & in methaphoris alle-so, which to scolers causith peyne and...

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Starting To Write A Novel. Mar 29, 2020

 

On the 16th of February, I was walking my dog with a friend who is in his late Sixties. He was telling me about his grandmother. His mother was bullied by a girl when she was a child in the 1920's and her mother sent her back to school with a homemade rhyme. It went something like this: Apple pie is very nice, and so is apple pasty, but Betty Jones messed her shirt, and that was very nasty. The rhyme caught on in the playground. He went onto tell me that his grandmother was a leading light of the Band of Hope, a temperance movement quite big during her lifetime with banners on their marches touting 'Bread Not Beer'. As she was a heavy drinker, the Band of Hope was certainly apposite regarding her membership.

When I came home I googled it, and saw that the movement was started in 1847 when a 72-year-old Irish Presbyterian lady joined forces with a young Baptist minister Jabez Tunnicliffe and they decided to warn children of the dangers...

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The Second Novel & Beyond. Mar 22, 2020

 

 

We have all heard of the 'enfant terrible' of the second novel.

The much-feared 'Second Novel Syndrome' bodes not so much a happy ending as a marked drop in sales leading down the garden path to the midden of the mid-career sag. (See this blog for details.) One is supposed to anticipate much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the author's kitchen as indifferent, scant reviews come in followed by poor sales. A far cry from the heady days of 'the debut of the year.'

Why?

Simple.

You never stop learning until you stop learning.

The heady praise of the debut can lead an author to think they're a natural-born killer when it comes to novels. They've got a gift. Talent! Innate!

It is not so.

I don't believe in 'talent'. I do believe in staying power, reading, love of the craft, humility, mischief, discipline and routine.

With your first novel, you were obliged as an unknown to pull out all the stops. Every pretty rejection sent you revising. You got feedback from...

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The Firestarter 2020 Mar 15, 2020

 

Thank you all for taking part.

We have had some trailblazing first chapter entries to this year’s competition. Thanks to all of you who entered and those who voted. 

The month of February is set aside annually to focus on feedback with The Firestarter and our writers have been sharing their work with each other at our online workshop and benefitting from the constructive critique and fond feedback that makes The Novelry such a special place.

The Firestarter is the most unusual of competitions for writers. One in which, genuinely, every entrant gains thanks to the feedback from wise reader-writers worldwide. What's more, it's the only truly democratically-awarded writing prize. All members get one vote, and they vote for the work they rate most highly.

It's interesting to see the votes come in and cluster around frontrunners early proving that, regardless of your taste in reading and genre-preference, there is such a thing as 'good writing' which...

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MA Creative Writing Mar 08, 2020

Considering a Creative Writing MA or MFA?

If you're seeking a career as a published fiction author, a university or post-graduate school creative writing masters program might not be the right choice for you.

Career or hobby? Most writers can write. The chances are if you are reading this that you can write. If only 'writing' was all it was about! Publishers and published authors know the secret to getting published and making a living from writing is one single word: story. If you'd like to spend a year enjoying the craft and learning literary terms and techniques, away from the humdrum daily life and workplace, the MA or MFA could be for you. But if you want to get published, choose a school with a focus on the career path. In practice this means:

  • tutors who are published authors and working novelists who have had sales volumes, bestsellers or won awards
  • links to literary agencies
  • publishing professionals on hand

You should be looking for a smooth onward journey towards...

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The Driving Force of the Genre Mar 01, 2020

Genre is important. Start here, if you will. As I mentioned in our blog 'Get Published', and as we cover in our online creative writing courses, its the first thing an agent assesses on your submissions letter as they start to consider whether to read on and which editor to call for lunch. They'll be looking to check you've used the right ingredients for the genre.

Genre is important. Start here, if you will.

It's the first thing an agent assesses on your submissions letter as they start to consider whether to read on and which editor to call for lunch. They'll be looking to check you've used the right ingredients for the genre.

Genres can be individually defined by the particular nature of the key driving force behind your story.

Each genre has its own secret agent of story, and that's how genres can be defined. Make sure you've got the right one in the driving seat of your moving vehicle! Shall we peel back the disguise? It might be that the commonly held 'drivers' of...

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