Session 1: Welcome
Meet your fellow novelists and introduce the novel idea you’ll be working on to the group and tutor for workshopping. Then look inside yourself to examine your practice as a writer, and your motives for writing this novel at this point in time. You’ll make a plan to move your idea forward. For those starting the course without a set idea, we’ll do some practical ideas generation. You’ll also have your first live group webchat with your tutor.
In each fortnightly session you’ll learn to read like a writer, analysing extracts from key authors to get under the bonnet of the novelist’s craft and sharpen your technique. You’ll also read and respond to the work of your peers in every session, following our critiquing guidelines, to hone your judgment and editorial skills.
Session 2: Opening Pages
Stress-test your novel premise and ideas using our practical techniques and tips, and share your opening pages. We’ll think about genre and reader expectations, and setting up your fictional world. Draft an outline synopsis.
Session 3: Protagonists & Cast
Whose story is this, what do they want, and how well do you know them? We’ll get to know each other’s main characters and let them tell us about their journey. Who’s supporting your lead role, and why are they there? Making a first appearance. You’ll have a live group Q&A with a guest author.
Session 4: Who’s Telling This Story?
Point of view options – and point of view options that are right for you as a writer and this story. Practical exercises to help you explore and pinpoint. Do you need more than one POV, and the pros and cons of maintaining multiple viewpoints. Your tutor will give feedback on your first 2,000 words.
Session 5: Author Voice
Finding an authentic voice you can sustain for the long-haul of a novel. Experiment with different styles using our practical exercises, and find authors whose work speaks to you. Explore word choice, sentence style, and other craft skills.
Session 6: Story & Structure
Learn the essential elements every story needs, and how to order them to make the most of this story. Story blueprints that stand the test of time, and how to master the rules before breaking them. Make a story map for your novel. You’ll have a live group webchat with your tutor.
Session 7: Fact to Fiction
How to use research (desk, archive and your own experience) as a leaping off point for your fiction. Using sensory techniques to bring fictional settings to life, and learning from the art of the historical fiction writer. When to stop researching and start writing – and effective ways to stop procrastinating.
Session 8: Progression & Pace
Writing moments in time, and thinking like a screenwriter to stitch together key scenes that move your story on. Effective scene writing, and techniques to slow down time for effect and speed up the pace. Your tutor will give you feedback on 5,000 words as a manuscript mark-up, with a 30-minute tutorial to discuss.
Session 9: Using Description
Play with techniques that help you zoom in up-close and pull back, and look at the effect on your reader. The art of layering description and using detail to capture readers in your fictional world and author voice.
Session 10: Character Voice
Do your characters have distinct voices? How to draw differences on the page based on character sketches. Conversation observation tasks, and effective ways to work with idiom and dialect. Dialogue dos and don’ts that mark you out as a serious writer. You’ll have a live group webchat with your tutor.
Session 11: World Building
Using setting as character and for atmosphere. How to capture sensory detail on the page, and feelings associated with a setting, real or imagined, to build the reader’s sense of being there, immersed in your world.
Session 12: Shaping & Revising
Why all novel writing is rewriting, and practical skills to help you see the shape of a longer piece of work, and bring together the various strands. Thinking about themes. The art of cutting and how to be brave. Revisit your story map.
Session 13: Industry Context
Thinking about your work in the ‘real’ world, and an overview of the publishing industry and the writer’s role. Agents, traditional publishing and newer models. Myth busting. The importance of keeping aware of the industry while staying true to your unique vision. Rework your synopsis. You’ll have a live group Q&A with an agent.
Session 14: Quiet Writing Time
This is a four-week session focused on private writing time as you prepare to submit the first 10,000 words of your novel and synopsis for tutor review. The forums are open for discussion and peer support and critiquing.
You can write as much of your novel as you would like during the course. But at the end of the course we invite you to submit (up to) the first 10,000 words of your novel (from the start, not selected excerpts) for tutor feedback.
On finishing the course you’ll have everything you need, (synopsis, polished 10,000 words based on expert feedback and one-to-one guidance), to move onto the Finish a Draft: Advanced Skills course or Edit Your Novel course.
Feedback on the course
Your tutor will not give you written feedback on your novel in every session. The tutor will give feedback at set points during the course on your progressing novel idea, synopsis and prose. This takes different forms at different stages of the course, including one-to-one Zoom tutorial, individual podcast, notes on your manuscript, written notes or group tutorials. These will be outlined by your moderator at the start of the course.
You will read and respond to at least two of your peers’ submissions in every session of the course, as directed by your tutor and following our critiquing guidelines. In turn you will receive peer feedback in each session of the course.