Edit Your Novel The Professional Way

Cornerstones’ online editing course

Learn how to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way on this new online course.

Over 18 weeks, leading UK literary consultants Kathryn Price and Helen Corner-Bryant will show you how to take your novel from draft to agent-ready submission.

They will introduce you to the techniques used by professional editors based on their time-tested approach to author development, as well as the skills outlined in their essential guide to editing, On Editing: How to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way (John Murray, April 2018).

You’ll need to put in up to 10 hours per week to make the most of the course (180 hours over the 18 weeks) — that includes reading and thinking, completing practical exercises, feeding back on your peers’ novels, and contributing to forum discussions. You can work at any time of the day (or night) — you just need to meet the final deadline in each class.

At the end of the course, you’ll have access to a niche go-to list of agents who are open to submissions from our course alumni.

We also offer an instalment payment plan so you can spread the cost of the course.


Start date: 19 September 2022
Duration: 18 weeks
Skill level: Advanced
Session length: Fortnightly (final session lasts four weeks)
Sessions: 8

Special early bird price
(Ends 7 August 2022)
Price: £1,800 £1,560 (inc. VAT where applicable)

Course Director

This course is for authors who have a complete draft of a novel — either a current work-in-progress or one you would like to revisit. You may have completed a novel-writing course, or a writing masters, and are now ready to make the leap to the next level. Or you may be published and working on a new novel.

Payment options

The course costs £1,800 (inc VAT). We offer a special early bird rate of £1,560 (inc VAT) if you book six weeks or more in advance.

You can also spread the cost of the course with our instalment payment plan: an initial £600 secures your place, followed by three payments of £400 over the next three months by standing order.

What we’ll teach you We’ll introduce you to the key skills needed to edit a novel and show you how to use those techniques to diagnose and fix problems in your own work. We will also show you how to prepare your submission package to present to the trade. During the course, there will be forum and chatroom participation, a moderator to answer day-to-day and technical queries, and a tutor overseeing your comments and posted work. You will receive individual tutor feedback on extracts from your novel on three occasions during the course. What you’ll have at the end You’ll have an edited and industry-formatted version of the first 10,000 words of your novel, together with a synopsis and covering letter, ready to send out to agents. You’ll also have a good working knowledge of the professional editing techniques you need to apply to the rest of your manuscript, and a plan to put those skills into action. At the end of the course you’ll receive detailed tutor feedback on your first 10,000 words, synopsis and covering letter.

Class 1: Plan and Plot
Aim: Learn about diagnostic structuring techniques and how to apply them to your own work.                     Outcome: Find and fix plot problems and produce a solid structural overview (synopsis). You will talk to your tutor about your novel (15-20 minutes).
Class 2: Cracking Characters
Aim: Find out how to assess character strengths and weaknesses, and flesh out less defined characters. Analyse characters in terms of their role and function in the plot, looking at character arcs and their impact on structure. Outcome: Make a detailed analysis of your protagonist, including their inner and external conflicts mapped side by side with your plot structure.
Class 3: What is the Point of View?
Aim: Examine different POVs and explore their effect on tension and readability. Learn the dos and don’ts of (POV) and how to make yours as effective and intimate as possible. Outcome (choose one option):

  • A: Edit 500-750 words of your novel to avoid head-hopping
  • B: Edit 500-750 words, using a different POV
  • C: Edit 500-750 words using advanced techniques to bring us even closer to the POV character
Class 4: Effective Dialogue and Description
Aim: Understand the purpose of dialogue and how to juggle context, text and subtext. Explore ways to use description to kick-start the reader’s imagination, and blend dialogue and description effectively within the parameters of POV. Outcome: Red-pen and rewrite one short scene to make more of your description and dialogue (to include infrastructure, scene-setting and dialogue/cushioning).
Class 5: Show-stopping Scenes
Aim: Learn how to prioritise material so that each scene has a clear purpose and direction, using questions and answers to increase tension and make scenes shine. Outcome: Check that each scene in your first 10,000 words is really needed and rewrite one full scene implementing the techniques you’ve learned.
Class 6: Page-turning Pacing
Aim: Develop advanced approaches to balancing material — dealing with overwriting or superfluous elements, and knowing when to extend/slow down and when to cut back/speed up. Discover how to apply the idea of pacing to your overall structure. Outcome: Rewrite a dramatic incident employing pacing appropriate to the subject and atmosphere.
Class 7: Let Show not Tell Lead the Way
Aim: Find out how to spot telling in your writing, and why, how and where to dramatise instead. See how to use ‘show not tell’ as a lens to examine every aspect of your writing and learn how to inhabit the ‘show not tell’ mindset when editing. Outcome: Edit your first chapter using ‘show not tell’ techniques to guide you. You’ll participate in a tutor-led online group discussion on common problems, with troubleshooting tips.
Class 8: How to Catch an Agent’s Eye
Aim: Create an industry-level package to submit to agents; learn how to research and pitch, with tips on how to land on your chosen agent’s desk. Write a catchy book description and covering letter, using an editing checklist of dos and don’ts. Outcome: Apply the techniques you’ve learned to your first 10,000 words, then write your covering letter and finalise the synopsis you produced in Class 1. At the end of the course you’ll receive detailed tutor feedback on your first 10,000 words, synopsis and covering letter.

You’ll learn in Cornerstone’s online classroom, which is open 24/7 so you can balance your learning around your work, family and friends. You’ll work in a small group of fellow learners so you can discuss ideas, ask questions and share your writing as you progress through the sessions. As this is an advanced course, each group is limited to 15 students or fewer.

You’ll learn from:

  • Short audio and video files from your course tutors
  • Online guidance notes and directed editing exercises
  • Extracts to read, annotated with an editor’s notes
  • Reading and viewing lists
  • Online workshop sessions
  • Online peer critiquing
  • Tutor feedback via Skype, phone calls or online chats and forum posts
  • The opportunity to share your work and give and receive feedback from fellow writers
  • A dedicated resources area which is continually updated

You’ll need:

  • Up to 10 hours per week to work through the course
  • A notebook and pen or pencil, if you like to make notes by hand
  • A laptop or computer* with:
    • A reliable broadband internet connection
    • Speakers or headphones
    • The latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Safari
    • Microsoft Word. If you don’t have this you can download Open Office free
    • Adobe Reader, latest version. Download free
    • QuickTime Player, latest version. Download free

*You can access the course from a tablet or smartphone, but we recommend using a laptop or computer, as this makes it easier to share your work files with your writing group.

Helen Corner-Bryant – Course Director

Helen spent a number of years in editorial at Penguin before setting up Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 1998. In 2016, she opened Cornerstones US, creating the world’s first transatlantic literary consultancy. Helen and Cornerstones are known for nurturing new authors through the editorial process, providing feedback on all types of genres, scouting for agents, and launching many writers. Helen is a guest lecturer at leading universities including UCL Centre for Publishing and the Columbia Publishing Course at Oxford. She is the co-author of the essential Cornerstones guide to editing and submitting a successful novel: On Editing: How to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way (John Murray, April 2018).

Kathryn Price – Course Director and Tutor

After achieving a first in Literature and Criticism at UCL, Kathryn worked for literary agencies and for a bookshop specialising in crime fiction, where she developed a taste for unusual and macabre stories. Following her true passions — editing and teaching writing skills — she joined Cornerstones as managing editor in 2005 and later became co-director. In 2014 she decided to focus on the editorial side of the business and now works closely with authors developing their manuscripts. She is Cornerstones’ editor-in-chief and co-author of the essential Cornerstones guide to editing and submitting a successful novel: On Editing: How to Edit Your Novel the Professional Way (John Murray, April 2018).



Join the Cornerstones alumni

After your course, you can join the online alumni where you’ll meet the growing network of past Cornerstones students. The alumni is a friendly group of writers who support each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing.

Within the online alumni area you can:

  • Rejoin your classmates on a private forum and access an archived version of your course materials and forum posts
  • Join in on discussions about reading, writing, editing and ideas on our general discussion forum. This is also where we share news and useful info
  • Retain access to our resources area, which has interesting and informative links
  • Chat with other people online using the alumni area live chatroom

Taking things further

If you’d like to continue on to another Professional Writing Academy course, we’ll give you a discount. Please get in touch for more details.

What our students say...

I don’t think I could ever have got my novel to this level without the guidance of this course and the incredible friendship and support of my fellow writers.


What our students say...

I’ve loved this course and have been recommending it to a couple of my friends. It’s changed how I think about writing (I used to batter out a few chapters then start planning). I’ve written three novels’ synopses since starting this course, so I’ve got my writing sorted for the next little while.

The advice I’ve given is nothing compared to what I’ve received from everyone. You’ve all had a hand in this novel – I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t left a mark on the MS. With any luck, The Pale Fox will find a home, and when it does, you’ve all got a signed copy coming your way. See you in the Alumni forum!


What our students say...

I knew when I decided to do this course, with the expense considerations and the time, that if nothing else it would at least make me a better writer, but honestly it’s really surpassed my expectations. I just feel like I’ve been given a complete tool-kit.


What our students say...

This course has saved me months, if not years, of extraneous writing and tinkering. My tutor, Kathryn, nudged me towards a large-scale structural edit which led to a culling from 115K to around 70K words as I write this. If nothing else, this course had been worth the money for that one, critical piece of advice.

Almost at the finish line and with some expert self-editing from these brilliant classes, already I notice my writing is becoming tighter, more professional and I’ve teased out the story I’ve been trying to tell all along. Thank you for a cracker of a course.


What our students say...

The course has helped me put together a methodology which will be vital if I am to succeed in this new career.


How to apply for the course

It’s very important that we both agree that you and your manuscript are at the right stage to get the most out of this course.

As with all Cornerstones editing services, we like to review applications. You can apply online, by completing this form. We’ll review your application and get back to you within five working days.

If we confirm your place, we’ll email you payment options and the Terms & Conditions. Once payment has been received we will email you a receipt and confirm your place and the course start date. You will be emailed a login and link to the online classroom with how-to steps to get you started.

You can submit online through this site.