How an online editing course helped take my novel to the next stage

Stella Soerensen
26 April 2018
Article uploaded by
Mo Harber-Lamond

There’s more to writing a novel than just getting your words on the page, and mastering the editing process is what takes you from an ambitious writer to a truly publishable author. Here, Stella Soerensen explains how taking our Edit Your Novel The Professional Way online course has changed the way she writes – for the better.

Edit Your Novel

24 September 2018
  • Master the key skills you need to edit your novel
  • Diagnose problems in your chapters – and learn ways to fix them
  • Prepare a submission package for agents
Edit Your Novel the Professional Way

Having been on several writing courses over the last couple of years, I was looking for something that would move me on to the next stage with my novel. I had three aims in mind:

  1. I wanted editing skills I could use for myself and for future work, thereby cutting down on the cost of editing out-of-house.
  2. I wanted – indeed needed – very detailed feedback about my prose.
  3. I also thought that a solid editing course from a reputable company with a ‘what editors look for’ approach might help me in the world of publishing.

I studied the course details and saw that instead of repeating what I had learnt in many previous courses, this online course would allow me to look specifically at my prose in my book, teach me the skills I was looking for and at the same time move me onwards and upwards towards my aim of breaking into the publishing world.

In brief, the course indicated that it would build on everything I’ve learnt and shape my novel into a better finished article for pitching at agents and for pre-publication.

 

And has it lived up to its promises?

Absolutely. So far, we’ve plotted in great detail the arc of our stories and superimposed onto that arc characters whose weaknesses and strengths we have been shown how to analyse something I have not encountered in other groups I’ve attended.

We have drafted letters to agents using a template I had not met before and which I will file away for future reference.

We’ve had a couple of intense weeks on point of view, with the tutor watching very carefully how we are doing and stepping in if we need help, redirecting us if we get lost in such a vast area. So far so very good.

Kathryn Price and Fiona Egglestone genuinely take the time to reach out to students, acknowledging the time and energy they have put into the writing.

Stella Soerensen

Building confidence

Fundamental respect is given to the standard of writing on this course, with the assumption that work has been intelligently and carefully constructed. Cornerstones tutor Kathryn Price tries to understand and appreciate all the work we upload in each class.

She and moderator Fiona Egglestone genuinely take the time to reach out to students, acknowledging the time and energy they have put into the writing.

There isn’t the harsh criticism of the work presented that I have met on other courses (not, I hasten to add, with Faber Academy courses). No dismissal because of age or subject matter. What there is, is positive criticism in its best possible form, suggesting ways to improve in this art form.

This acceptance allows me to write more confidently, which in turn improves the way I write. When Kathyrn remarked ‘you have fulfilled the brief very well’, I thought yes! Someone appreciates how much time I am putting in to getting it right and how seriously I am taking this course. What is more, I feel listened to.

It is so important that an online group gels – this depends on personality types, standards, commitment and so on. Cornerstones have done an excellent job of ensuring that the participants have a lot to gain from each other.

‘My’ online group is supportive and constructive in its criticism. In other words, while they give positive feedback it isn’t always just ‘good’ feedback: it does contain criticism, but couched in such a way (there are critiquing guidelines) that I feel I learn and want to continue. I will miss the group when the course finishes.

The range of literature we are working on as a group is very varied which, on a personal note, means I am not ‘stuck with’ a genre that perhaps is not my most favourite.

Stella Soerensen

Range and genre

The range of literature we are working on as a group is very varied which, on a personal note, means I am not ‘stuck with’ a genre that perhaps is not my most favourite. I have been able to find other writers who appreciate my genre and whose genre I also like.

That means when giving feedback I can draw on some background knowledge and don’t need to do extra work to research a genre I am not familiar with. We have two weeks for each intensive session and I need to devote most of that to just doing the exercises set and redrafting my novel to include what I’ve learnt.

Also – and perhaps, for me, more importantly – I find the tutor is taking seriously every type of genre we have on the course and is not dismissive of one over the other. It is such a relief after some of my experiences to find such care when, after all, the course does cost hard-earned money.

Each session has an extract from a book or books that illustrates the notes, videos and podcasts for the session, and the exercises are directly relevant to each session.

Stella Soerensen

The level and quality of the course

I am always a little wary of online courses, as I have planned and run them myself and know very well how they can go wrong. This course has had a lot of thought put into it and it demands a lot from those who take it, including that they have reached a certain standard. The cycle of Learn; Research into; Produce an example of own work; Receive feedback has a solid educational foundation.

Initially I felt a little overwhelmed at not having a master’s in creative writing like some of the other writers on the course, but I am discovering that the more I put in the more I can take from the course materials. For example, each session has an extract from a book or books that illustrates the notes, videos and podcasts for the session. The exercises set are directly relevant to the point of each session.

What’s more, the final exercise in each class is directly geared to what the session has been teaching – there’s no straying off target or changing direction or being pulled up for an area that wasn’t pinpointed in that particular session.

Luckily, over my years of study I have on my shelves textbooks from various courses, so I can read around and go more in-depth if I have the time. If I stray off track my tutor is there most days and brings me or others back into the fold.

I feel that I am developing a solid grasp of what editing fiction involves – which is exactly what I wanted.

Stella Soerensen

Where next?

In terms of where I go within the publishing world, I feel that I am developing a solid grasp of what editing fiction involves – which is exactly what I wanted. It has given me a step up so that, while I’ve always enjoyed reviewing classmates work because you learn so much, now I’m beginning to think I could critically evaluate new books, and certainly new writers.

The course is giving me such a depth of understanding of what the editing of fiction involves that I may even add these skills to my CV.

Now that can’t be bad, can it?

Stella Soerensen

Originally trained as a teacher in Philosophy, from 1977 until 1988 Stella worked in Kenya where she established a teacher training scheme for the Aga Khan Educational Fund, Geneva. In 1988 she relocated to Denmark. 

Stella gave up full-time technical writing and editing almost 4 years ago to concentrate on her creative writing. She worked through the Norwich Writing Center (associated with UEA), completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel online course in April 2017 and went on to the Faber Academy Work in Progress course.

She is currently studying on the Cornerstones Edit Your Novel course.

Edit Your Novel

Begins: 24 September 2018