How to write your first novel, according to experts.


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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
This Evening Standard article discusses writing courses and three recently published how-to guides:

How to write your first novel, according to experts

The £4,000 fee for the Faber Academy course Writing A Novel is a strong indicator of how to make money from writing—run a course, writers' retreat or online pay-for tuition or editing services. As several of us have commented on the Colony, far more suppliers of mining equipment, clothing and food supplies got rich during a gold rush, than hard-working miners themselves.

Another recent writing guide, that's worth a look is Sam Leith's Write to the Point: How to be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page. I read it earlier this year, and liked his calm and common sense approach, which reminded me of another writing guru Noah Lukeman.

What the Evening Standard doesn't really mention, is that writing your first novel is the easy part. It's selling it that's hard!


(It might work!)

There are some writing courses that are worth their while but Faber's one may be great for all we know but they are milking their name. It's like purchasing a designer label top when a supermarket brand works just as well.

There is not just one way to become a publishable writer and there is no wrong way either. Putting people off these courses because it's not suitable to one person is not advisable imo. It may suit someone else for different reasons.

I took the plunge (as I seem to do so often ;) ) to go on a writer's retreat - my first one. Expensive for me but I did it because I had a gut feeling based on the fact that the people running it were people I wanted to learn from and the people going there were writers I wanted to be around. The agents visiting were those I wanted to hear from. The content of the retreat was exactly what I was after and I'd matured enough as a writer to be able to take full advantage of them. I still refer to the notes they've given me and the tools I took with me. It ticked so many boxes.

Plus my working environment (read dining table in parents home) has very little writing stimulation and it is depressive at times and very lonely. It's important I find things that can improve me as a writer and as a person who enjoys the intellectual stimulation of direct contact with others I NEED to occasionally be out of the house and in circles with others if only to develop my social IQ.
I don't find writing easy. The ideas and the first draft come OK. But it's the rewrites that make the thing work, and the crafting, to leap the gap between the vision and the reality of the execution. It's like howling for the moon, and hoping someone wants to read about the wolf. Not easy. From time to time I have turned to Litopians, book worm family and friends, and never failed to learn something new from them about the story...fascinating what the reader brings in with them. And I have books to help me...not with technical advice, but to remind me of the principles of novel writing. One favourite...slightly misleading title, coming at the job the other way round, is How to Read A Novel by John Sutherland.

My husband once went on a work course, and that evening he was talking about it, and our elder daughter, then aged 5 asked him, 'how many legs has it got?'

Cue puzzled expressions.

'How many legs has what got?'

'The course?'

She thought it was a kind of horse because he said he 'went on it', and she went pony riding sometimes, went on a Shetland pony called Duncan.


Horses for courses. Courses for horses.

It all depends on the people.
No questions today?

I think writing well is difficult. Typing is pretty easy though.

Margaret Atwood is doing a Master Class. YouTube keeps telling me about it....which I wouldn't mind if YouTube also offered to pay for it.

I think writing courses are mostly a waste of time and money. They're mostly a place to socialize. Probably nothing wrong with that, if its your thing.
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