Teaching ‘How to Write a Novel’ Online

‘Write Freely and See What Happens’: Teaching ‘How to Write a Novel’ Online

Last week, I brought another USW ‘How to Write a Novel’ course to an end, after three very pleasant and enjoyable months of writing and sharing. It was more a case of ‘Au Revoir’ than a fond farewell though; as always happens, friendships were forged and now we’re all linked up on Facebook, an informal writer’s group that expands with every course. Some students, meanwhile, are staying with us at the school and moving on to Ashley Stokes’ Online Workshop to develop the manuscripts they’ve been writing on my course. This happen a lot, because once people find their way to us – the friendly alternative to all those institutional and corporate creative writing programmes – they tend to stay. There’s a definite sense of family. And don’t get me wrong, we have all the knowledge and expertise of the professors, in fact some of us are professors, we just prefer to be a bit more practical and down to earth about the whole business of, you know, actually writing, rather than just talking about it.

I’ve been teaching this particular course for just over two years now, and it is always a pleasure. Because it has been a couple of years, I’m now seeing the novels that began in these courses completed – so revised, edited and polished to perfection – and submitted to literary agencies, with in several cases some very positive responses. Pretty soon, I reckon, we’ll start listing published novels that began with us so watch this space. And, as well as helping writers to find their process and their voice, we pride ourselves on preparing them to approach agents and publishers, with realistic, practical and no nonsense advice. You don’t have to take a separate course to learn more about publishing. We’re writers, we’re editors, we’re publishers, and we’re happy to share that experience. We’re all in this together, right?

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