New post for the Unthank School of Writing blog... I’ve just finished teaching two online groups for the Unthank School of Writing, the modular How To Write A Novel course and the Online Fiction Workshop. These were hard-working and dynamic writers’ groups, and I’m delighted to report that several students have decided to stay with… Continue reading A Motivational Writer’s Toolkit
From the Unthank School of Writing blog, Eilidh Horder of Riverstudios talks about the Online Fiction Workshop with Stephen Carver... For anyone considering the Unthank School Online Fiction Workshop, I unreservedly encourage you to do so. I originally signed up for the How to Write a Novel course, as I, well, wanted to learn how to… Continue reading Student Experiences: Priceless Advice
From the Unthank School of Writing blog, Zoe Bell talks about how our Online Fiction Workshop has helped her grow and shape her novel... Before I attended the Unthank Online Fiction Workshop I thought I could do it on my own: a biology degree and a career at a multinational corporation were adequate preparation for writing historical… Continue reading Student Experiences: Turning an Idea into Reality
In writing a novel, it is not just your protagonist that embarks on a journey but you, walking alongside your fictional companion like a medieval hero and his chronicler. This is a long road so imagine it as you like; perhaps carrying a shield upon your back and a sword in your hand, hiking in the woods with your best friend, or maybe doggedly pushing a shopping cart with your kid through an apocalyptic wasteland armed only with a revolver and two shells.
It’s one of life’s truisms that reading widely and critically is essential if you're serious about writing. You don’t need a degree in literature to be a critical reader; a lot of it is good, old fashioned common sense, and you’ll have most likely been reading this way naturally for years already, so naturally in fact that you might not be aware that you’re doing it. The next stage, especially if you’re beginning to write your own fiction, is to focus much more consciously on the individual components of narrative structure, and to apply this knowledge to your own writing.
Writing historical fiction offers a unique set of challenges: How far should you let the historical record dictate your own plot? Should you dramatize famous historical figures, or should your central character or characters be fictional? How do you build a lost world in the pages of your book? This is also a task that requires meticulous research, but at the same time you must avoid what Walter Scott described as the ‘dragging in of unnecessary historical details.’ It can also be rather lucrative if you get it right, so if you’re thinking about writing a historical novel, here are a few tips to get you started…
I’ve just finished teaching a course called ‘How to Write a Novel.’ The idea of this was to go from first principles to actually revising and polishing a manuscript until it was suitable to submit to agents and publishers or to self publish. I’ve also just finished copy-editing a huge project for myself. I quite enjoy copy-editing, which is a skill I picked up as an academic, but some of my students found it maddening (at the same time gaining a new respect for the skills of professional copy-editors and proofreaders).
If you aspire to write a novel, this is the best advice you will ever get. Try to forget, for a moment, the Atlantic of ink spilled upon the subject of ‘creative writing’ and bear with me. The truth is not always hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever you are writing – especially if it’s a book-length project, whether fiction or non-fiction – I cannot overstate the importance of working on it every day.