How to Write a Novel: Twelve Essential Components

One of my most popular posts last month was ‘How to Write a Novel.’ This was basically a plug for a course of the same name that I teach for the Unthank School of Writing, and although enrolment is buoyant, I’m guessing that a lot of the hits were actually people looking for advice on how to write a novel. In that case, as November is National Novel Writing Month, here are a few free tips to get you started…

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Twenty Tips for Becoming Your Own Editor

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).

Where’s Sailor Jack?

Where’s Sailor Jack? is by turns romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga. Like its hero, Bob Swarbrick, this novel is charming, charismatic and complex, and reminds us that not all contemporary fiction has to mirror Hollywood, with metrosexual twenty-somethings charging about solving impossible problems. Where’s Sailor Jack? is measured and thoughtful, with a strong plot, believable characters, and an intelligent moral centre.

Ten New Year’s Writing Resolutions

Like the stale peanuts, the suspicious bottle of wine, and Noddy bloody Holder, I’m still here. Rest assured that I remain committed, and have a lot more to say about the business of writing. So, as another year slips away like an egg sliding off a skillet, I thought it might be useful to summarise where we’ve got to in the last few months in anticipation of all those New Year’s resolutions to finally write that novel. Nothing too heavy – just a few basic tips to get you started and keep you writing...

‘Well, I’ve never heard it called that before’: Good & Bad Sex in Fiction

Thank you all again for such an enthusiastic response to my list of Top Ten Writing Mistakes. I’m delighted that so many writers feel that this is of value, and thank you all for liking, sharing and re-blogging. You are stars. Number Nine (‘Bad Sex’) seems to have set fire to a fair few haystacks, so, as promised, here are some further thoughts on writing about sex. Not that I have all the answers - I just have my preferences like everybody else.

Ten Creative Writing Tips from Edgar Allan Poe

First off, let me just thank each and every one of you for such a positive and enthusiastic response to my post on ‘Top Ten Writing Mistakes.’ For a new blog the response was overwhelming – I think more people read this than all of my academic publications combined. It just goes to show what you can achieve if you distil your life’s work into ten bullet points. Point Number Nine (‘Bad Sex’) seemed to have touched a nerve, and I have more to say on the subject, but not today...

A Very Popular Murder

So, among all the other poignant, pointless and terrifying news stories that broke last week, it was announced in a Daily Mail ‘world exclusive’ that the hunt for the true identity of Jack the Ripper was over (again). Journalists across the land sprang into action, plundering Wikipedia in order to throw a bit of vintage murder porn together. This was all in aid of the latest book on the subject, Naming Jack the Ripper: New Crime Scene Evidence, A Stunning Forensic Breakthrough, The Killer Revealed by Russell Edwards (Sidgwick & Jackson, 2014).

Write Every Day

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.