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Self-Editing Your Novel

6 weeks

Aimed at:



9th January 2017
5 Places available.
20th March 2017
12 Places available.
19th June 2017
12 Places available.

Course Overview

This online course is designed for writers of fiction who have already completed a manuscript or who have completed a major chunk of it. The course teaches the crucial skills involved in wrenching that first draft into shape. And remember: writing is re-writing. The important bit starts now!

By the end of the course you will:

* Understand how to analyse and deconstruct your first draft.

* Possess all the tools you need to ensure narrative drive, strong voice and characters etc are in place.

* Know how to write stunning prose.

* Have a clear plan that will enable you to create a final draft to maximise your chance of success, whether you're submitting to agents or self-publishing.

Some of the feedback for our Self-Editing Course:

If that fellow writer is serious in wanting to improve his/her WIP, and fully commit to the group this course should be on top of their bucket list. I consider the course should be renamed 'a fast track to publication'. S Terry

Having learned so much from the self-edit course I found that I was able to look at my story with a fresh pair of eyes and began to make what I hope are significant improvements. This change in my perception all comes down to the wonderfully astute advice that you so generously provided to everyone over the six weeks.  S Warner

What a brilliant course it was!  J Cordiner

It’s really hard to describe how monumental this course can be for your own personal writing (I know because I’ve tried to explain to friends and family who give a supportive nod and say how lovely it must be) but personal recommendation will help. I first heard about it via a writer friend on Twitter and her approval was enough to encourage me to take a deeper look Everything was wonderful! The interaction with other members was really supportive but also inspiring and they, together with Debi, really helped me have two major ‘lightbulb’ moments about where I could improve my writing.  J Buxton

Course Syllabus

Course Purpose

So you've completed your novel or are close to doing so. So what next? This course is designed to give you the self-editing skills you need to ensure your novel is as good as it possibly can be, before you start pitching to agents. The exercises and feedback will mainly be based on your own novel, so you can see how to apply our advice specifically to your book.

Introductory Period

Before the course starts, you'll be able to watch an introductory video from the course tutors and get to know your fellow students in a dedicated area of the Word Cloud site.

Week One - Plot & Structure

Have you started your book in the right place? Are you including information that was vital for you as the author but that the reader doesn't need? Is it clear in every chapter what your main character needs, what they do in order to get it and what gets in their way? This session is designed to ensure that each of your chapters has the essential content to make up the narrative triangle and that your pacing is spot on, with no faltering in the narrative drive.

Week Two - Character

Creating convincing and engaging characters is vital to the success of your novel. The reader has to see them changing and needs to care about what happens to them. In this session, we'll be teaching you techniques to ensure you know your characters both inside and out, and can bring them alive as characters-in-action.

Week Three - Voice

When you submit your MS to an agent, they will be able to tell at a glance whether or not it's worth their time to read on.  More than any other single issue, they will base this assessment on voice. Whether you're writing in the first or third person, creating an engaging voice and getting this right is essential. This session will give you the tools to check whether you're there yet or not. (And if you don't know what voice is, then this week is essential!)

Week Four - Point of View and Psychic Distance

Novels are the only narrative form that can go deep inside fictional characters' heads and see the world through their eyes. Sometimes you may want the reader to share your protagonists' perceptions and empathise with them. At other times, you might choose to be more remote and objective. But how do you know which technique to use and when? This session will show you how to make those decisions and how to move between POVs if you need to.

Week Five - Prose Microscope

You might have a compelling story to tell with sizzling characters, but if you don't get the words right your chances of engaging a reader's interest are minimal. Does your prose have a pleasing rhythm, appropriate for the content? Are you tagging every verb with an adverb? Are you 'telling' when you should be 'showing'? What about punctuation? In this session, we'll place a piece of your prose under the microscope and examine it in detail, highlighting your strengths as well as those areas that could be improved.

Week Six - Over to You

What area of your book concerns you most? Are you uneasy about a certain aspect of character development? Maybe there's a plot device that you suspect might feel contrived. Or perhaps you're not confident that you've really nailed a particular voice. In this session, we ask you to focus on an aspect of your own book that you would like feedback on.

Course Tutors

Debi Alper

Debi is the author of Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana (both Orion), gritty urban stories told with love and humour.

View Debi's author website

Emma Darwin

Emma is the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Mathematics of Love and A Secret Alchemy, both historical fiction. Debi and Emma are hugely experienced and popular tutors and editors, with a long track record of helping first-time writers achieve publication

View Emma's author website.

How our online courses work

Our courses are hosted on our own community site, The Word Cloud, which is a very friendly, intuitive and supportive writing community.

The tools and environment are very intuitive and easy to use: you won't have a problem. Each week, courses will include:

• A video introduction
• A written 'lecture'
• Interactive classroom discussion
• A writing exercise on the week's topic
• Feedback on your homework

All the course material can be accessed at any time of day or night. If you miss a few days, it will be easy to catch up. You are also warmly encouraged to interact with fellow-students - offer advice, give feedback and make friends. Find out more about how our courses work here.