Next date: 7th October 2014
This online course is designed for those 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Your course tutors will be Debi Alper (left top) and Emma Darwin (left bottom).
Debi is the author of Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana (both Orion), gritty urban stories told with love and humour. 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.