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Self-Editing Your Novel Course

6 weeks

Aimed at:



18th September 2017
12 Places available.

Course Overview

This online course is designed for serious writers of fiction who have already completed a novel 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!

Get on the fast track to publication!

A top agent will receive about 2,000 submissions a year, of whom they will sign maybe 2 authors - a hit rate of 0.1%.

The hit rate for our alumni is an astonishing 16% - 34 out of 215.

That's an advantage you simply can't hope to replicate anywhere else. (For more on the data, see: Debi Alper's blog.)

Please note that places on this course are strictly limited and the course almost always sells out completely. We urge you to book fast, because places will go.

By the end of this advanced novel writing / editing 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'STerry 

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.  SWarner

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.

Course Feedback

Here's feedback from our course users.

Average Course Rating:
(22 Customer Reviews)
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
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1 Star

Customer Reviews
Fantastic course22nd September 2016
By Philippa East
I signed up for the self-edit course at a point when I had just been given a load of valuable feedback on my WIP, but was now feeling overwhelmed with tackling the mass of changes I knew I needed to make. The SE course gave me a really helpful and supportive structure in which to plan how to tackle these changes, and the tools to do it. The sections on POV and psychic distance were especially helpful, and I liked how the different tutorials led naturally from one to another, often with questions thrown up by one then being answered / clarified in the next. It was also great to have a slot at the end to raise an individual WIP problem. Emma and especially Debi provided incredibly detailed and insightful feedback that so often really put its finger on what was going on. It was also really nice the way we left to put our own thoughts and suggestions together first, before Debi provided her feedback. A really good way to learn. I'd particularly like to comment that the course is valuable even if you (think you) already know a lot about show-don't-tell, psychic distance etc. I think this is down to the fact that during the course, we actively practise applying these concepts to sections of our WIPs, and are asked to comment on everybody else's efforts too. I liken it to knowing a lot about what a hammer is and what you can do with it, vs. spending a whole week actually picking one up and practising hitting a variety of objects. I was lucky to have a really enthusiastic, skilled and supportive group, and we have continued that support and feedback after the end of the course. This has been great. I did manage to tackle the re-write off the back of the course, so it really did its job in giving confidence - as well as crucial tools - for redrafting. It was also really helpful to be told "don't fiddle!" during the course itself! It's a super course - thank-you!
Everything I hoped for!1st October 2016
By Robyn West
I know several writers who have done the Self-Edit Course and all raved about it. I was equally wowed by the quality of the content and the insights and wisdom of the tutors. The format absolutely works. The size of the group was spot on, with varying degrees of writing experience, genres,and a good mix of life experiences which feeds into each person's perceptions and feedback. The mutual critiquing of work was invaluable, and we learned from each other's progress. The weekly exercises stretched us and even though the learning was hard-going at times, the encouragement of the tutors and the group was always there as a support. Even though people struggled with different elements at different times, the learning comes at one's own pace. I came away with a wealth of fantastic advice, understanding, and increased confidence in my ability to become more like the writer I aspire to. The course content can be applied to any further WIP and is, without question, outstanding value for money. My one piece of advice to potential participants is to be willing to invest time to read and comment on others' work. In order to receive, one must be prepared to give. This will ensure getting the maximum from the course, and cementing relationships for ongoing writing support after it has finished.
Self edit course21st September 2016
By Jonathan Heriz-Smith
im afraid I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know. The idea of doing it was to reenergise my wip,. It was my mistake to enrol on the course.
How to Become a Self-Editor21st September 2016
By David Kirkwood
The 'Self-Edit Your Novel' course was a great help in making me realise what stage I am at with my novel and what I am capable of with my writing. At the start of the six weeks I had 80,000 words of manuscript and knew I needed to do more than apply a fine polish to my words. I was reassured that self-editing is in many ways a rewriting process, and that my rough draft wasn't wasted. The skills I learned from the tutors and through interacting with my friendly fellow writers has helped me on my way to write the best novel I can. I would highly recommend 'Self-Edit your novel' for writers wanting to take their novel to the next level. Tutors Debi Alper and Emma Darwin have the expertise to present their well-designed course, and give generously both their time and knowledge as practising and published novelists. A thoroughly worth-while and rewarding six weeks. Be ready to work hard because the results are forthcoming the more effort is applied!
Course review: Self-editing Your Novel14th November 2016
By Elizabeth Symonds
Thank you so much for running this course. It has enabled me to see how I can improve, where I've been going adrift and - major breakthrough - how to develop my narrative voice. I feel so much more confident now. Debi has been a terrific tutor, so good at picking out what's important. Emma's input has been much appreciated too.
A Revelation.12th November 2016
By Penny Stanton
The Self Editing Your Novel course has been a total revelation for me. Debi Alpher has opened my eyes to a whole new prospective on my writing. The course is delivered in such a way that I was made to feel part of a family, and that Debi really cared about our progression. Analysis on my work was always detailed, constructive, and illuminating. Emma Darwin provided excellent links and invaluable information which will become my writers bible. This is an excellent course for anyone who's either completed or has nearly finished first draft.
Simply superb14th November 2016
By Martin Ross
I cannot speak highly enough of this course and its tutors. I had read glowing reviews online and the course did not disappoint. Debi was nurturing and inspirational and Emma's tips and weekly overview were invaluable too. The course content is superb and the format of focusing on one major issue per week with all the students giving feedback really works, especially with the forensic insight from Debi. Quite simply the best writing course I have ever done. I had had a slightly mixed experience at the Getting Published day in 2015, where I found it a good day but a shade disorganised at times. This course however has more than restored my slightly shaken faith in The Writers' Workshop (which I know is an excellent organisation with a lovely man behind it!) and I can't wait to put into practice some of the lessons I've learnt. Thank you for a brilliant course. Great value for money. I will spread the word!
Life changing! 12th November 2016
By Emma Robinson
I can't emphasise enough how much I've gained from this course. I had reservations about doing it because I didn't know how much I would engage with it being online, but it has been fantastic. I have enjoyed the wonderfully constructive feedback of my 'classmates' and the detailed and specific feedback from the course tutor has taught me so much. Everyone has been very generous with their knowledge and, for me, every week has been a revelation. The best part is the fact that I now have some practical tools to fix, I hope, the issues that have nagged at me about my WIP for some time.
Excellent course12th November 2016
By Liz Kershaw
This course is fabulous. The tuition/course materials are aimed precisely at the point the participating students have reached: a finished, or near-finished, novel. Having all students concentrating on one specific aspect of a WIP at the same time reinforces the message of that week's tuition so if a student has failed to absorb the lesson through the critique of their own work, reading critiques of all their peers enables a far more comprehensive understanding. The individual feedback given by our tutor was insightful, focused and immensely valuable. Thoroughly recommended.
wonderful course12th November 2016
By Marie Dentan
this course was a mind blowing experience. Not an easy journey though. It brings you face to face with all that is lacking in your ms and that can be at point dishartening and daunting. Yet it gives you tools to work on it and doens't leave you in the dark as how to improve your ms. It's a wonderful course with very caring and amazing tutors.
By Melanie Garrett
PHENOMENAL VALUE FOR MONEY The Self-Editing Your Novel course exceeded my expectations in every way. We turned up looking for expert tips on how to polish our manuscripts – which we certainly got – but while they were at it, Debi and Emma also polished all twelve of us into stronger writers. Obviously, we all came in with different strengths and weaknesses to address. In my case, by lunchtime on day one, I felt I'd already had my full money’s worth for the course. Then, midway through week three I had the kind of Eureka moment I wouldn't even know how to price. I suddenly understood not just what I had to do to bring my WIP to life - but more crucially - how to go about doing it. TUTORS Debi Alper and Emma Darwin are both amazingly well-versed in all things narrative. They have developed a step-by-step programme that will help you take your first (or even sixth, or sixteenth) draft of your novel to the next level. Better still, they will save you a lot of time and headaches along the way. Their approach is upbeat and warm, with plenty of laughter along the way. IN-DEPTH, GUIDED WORKSHOPPING Each week, a different aspect of self-editing is tackled. Everyone in the group is given the same exercise to implement on a short section of their novel. Once completed, it’s then posted online for the group to consider and feedback on. This creates a kind of hive-mind approach to the tasks at hand. You are not only applying Debi and Emma’s tips, tricks and shortcuts to your own work, but also seeing the possibilities for these same devices as they are rolled out in eleven different ways. Because you are invited to comment on everyone else’s homework, you effectively get twelve turns at bat on each topic. Finally, Debi then went in and blew everyone’s mind by highlighting things we missed. Her feedback is nothing short of exceptional. INDIVIDUALLY TAILORED FEEDBACK Coming into the course, I assumed we would be taught general principles about editing, and it would then be up to each of us to work out how to apply these to our own work. That, by necessity, it would have to be a kind of one-size fits all approach. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In our group, we were writing across all genres, and for ages YA to adult, and yet Debi took each WIP and each writer’s issues on their own terms and we all got amazingly astute, in-depth feedback every single week. GOING FORWARDS Now that the taught part of the course is over we still have permanent access to our virtual classroom and all the vast array of course materials and links to further reading, as well as our own discussion threads. More than this, by working together so intensively for the last six weeks (it feels more like six months) we have morphed into our own online writers’ group/cheerleading squad. This week someone started a thread about elevator pitching each other’s novels and we’ve all been amazed at what’s coming out of it. There is something undeniably addictive about watching each other go from strength-to-strength at the same time. A kind of hive-euphoria. RANDOM THINGS I WISH I'D KNOW BEFOREHAND If I had realised how all-consuming and intensive these six weeks were going to be, I would have kept my diary much clearer than it was. Unsurprisingly, the more you can put into this course, the more you will get out. Also, I wasn’t familiar with the Cloud, and I’m not techy, so it took me a bit of time to work it out at first. When you get your membership email to the closed group the course takes place in, sign up right away. Then, once you’re on the group’s page, scroll down to the bottom. That’s where the ‘wall’ for the course is. About a week or so before the course proper starts, your fellow classmates will turn up and start introducing themselves.
Ian Maitland's review of 6 week Self-Editing Course, commencing 9/1/17.25th February 2017
By Ian Maitland
The course run by Debi Alper and Emma was a revelation. The work load involved in such expert advice and feedback to the 6 challenging 'homework' assignments would have killed normal mortals. Two superwomen. We all felt the same, and all benefitted greatly from the mutual support we were encouraged to give to our mates. If we can't turn our WIPs into masterpieces now, we need need to get proper jobs. Thank you.
Raising the bar by great coaching24th February 2017
By John Roberts
This was a truly positive course: the course material was first class, asking the pertinent questions; the feedback by tutor Debi was perceptive and detailed and, most of all, helpful; through Debi, the group came together and there was a real sense of team effort as we all tried to help each other. The course has stimulated me to re-structure my novel, greatly improve character development and use to good effect the concept of psychic distance.It has made me a better writer - or at least has given me more knowledge about what a better writer should be able to do.
Eye-opener26th February 2017
By Jennie Dobson
It was only six weeks but full-on and pretty transformational. I learned so much, not only from the feedback I received about my work but from giving feedback to othets.
Wonderfully Insightful and Supportive.24th February 2017
By Brian Hassen
I cannot recommend this course highly enough for anyone needs to demystify the process of editing and what literary agents are looking for in terms of a writer's skills. Learning is both collaborative and sympathetic, and most importantly it's customised to meet your individual needs. There's excellent resources and guide references as well as plenty of helpful, positive feedback. Both Debi and Emma are excellent tutors and provide plenty of wise insight and advice. Best of all you will build up relationships with other fellow writers that you can keep in touch with and there is a special web space and forum in the cloud that you can always use. It's the best £350+ I could have ever spent in trying to become a better writer!
Just Excellent!24th February 2017
By Edwin Humphreys
If you know ALL about Character, Plot, Narrative Triangles, POV, Psychic Distance, Present/Past Tense, 1st/3rd Person and Voice, then you won't learn much here. If, however, ANY of these is a weak area for you, enrol now. It is called a Self-Edit course and it helps in that area, no doubt about it, but it will also improve your writing overall. The tutor gets 5 stars for the quality of in-depth analysis and encouragement, given in equal measure. Not only do I feel better equipped, I am re-invigorated in the pursuit of what can be a solitary pursuit. The furrow is no longer so lonely.
Feedback on Self Editing course5th May 2017
By Viola Saunier
I enjoyed the course, although the format is obviously limited and limiting and the very short extracts posted every week meant that a lot of time and energy was used asking questions about who the characters are, etc. This is probably inevitable in such a short course,. I thought that the week on psychic distance was the most interesting as it was really an exercise in writing and took more time an de thought than just posting a bit of WIP. The website design is poor and the site is clumsy to use. The threads are far too long to follow easily and finding the latest posts is harder than it should be. Almost everyone lost posts at least once. The signup questions are extremely irritating. If they must be there the they should at least be optional. I would recommend the course but I think there is certainly scope for improvement on the technical side.
DO THIS COURSE!!!7th May 2017
By Daniel Aubrey
This course is excellent, and if you're serious about improving your writing, and learning to edit so you can make your book the best it can be, you need to do this. Each week a different aspect of writing, from plot to prose, is tackled with a tutorial. Everyone then posts short sections of their book and offers feedback on each others'. Debi posts feedback directly onto the threads, while Emma offers a weekly overview. Both are insightful, encouraging, honest and exactly the people you need to help you learn how to stand outside your story and look at it objectively, thereby being able to spot what works already and what doesn't, and how to fix it. The only complaint I have about this course is it's over! It really will make a difference to your writing and give you a better chance of making your work as good as it can be. In short: do it!
Just what I needed6th May 2017
By Cathy Parmenter
Whether you have just started writing or have been writing for a while, there is much to be gained from this course. To get the best out of it you really do need to be prepared to put time in to review others' work and also to accept others' reviews of your own work. But the payback is gold dust. I had just finished the first draft of a new novel and was looking at it, knowing that it was nothing close to finished, yet feeling overwhelmed and with no idea how to start knocking it into shape. Now I have a much better idea of what to do and how to recognise what good looks like. The way the course works, it's easy to fit it in around life and to dip in and out at times that suit and much of the time you can complete the work in short spurts if work or life gets in the way. One observation that I do have, given that the coursework starts on Mondays, it's better to find time early in the week when there is a flurry of activity going on and much more interaction; by the weekend, most of the work is done. But I wouldn't like that to put anyone off completing the course. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Very Worthwhile 8th May 2017
By Joanna Knight
The course has given me a comprehensive framework and skills with which to edit my writing. Debi was an excellent course leader, creating an appropriate forum for the exchange of feedback among course participants and providing detailed and insightful commentary on our work. I believe this course represents great value for any aspiring writer.
What have I learned?10th May 2017
By Joy Watkins
Joining the Self-Editing course was a necessary experience. I thought my m/s was ready to go........ but I now know it certainly wasn't! With experienced Tutors we were all stretched but never nagged or abused!! If there is one thing I gained from this (and there are others) is the importance of EVERY word. Since going through my m/s again (4th time) I am very grateful for this strong advice: search each word and check they are the best for the content/ meaning of what you are writing. Joy Watkins
Excellent course5th May 2017
By Neema Shah
I thoroughly enjoyed this course, in no small part due to Debi Alper's hard work and guidance. She was honest and rigorous which was perfect for giving my work the push it needed, but also supportive and patient, very, very patient! The course materials were also were very good, with Emma Darwin's great blog providing lots of extra reading (I'm still ploughing through it). I was lucky enough to have a dedicated and supportive group of students on my course and we are still in touch. I suspect the group you get on the course will be a key part of how well the course goes, as so much relies on their feedback. I feel it's given my novel the boost I was hoping for. Now I just have to the actual work! The only sticking point was the site, which was a bit clunky and I lost a couple of posts, as did others. Thanks to everyone involved on this course, I loved it!

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.