Monday, 3 November 2008

Novel Writing Workshop

Yesterday was a bitter day with the wind penetrating through my thick, usually warm coat as I waited on the platform for a train. I was on my way back to my childhood home town of Baldock for a novel writing workshop. In the once, locked up, to me forbidden and creepy building (Town hall), is an arts festival. And Sunday's session was run by Broadcaster Jennie Walmsley and Masterpiece novelist Miranda Glover. I enjoyed the afternoon and I'm glad I braved against the piercing wind.

Some notes from the 90 minute session.

  • Unusual titles grab the reader's attention. Also use the title to tell the reader what the themes are within the book.
  • Do you want to be branded in a certain genre?
  • How do you get into big themes - need to get into the ordinariness - use details with knowledge - bring in an authority and be distinctive.


  • Theme is central to the novel.
  • Start inside of the idea - explore what you know - "Through the keyhole" - details
  • Smallest of stories can have the most explosive of ideas.


  • Have a timeframe
  • Use the timeframe for the overall structure of the novel, then a timeframe for each chapter. This maintains the pace.


  • Empathy with the voice
  • First or third person?
  • Perspective - control and retain for a whole novel
  • Can hit walls using first person all the way through a novel with one view
  • You need to retain clarity if using various voices.


  • Research the character(s) past - inform yourself about their background and history.
  • Need to grab the reader's attention
  • React to situations
  • Demand to change
  • Reader wants to follow the character from page one.


  • Grab the reader with action and pull them into the fictional world.


  • Sense of taking the reader on a journey but then it can continue outside the book - the reader can relate it to their own world.
  • Satisfying ending
  • Don't need to tie up ALL loose ends.

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