Kickstart Your Novel

Improving | Fiction
The perfect way to take your writing to the next level, and develop both the technical skill and the narrative momentum to really get stuck into your novel.

Whether you have a new novel idea you’d like to flesh out or are looking to hone your craft as a writer, this practical course will help you explore your potential as a novelist. Spend eight weeks with a small group of fellow writers stress-testing your ideas, broadening your palette of techniques and finding a narrative to sustain your vision. You’ll emerge with the first chapter of a novel and an hard-working synopsis to help you take your ideas forward.

Each week you’ll receive valuable feedback from your close-knit group, while finetuning your self-editing skills by responding to other writers’ work. There are weekly group webinars or Q&A sessions with your tutor, plus a live chat with a guest novelist. At the end of the course you’ll have a one-to-one tutorial with your tutor to discuss your synopsis, story idea and how to take your novel to the next stage.

Every session features downloadable tutor notes and podcast lectures, guided reading and analysis, practical exercises and prompts to keep you writing, as well as exclusive interviews with leading novelists. You’ll have dedicated private forums and chatrooms to discuss your work in confidence 24/7, along with around-the-clock moderator support.

This course makes a good next step from our Beginners’ Fiction course, and prepares you to submit an application to our flagship Writing a Novel course.

13th September 2021 - 7th November 2021

Availability: In stock

10 Places

This course is a flexible one, meaning that each session – with the exception of the last, longer one – is open for one week. During that week you're free to work through the materials, join in the discussion and upload your work at any time that suits you. Any live element that requires you to be online at a particular time (webinars with your tutor or a guest author) will be scheduled for a slot during the relevant session that's convenient for as many participants as possible.

Session 1 (opens Monday 13 September): Ideas and Inspiration

In this opening session, we’ll look at where writers get their ideas and which types of ideas work best in the long form of a novel. There are practical ways to test whether your idea will sustain a full work of fiction, plus exercises to get your fiction motor running and help you assess which of your ideas are worth developing.

Live group webinar with the tutor.

Session 2 (opens Monday 20 September): Character Is Plot

Some novel writers start with story. Others begin with a character. In a good novel both are interlinked. In this session we’ll focus on characterisation and those first steps in developing a protagonist your reader will care about, with practical exercises to help you uncover plot from character.

Q&A session with the tutor.

Session 3 (opens Monday 27 September): Point of View and Tense

Which viewpoint should I choose and which tense should I use for my story? In this session we’ll look at two of the most common questions new novel writers ask, and try out first person and third, present tense and past. We’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each, and work out which are right for this particular story.

Live group webinar with the tutor.

Session 4 (opens Monday 4 October): Story and Structure

How do you develop a sustained narrative from the starting points you’ve established? In this session we’ll look at some of the basic rules of plotting and try out practical techniques novelists use to stitch together their narratives. We’ll also explore how much – and how little – other novel writers plan before getting stuck in.

Q&A session with the tutor.

Session 5 (opens Monday 11 October): Write Your Synopsis

What is a synopsis and why do you need one at this early stage of writing? In this session we’ll look at the role of the synopsis as a touchstone at different stages in the novel-writing process, and try out formulas that work.

Live group webinar with the tutor.

Session 6 (opens Monday 18 October): Your Opening Pages

Why are the first line, paragraph and page are so important for the novel writer? We’ll look at how different writers use their opening pages to set out what their novels are about and why the reader should care enough to read on, before you work on your own opening pages.

Final one-to-one tutorial with the tutor to discuss your story idea, synopsis and next steps.

Session 7 (opens Monday 25 October): You the Novelist (two weeks)

Two weeks of quiet writing time as you focus on your final assignment: applying the ideas and techniques you have explored through the course to write the opening chapter (or sample) of your novel idea.

This session also features tips on establishing a writing practice, and on honing your craft and overcoming common writerly pitfalls: active vs passive verbs, adverbs, speech markers, formatting, etc.

Live Q&A webinar with guest novelist.

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Ayisha is a former publicist at Penguin Random House, turned managing editor at Cornerstones...

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman