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The Novel: Writing is Re-Writing

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Start: 16th March 2016 - 6:00pm

Finish: 18th May 2016 - 8:30pm


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Writers & Artists and The National Academy of Writing have joined forces to present a ten-week course dedicated to helping you transform an early draft into a more complete, thoroughly-edited manuscript.

This new and unique course is for writers of any genre who have already started a novel, but are unsure what to do next. Whether you’ve stalled or think you’re nearly finished – as long as you have a partial draft in some form, this course is for you. It is designed to troubleshoot obstacles and dramatically improve the work, leaving you with a re-written, carefully considered and edited incarnation of your novel.

Led by NAW Director, editor and novelist Richard Beard, the course will look at essential elements of the writing craft and how you can apply them to your own manuscript, including writing exercises that directly involve the material of your novel-in-progress. Particular attention will be paid to the opening of your book – the first hook for readers, agents and publishers – which will receive concentrated workshop feedback from the group and course leaders. 

As well as focused sessions with Richard, award-winning authors will provide insights into the practicalities of their own writing lives. You’ll hear from an established literary agent on the submission process, and an editor from a leading publishing house will give an overview of how the publishing industry currently operates. There will always be plenty of time for questions.

Evening sessions take place each Wednesday for ten weeks, and last for two and a half hours (6pm-8.30pm). There will be opportunities at the beginning and the end of the course to get to know the other writers, as well as Richard himself.

Event details

The event will be held at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. 

Your workshops begin at 6.00pm prompt, finishing at 8.30pm.

Course breakdown

16th March (Week One):

17.30-18.00: Welcome and Introduction

18.00-19.15: Class: Story Ingredients - Everything You Need

19.30-20.30: Sarah Perry

Every story contains, in some combination, the five basic ingredients of fiction. Know what these are – if a scene or episode feels weak, it may be because one of these ingredients remains undeveloped.

23rd March (Week Two):

18.00-18.45: Class: Shaping Up – Genre and Theme

19.00-20.30: Workshop

Here come the readers, and at first they have one simple question: what kind of story is this? Recognize the expectations your story creates, and how to fulfil or subvert those expectations to draw the reader further into the novel.

30th March (Week Three):

18.00-19.15: Class: Structure - What Everyone Else Knows

19.30-20.30: Mick Jackson

Effective stories are often reliant on instinctive structures that have been analysed and recreated as ‘rules’. The novel is a flexible form. The rules don’t always apply, but it’s useful to know what they are. 

6th April (Week Four):

18.00-18.45: Class: Point of View and Tense – Whose Story and How Best to Tell It

19.00-20.30: Workshop

How the story is told, and who does the telling, are decisions that have a major influence over the final shape and impact of the novel. When editing, nothing is sacred – the story may stay the same, but is there a better angle?

13th April (Week Five):

18.00-19.15: Class: Character, Voice, Dialogue – The Human Strain

19.30-20.30: Elizabeth Buchan

With the basic story architecture in place, re-writing can concentrate on elements of style. Hone those characters, not forgetting whatever linguistic habits and tics make your own narrative voice distinct.

20th April (Week Six):

18.00-18.45: Class: Tension – What Happens Next?

19.00-20.30: Workshop

Readers enjoy the state of waiting for something to happen, and there are techniques that all writers can use to keep those pages turning. 

27th April (Week Seven):

18.00-19.15: Class: Pacing – Information Management for Novels

19.30-20.30: Nikesh Shukla

Pacing is the regulation of information against excitement, though no novel yet needed editing for being too exciting. Novels can be slow, as long as acceleration is promised. Pacing is about balancing the promise and the delivery.

4th May (Week Eight):

18.00-18.45: Class: Editing – The Final Polish

19.00-20.30: Workshop

Ultimately, every word in the finished manuscript should contribute to the desired overall effect. Some tips for making sure the words you’ve chosen are doing what you want them to do.

11th May (Week Nine):

18.00-19.15: Class: Finishing - From Sharing Drafts to Approaching an Agent

19.30-20.30: Nicola Barr, Greene and Heaton

We’ll discuss ways of knowing when your novel is finished, and how other readers can help. This will include looking at how best to approach an agent.

18th May (Week Ten):

18.00-19.00: Visiting Publisher - What is Possible and What is Not?

19.15-20.30: Overview and Questions

The last session is an opportunity to review the course and ask any unanswered questions.

Speaker Bios

Richard Beard

Richard Beard has published three books of narrative non-fiction and six novels including Lazarus is Dead and Damascus, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He has been shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award and and his latest novel Acts of the Assassins was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2015

Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry’s debut novel After Me Comes the Flood won the East Anglian Book of the Year award 2014, and was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2014 and the Folio Prize 2015. She is a winner of the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize, and was Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone's Library in 2013.

Her work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and RTE 1, and her second novel The Essex Serpent will be published in July 2016. Find out more on her website.

Mick Jackson

Mick Jackson’s novel The Underground Man was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Royal Society of Authors’ First Novel Award.

He has since written three more novels, a novella, a collection of stories and an e-book, all published by Faber and Faber. He has also written and directed prize-winning short films and directed a documentary for BBC2. Find out more on his website.

Elizabeth Buchan

Elizabeth Buchan is the author of thirteen best-selling novels and a former winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year award. Her short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and she reviews for the Sunday Times. She has also chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliott literary prizes, and acted as a judge for the Whitbread (now Costa) awards. She is a patron of the Guildford Book Festival and a past Chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Find out more on her website.

Nikesh Shukla

Nikesh Shukla’s debut novel, Coconut Unlimited, was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award in 2010 and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2011. His short stories have been widely published and anthologised, appearing in Best British Short Stories 2013, The Sunday Times and on BBC Radio 4. His second novel Meatspace was published in 2014. Find out more on his website

Nicola Barr

Nicola Barr is a director at the literary agency Greene & Heaton, and represents a wide range of authors. As well as literary fiction, she is a champion of well-told commercial fiction. She is always looking for good and absorbing stories, in any genre, told in a surprising way. She also has an interest in non-fiction, particularly sport, popular science, popular culture, and social and cultural history. She acts as children’s and YA agent at Greene & Heaton. 

Nicola works closely with new clients on shaping and editing novels and proposals. She is always on the lookout for exciting new talent.

Alexandra Pringle

Alexandra Pringle is Group Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury. She began her career in publishing as Editorial Assistant on the art magazine Art Monthly. She joined Virago Press in 1978 where she edited the Virago Modern Classics series. In 1984 she was made Editorial Director, later becoming part of the management team to steer Virago through their management buy-out from Cape, Chatto & Bodley Head. In 1990 she joined Hamish Hamilton as Editorial Director and four years later left publishing to become a literary agent. She joined Bloomsbury in 1999. Her list of authors includes Margaret Atwood, William Boyd, Richard Ford, Esther Freud, Elizabeth Gilbert, Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, Colum McCann, Sheila Hancock, Ann Patchett, George Saunders, Lynn Barber, Patti Smith and Barbara Trapido. She is a Patron of Index on Censorship and has been awarded Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Letters from Anglia Ruskin University and Warwick University.


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