Posts Tagged Novel-writing Starter Kit

Novel Writing Booster Kit with Martin Davies

The other Saturday I attended a novel-writing ‘booster’ workshop with the author, Martin Davies at Mackworth library.

what happens inside

The aim was to build on what we had learnt earlier in the year at his ‘starter’ workshop .

Martin set lots of exercises to get the pen moving over the page and thus prove to ourselves that ‘writing’ isn’t some wonderful magical gift that you must have in bucket loads in order to succeed – instead tenacity is one of the qualities most useful to a writer.

Once again Martin was very generous with his advice and I came away with the following tips jotted down:

  • If a minor character is feeling 2-dimensional, give him an unusual hobby to flesh him out
  • Before you begin your novel, write a 2 sentence or ‘elevator’ pitch – and repeat this exercise at regular intervals to make sure you’re not going off at a tangent
  • The odd observed detail will bring your settings and characters to life – not swathes of description
  • When setting a scene, mention one big thing e.g. the mountain that dominated the landscape, and one small thing e.g. the cigarette burn on the table-cloth.
  • Finish the first draft without looking back over your work AT ALL
  • In preparation for the second draft  print out the manuscript and read it through, marking any corrections/changes as you go – don’t change anything yet because you’ll lose the momentum of how the story flows. When you’ve read & marked to the end you can begin changing the text. Repeat this as many times as necessary.
  • Read aloud to check the flow of the story.
  • Write what you feel excited and moved by.
  • Don’t tell other people what your novel is about – it will make it feel stale to you. 

So now I’m trying to pluck up the courage to go back to the Pocket Novel that I completed in the summer. I need to turn that rough first draft into something comprehensible – or maybe I’ll decide that it’s rubbish and bin it! But, as Martin said, no writing is wasted – it’s all practice for better writing.

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How to Write a Novel

As you may have gathered from reading this blog, short stories and articles are my ‘thing’. I find the prospect ofNovel Writing Starter Kit with Martin Davies writing anything longer than about 3,000 words terrifying! I succeeded in NaNoWriMo 2009 but my 50,000 words were rambling and certainly nowhere near a coherent story.

Hence my decision to sign-up for Martin Davies’ Novel Writing Starter Kit.

Last Saturday was the big day and I came away thinking that writing a novel might actually be possible. Martin was very generous with his advice and here are the most important bits :

  • Writing is a habit that gets easier the more you write. Decide when and where you are going to write. Don’t be too ambitious because that makes failure more likely. Sticking to 10 minutes, twice a week before bed is easier to maintain than trying to write for the whole of every Saturday afternoon. Remember that little bits, done regularly, will add up.
  • Set a time limit for each writing session and don’t use that time to re-read or revise what has gone before. Don’t worry about the standard of your writing – just keep going.
  • Write what you enjoy reading. You will have to live with this novel and its characters for months, maybe years, so it’s no good trying commercial chick-lit if you hate reading that genre.
  • Don’t wait for a fantastic, original idea to drop into your lap. Most plots have been done many times over and it’s perfectly acceptable to re-tell an old tale or legend. Maybe set it in a different time period or tell it from a different point of view.
  • People + Events = Change. This is the formula for a novel. Drop an event on your characters and watch as they react to the ripples and changes around them.
  • Create a structure for your story. Include the main events plus the milestones that must happen to lead up to these events. This is your map for the journey ahead but remember, you can change this as you write and get to know your characters better.
  • Only include subplots if they have a reason within the overall plot. For example they may give an insight into the character of your main protagonist or give necessary information to the reader.     
  • Know your setting but don’t go into reams of descriptions about the landscape. Feed small details to the reader and they will build their own images.
  • Similarly with character descriptions, less can be more. Show your hero’s characteristics through action where possible.
  • Don’t get bogged down by research. If you’re unsure of something when writing don’t stop the flow to find out, put a question mark and look it up later.
  • Keep your first novel simple. You will gain confidence from finishing it, whether or not it is published, then you can move on to a more complex story/structure.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Just stick to Martin’s mantra of  ‘Writers Write!’ and you can’t go far wrong in turning yourself from ‘someone who likes the idea of writing a novel’ into ‘someone who has a completed novel under their belt’.

So, fired up with enthusiasm, I am now publicly setting myself the goal of writing a 30,000 word My Weekly pocket novel and I’m going to start by brainstorming some ideas…

My writing buddy, Helen Yendall, also attended Martin’s workshop – you can read her take on the day here

P.S. Only one day left to enter my free prize draw!



Novel-writing Starter Kit with Martin Davies

If you live within reach of Derby you might be interested in the Novel-writing Starter Kit being run by Martin Davies.

It’s at Mackworth Library on Saturday January 29th, 10:00 am until 3:45 pm and costs £25, including tea and coffee. According to the web-site, the workshop ‘will help you address some of the challenges of novel-writing – from planning and structure to plot and characterisation. Most of all, it will help you tackle some of those anxieties that make it so hard to get started’.

For full details and how to book click here.

It sounds like a good way to kick-start writing in 2011. I shall be going and it would be great to meet some of you there – let me know if you decide to sign-up.

Many thanks to Helen Yendall for telling me about this workshop and a reminder that time is running out to win the pile of writing books on offer at her blog. All you have to do is leave a comment on Helen’s blog by clicking here – it needn’t be deep and meaningful, just a few words agreeing or disagreeing with one of her posts – and you will go into the prize draw.

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