Teacher and Blackboard

Novel Writing and Poetry Courses

We are pleased to be able to organise online courses from time to time. They are held subject to demand, so course dates vary over the year.

 

We currently have three courses on offer:

 

1) Novel Writing,

2) Basic Principles of Poetry,

3) Further Principles of Poetry.

Each course covers its topic from the very basics, all the way up to getting published. 

The Novel Writing course covers how to get your novel from the idea stage to "professional review ready" and goes through all of the various stages, including editing, proofreading and submission.

Our Poetry courses cover all of the basics such as metre, rhyming (...or not), sentiment, metaphor, et cetera, and will equip even the absolute beginner with enough of a grasp of this most ancient art to have a go and write that first poem for publication.

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Old Paper

A man who is not born with the novel-writing gift has a troublesome time of it when he tries to build a novel. I know this from experience. He has no clear idea of his story; in fact he has no story. He merely has some people in his mind, and an incident or two, also a locality, and he trusts he can plunge those people into those incidents with interesting results.

 

– Mark Twain

Outline of the Novel Writing Course

 

1. Your main plot.

Example plots are:

Overcoming a monster.
Rags to riches.
A quest.
A voyage and return.
Comedy.
Tragedy.
Rebirth.

Put simply, "What's the story?" 

It is always advisable to choose something that you know about, or you will end up spending a huge amount of time on research, or worse, you will make fatal errors that result in losing your credibility... and any hope of being published with it!

2. Subplots.

To keep your readers engaged, you will generally (though not always) need to make use of subplots. In fiction writing, the definition of a subplot is a side story that runs parallel to the main plot. It has a secondary strand of characters and events that can infuse important information into the main storyline.

3. Characters.

You will generally need a few main characters but not over many. For example, novels with more than 20 main characters may be hard for a reader to follow. For example, let's say Captain Black is mentioned in chapter 2, but then not again until chapter 7; if, in the meantime,  another 30 characters have been introduced, will the reader remember who Captain Black is?

4. Character Development.

Your reader will need to care about your characters. They can love them or hate them, but they must care about them, or they won't bother to finish your book. So, if Captain Black is a good man and a hero, and the reader wants him to win, that's great, but if his enemy is Captain White, then the reader should want to see him defeated just as much.

5. 1st Draft Layout Plan.

You will need to decide roughly at the outset how many words you are going to take to tell your story. A novel really needs to be at least 40,000 words; otherwise, it will be a novella instead. The generally accepted word lengths for each type of fiction piece are:

Flash Fiction: 50 - 1,000 words

Short Story: 3,500 - 7,500

Novellette: 7,500 - 17,000

Novella: 17,000 - 40,000

Novel: 40,000 +

Publishers generally like to see novels between 80,000 - 120,000 words, but there are differences - mainly driven by genre.

Your word count will help you decide how many chapters you will need and will also influence how many subplots you might need to keep readers interested. Once you have an approximate word count in mind, you don't necessarily need to stick too rigidly to it, as experience shows that as an author writes a story, that story might develop in ways not originally foreseen - but you should start with a reasonable idea. You will next need to divide your story into chapters that will make sense in terms of dividing the narrative up into readable segments. If your reader can't follow what's going on, they will soon close the book.

6. 1st Draft.

At this point, you're ready to start writing/typing - or speaking if you're going to use speech recognition software - we'll cover this also. This is generally the longest part of the whole process. There are various pros and cons to hand-writing a novel first and then typing it after - we'll cover this too.

 

The process of actually making the first draft in manuscript form (most commonly in Microsoft Word) is time-consuming and laborious no matter what method you choose. If you have a full-time job, a partner and children, this may take years as your commitments will constrain you, so it's best if that is the case to have reasonable expectations in the first place. Taking two years, or even three, to write a debut novel is not uncommon. It is essential to be realistic; you will not want to rush your writing as it will affect both the quality and the publishability of the end product.

6a. Perspective.

 

As you begin to write the 1st Draft, you will necessarily have to decide whether you are going to write from the main protagonist's perspective (the participant point of view using "I") or as a narrator (the spectator point of view using "He/She"). Many fiction works are written in the first person, so if that perspective suits you better, then write as if you were your main protagonist. Either is fine, but you need to understand what suit's your mentality and writing style best.  

6b. Dialogue

 

Almost all novels contain dialogue - you will need to decide if you, the writer, will tell the story (in either perspective as above) or if you are going to let your characters tell the story... or maybe you'll employ a mixture of both (most usual).

6c. Show stoppers and cliffhangers

The effective use of these techniques will keep your readers reading, and your most important readers initially are your agent and your publisher - if they don't keep reading, you will not be published.

6d. Pace

You will need to decide on the pace, and this will depend a lot on your genre. Sometimes the pace might be slow, sometimes fast. You will need to decide how to combine the two to get the right dramatic effect.

For example, you could write:

"Captain Black very quickly bent down and picked up the sword which Captain White had dropped. Having picked up the sword, Captain Black began a vigorous counter-attack on Captain White, first slashing his arms and torso. Eventually, he was able to inflict several stabbing wounds, one of which perforated Captain White's chest through to his left lung, which caused him to cough up some blood. Captain White was fatally wounded and was sure to die." 

Or, you could write:

"Black instantly took up the fallen sword and lunged forward. Slash. Slash. Slash. Stab. Stab. Stab. White coughed blood from his mouth. He was done."

Both versions are perfectly correct and written in good English, but maybe one sounds better or more exciting? That's just one example of pace, but we'll look at many others during the course.

 

7. 2nd Draft.

Once you've finished your first draft and had a rest from writing it (this is essential), you will need to read your novel as if you were not the one who wrote it - hence the need for the rest!

You will need to notice: missing words; wrong words; spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors; lack of continuity; and passages that bore or are overly descriptive for no good reason, amongst other things. There is, in fact, a very long list of things you will need to correct during the 2nd draft stage - the course will cover all of this.

 

You must also ensure that it all makes internal sense and has proper continuity. For example, if Captain Black is introduced as having a wife in chapter 1, he can't get married in chapter 22 without explaining what happened to his wife.

 

Also, you will need to look out for things like:

 

"He was almost out of ammo. He fired the last eight or nine shots from his Colt Navy revolver before throwing it down and drawing his sword."

This might look OK at first glance, but a Colt Navy revolver only has space for six rounds in its cylinder! These points are important; mistakes like this often result in your losing credibility with your readers, especially if you are writing a historical novel.

8. Friends and Family Review.

Hopefully, you will have friends and family, as they are particularly useful to a writer. No matter how well you have done your 2nd draft, you will have missed something - in an 80,000 word novel, it is inevitable unless you are a genius, but we have yet to meet one!

When you review your own work, you are always at a disadvantage to anyone else because your re-reading of what you have written is coloured by the obvious fact that you know what you "meant to say" - but that isn't necessarily what you have written.

 

Fresh eyes will be able to tell you that something doesn't make sense or that you've put "there" instead of "their", or "yoke" instead of "yolk", et cetera.  

 

9. 3rd Draft.

Once you have the feedback from your friends and family checkers, you will make your final solo edits.

10. Professional Review. 

You have now finished working alone, and you are ready to choose which of the services of a literary consultancy like Castle Tower you want to use to get a finished novel ready for agent submission - there are a few traditional publishers left who still take unsolicited manuscripts from new authors, but they are very few and getting fewer, so your best bet will be to try to retain an agent. If your manuscript contains errors, you will be rejected immediately as no agent has time to deal with an author who presents a sloppy manuscript, so it's very important to get your manuscript into top form.

 

Cost, Duration & Additional Details.

The course cost is £950 (or other currency equivalents); each course lasts for 10 weeks.

 

Lessons are 45 minutes - 15 minutes break - another 45 minutes. Each week there is an assignment that must be returned to the tutor for review and marking. The first part of each lesson will include a review of the good and bad points from the previous week's assignments.

 

If you can't make the lesson, it is recorded, but it's obviously better if you can attend on Zoom live. Each weekly assignment will take the average student around 5 hours to complete, so in total, students will need to allow 7 hours per week to attend the sessions and do their assignments. The maximum number of participants per course is capped at 8 so that each student receives sufficient individual attention.

There are no entry requirements for the course but each student should possess a reasonable command of English and understand the rules of grammar and syntax to at least GCSE Pass Level (UK) / High School Graduation Level (US).

 

By the end of the course, students should be able to write a novel and get their manuscript to stage 10 as above.

For an additional fee, tutors may agree to give you individual one to one training or mentoring - please ask if interested.

A certificate will be awarded at the conclusion of the course.

Please register your interest, without any obligation, using the form at the bottom of this page and we will keep you posted regarding the next available course.

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"How shall I be a poet?
How shall I write in rhyme?
You told me once 'the very wish
Partook of the sublime.'
Then tell me how! Don't put me off
With your 'another time'!"

Lewis Carroll

Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur

 

Outline of the Basic Principles of Poetry Course

1.  Introduction to metre: binary feet, the Iambus and the Trochee. 

2. A few great early poets as exemplars: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, et cetera.

3. Tetrameter, Pentamater & Hexameter.

4. Iambic Tetrameter - The virgin poet's first lover.

5. A few great "Tetrameterists" - Wordsworth, Blake, et cetera.

6. Rhyming Verse, Blank Verse and Free Verse.

7. An exercise in writing poetry.

8. Reviews of Lesson 7. Reading out everyone's poems. Publishing.

Outline of the Further Principles of Poetry Course

1.  Recap on the Basic Principles of Poetry

2. More metres: can a Spondee really exist? Other metres and substitutions.

3. The ternary feet: "Of the Dactyl shall we henceforth speak?"

4. Introduction to Form: The Stanza and its variations.

5. More Forms: Sonnets, Odes, Ballads, Quatrains, et alia.

6. The Villanelle: Dylan Thomas, "Goodnight Mr Thomas" and other things.

7. Let's all write a villanelle.

8. Review of Lesson 7. Reading out everyone's poems. Publishing.

Cost, Duration & Additional Details.

Each course costs £450 (or other currency equivalents) and lasts for 8 weeks.

Lessons are 50 minutes. Each week there is an assignment that must be returned to the tutor for review and marking. The first part of each lesson will include a review of the good and bad points from the previous week's assignments.

If you can't make the lesson, it is recorded, but it's obviously better if you can attend on Zoom live. Each weekly assignment will take the average student around 3 hours to complete, so in total, students will need to allow 4 hours per week to attend the sessions and do their assignments. The maximum number of participants per course is capped at 10 so that each student receives sufficient individual attention.

There are no entry requirements for the course but each student should possess a reasonable command of English and understand the rules of grammar and syntax to at least GCSE Pass Level (UK) / High School Graduation Level (US).

By the end of the Basic Course, students should be able to write a poem in Iambic Tetrameter, and after the Further Principles Course, be able to write Sonnets and Villanelles. 

For an additional fee, tutors may agree to give you individual one to one training or mentoring - please ask if interested.

A certificate will be awarded at the conclusion of the course.

Please register your interest, without any obligation, using the form at the bottom of this page and we will keep you posted regarding the next available course.

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