How to write a great novel

W. Somerset Maugham

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

Maugham was correct when he said his famous quip, probably around 1930, but as time marches on, we know more about writing. As a successful literary agency for thirty years, we have spent a lot of time studying how fiction succeeds and fails. Everyone agrees the magic happens when engaging characters face conflict within interesting stories, but achieving these goals in a focused way is what can make the difference between an unpublishable novel and a bestseller. How to do this at the word choice, sentence, paragraph and scene level is what this workshop is about.

In this class, participants will learn how to sharpen their judgment about their own writing:

  • How to create characters worthy of the reader’s attention. How to open a novel without resorting to clichés and stale genre tricks. How to pick the most gripping way to tell a story so it seems fresh even if elements are familiar to readers.
  • How to develop instant eyeball methods to spot bits of sloppy writing that are a natural phase of drafts but which must be revised before submission.
  • Techniques of revision that make the difference between readable prose and the     bestseller.
  • Tricks with sentences or How to Repair Rhetorical Devices at Home and Save on     Service Calls.
  • How to self-edit – how to:

- Fix a story that is lost in the pronouns

- Revise a story that is lost in the details

- Revise prose for best meaning and consistency of expression.

- Remove unnecessary, redundant adjectives and adverbs that exhaustively sap the excitement from a great, poignant story and reduce it to a mediocre one

- Write simple description that develops a character without ever saying anything about the character

- Avoid explaining too much: a key technique for science fiction and historical writers

- Maintain Point of View

The concepts and techniques explored in the workshop apply to any form of fiction.

The experience and information will enable both beginners and writers with a couple of manuscripts under their belts to gain new insight into what attracts an agent, enchants a publisher, and ultimately makes a bestseller. 

Format:   Half-day and full-day workshops are available

Fee:  depends on length and size of audience. Longer workshops require a facilitator in addition to the speaker. Learn more at Registration.

Copyright 2007 by AGLA