How to Write a Kick-Ass First Novel

The ultimate online novel-writing course


What you will learn

Practical Enchantment

All fiction is a form of enchantment so we must learn to cast a spell upon the reader. Learn:

  • How to put a spell on readers using only words
  • Why only a specific type of words can be used to hypnotise the reader.
  • How the construction of scenes is vital to maintaining the trance.

The Voodoo of Storytelling

Once you have beguiled your readers into a trance, your task is to keep them there happily turning pages. Learn:

  • The storytelling insight shared by Scheherazade and Alfred Hitchcock.
  • How to combine causality, conflict and curiosity to keep the reader gripped in storytelling glue.
  • What causality is and how to generate it.


We know it’s all about character. But why? Because, as a reader, you become one of the characters and live their life for a while. Learn:

  • How to use a psychological flaw to make your hero fascinating (even if he is a jerk).
  • The vital importance of ‘growth’ and a trick that works like clockwork to achieve it.
  • How to add psychological depth to your villain using a trick stolen from the Batman movies
  • The perfect blueprint for ‘growth’ found in the movie Tootsie.


Remember the flatpack wardrobe? Think of plot as the instruction leaflet. This is your map. Use it wisely and you will never have to wonder, ‘What do I do now?’ Learn:

  • The vital difference between plot and story.
  • To understand the eternal debate between plotters and ‘pantsers’.
  • The secret story structure shared by James Bond and the ancient Greek hero Perseus
  • The work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and why Star Wars stole it.

How to be thrilling

To create a page-turner it’s not enough to be entertaining, you need to thrill. Learn:

  • How to provide readers with the drug they crave: emotion
  • How to put readers on the rack and torment them. (Don’t worry, they like it.)
  • Why it’s good to make the innocent suffer and why there are so many wicked stepmothers in fairytales.
  • How to make people cry and why you should.
  • The secret of page-turning inspired by a flatulent donkey.

Hook them!

Your opening pages are the most important of all. You need to grab the reader or agent in seconds. Learn:

  • How to grab the reader using a trick developed by US vacuum cleaner salesmen in the 1950s
  • The five key points you MUST cover in the first 1,000 words.
  • Four rookie errors that will ensure your manuscript gets rejected unread.
  • Five actionable techniques to help you avoid the most unforgivable sin of all: ‘Writing that sounds like writing.’

Mental Boot Camp

Probably the most indispensable skill of all: how not to give up. Learn:

  • The great secret of writing found in George Orwell’s wastepaper bin.
  • How to make your plots bullet proof using Chekhov’s Gun
  • The ultimate doubt-busting technique revealed by an X-ray of Rembrandt’s canvases.
  • The technique used by Faulkner, Steinbeck, Graham Greene and all the greats for defeating the greatest foe of all. Procrastination.


You won’t get far without out them, but what happens when they don’t come? Learn:

  • Why inspiration is for amateurs and what the pros do.
  • How to unleash the miracle of serendipitous discovery.
  • Two simple but powerful techniques that force your brain to generate ideas

The Hero’s Journey

You might think art cannot be reduced to a formula, but fortunately, no one told the old storytellers this. Down the years, countless generations of storytellers have distilled through their works a structure that informs the vast majority of stories. It’s called The Hero’s Journey. Think of it as a map. All you have to do is follow the various steps outlined and find the necessary iron in the soul to keep turning up at the keyboard until the job is done.

How to make an agent fall in love with you

Look at you both, you and the agent, lying in the surf somewhere in the South Pacific.
The surf roars and thunders in your ears, louder even than the pounding of your hearts.
She cries and doesn’t know why and beats your chest helplessly with her tiny fists.
How did it get to this?
Because you made sure before submitting your manuscript that
you absorbed the lessons contained in Lesson 12: Hook Them!

Word Sorcery

It’s the one thing most writing courses don’t tell you. How do we use words to create a guided dream in the reader’s mind? There are more than 600,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary but, surprisingly, only a small, subset of those words are suitable for dream-building. Learn:

  • What these words are, and how to recognise them.
  • What the King James Bible can teach us about writing muscular prose.
  • Why writers bang on about metaphor and simile.
  • How to avoid the cardinal sin of writing coyly.
  • How to avoid the even bigger sin: writing that sounds like writing.
  • How to make the reader cry.

Demonstration Novel

Theory can only take us so far. In addition to the lessons I construct a demonstration novel to show how it works in practice.

Occasionally asked questions

What if I am unhappy with the course?

No problem. If for any reason you are dissatisfied in the first 30 days, just send me your brain and I’ll have the course removed, and refund your money. Ah just kidding. If you are not happy for any reason, and you have completed less than 30% of the Course, let me know within 30 days and I’ll refund the money. No questions asked. If you have completed 30% or more, I am not able to offer a refund.

How long do I have access to the course?

A lifetime. After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like – across all your devices.


Is there a ‘live’ component to the course?

No it consists entirely of video lectures. You can ask me anything you like by email, though, as often as you like. I actually look forward to hearing from students.    

How does this relate to the Oxford University Course?

I was invited in 2009 by Professor Sandie Byrne to write the ‘Writing Fiction’ course for the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, and taught it for the next nine years.  This course is a distillation of my experience teaching hundreds of students on that course, together with 18 years as a full-time novelist. The Oxford course is more generally about writing fiction whereas this course is specifically designed to teach aspiring novelists to write their first novel.

Malcolm Pryce is an inspiration, both as a writer and a tutor. His understanding of storytelling is unparalleled and he has the ability to break down the elements of his craft and to convey them with wit and humour.

Dr Sandie Byrne, Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing, University of Oxford

Dr Sandie Byrne

Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing, University of Oxford

This course brilliantly demythologises the craft of novel writing. It starts by tackling head-on the doubts and insecurities that bedevil us all, and then gives simple actionable ways to deal with them. I found this part tremendously empowering – it gave me the belief that I genuinely could do it.
Nia Campbell

Freelance writer, Cardiff

The course has exceeded my high expectations. It is filled with insight and humour but best of all you finish what you started because you feel, you know, that you really could do it if you are willing to put in the effort.
Dr. Clive Sherlock, Oxford

I have always wanted to write a novel but have never been sure how to start, and more importantly, keep going. Taking Malcolm’s course is a great way to learn writing techniques and provides achievable steps to map out your novel. All of the lessons are informative and full of the King of Welsh Noir’s humour, which makes them entertaining and memorable. I really enjoyed the course and am no longer daunted by that white page!

With plenty of humour and wisdom, the lessons in this course showed me how to persevere and to structure my writing. These techniques have have significantly improved it. The art of writing is made accessible, the process is broken down into manageable chunks and Malcolm‘s insights and instructions still help me whenever I struggle.
For someone who felt lost in a sea of words, the course was like being given a paddle and a compass; you still have to do the work, but you know what to do and where to go.
Anne-Marie Grabrucker


The course was an inspiring, motivating, fun and enlightening experience. I learnt so much. The only reason why you wont be able to write a book after this course is because you don’t have enough ‘bum-glue’, all the other tools are in place!

Lesli Lundgren

Having written a novel in lockdown I then decided to find
out what mistakes I’d made, and what I could have done. I gathered bits
and pieces over the intervening years from attended and online courses
and have revised the first book massively, but only one course has
provided a comprehensive (and amusing) guide to writing a novel and that
is ‘How to Write a Kick-ass First Novel’ by Malcolm Pryce. Plus it gave me a
practical way to solve a problem I was wrestling with at the time.

Vicky Fox

I’ve left the best thing to last

There’s something else, too. Remember when you told your friends you were thinking of writing a novel? They gave you a look, didn’t they? Sort of condescending, pitying, and—let’s be honest—desperately hoping you would fail. You know how you will you feel if you prove them wrong? The Eskimos have a word for it. Smug.

Who is this course not for?

I won’t kid you.  It’s hard work writing a novel. Damned hard work. So you have to want it pretty badly. And you need a certain amount of iron in the soul. The sort that makes you turn up at your desk when you would really rather not. But I suspect if you’ve read this far, you already know this and have what it takes. So go for it! Enrol in the course, and I’ll see you one day in the Writer’s Bar in Heaven!
Malcolm Pryce