How to Write a Kick-Ass First Novel
The ultimate online novel-writing course
What you will learn
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.
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!
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.
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 let me know within 30 days and I’ll refund the money. No questions asked. But if I find out that a year later you published a novel I will come looking for you.
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.
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!
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.