Guest post: 5 tips to get your novel started

Writer's block at Faber

Finally, a way to get a handle on writer's block.

Getting started writing your novel can be daunting. So many BritMums bloggers tell us they’re working on a book, yet it can be hard to know how to begin and how to see it through. Joanna Briscoe is a novelist who teaches at the revered Faber Academy in Bloomsbury, London. This January – for the first time – Faber Academy is running a novel-writing course that slots in perfectly between the school runs. It’s ideal for bloggers and writers, and you can expect to come away with your first three chapters (ideal for sending off to agents) and a plan for the rest of the book.

BritMums visited Faber to look around – the courses are held in an intimate room workshop-style, not an auditorium, and each course features not only acclaimed writers but also guest speakers.

meeting room at Faber

Faber Academy courses feature group sizes of no more than 20.

Joanna is teaching Get It Written over 10 weeks starting January 17th, from 10:30 to 13:30 every Tuesday. Here she gives a taster, with 5 tips for getting started on your novel. For more information about the course, see the description at the end or visit the Faber Academy web site.

1.) Getting started means getting started. Just that. We usually have a ‘perfect’ idea of a novel in our heads, and the reality is rarely – more realistically, never – going to match up to that. Accepting that the actual novel will be different from the fantasy one is a vital first step. Then write. Write just a page or a paragraph, and see how it looks. Remember you can always go back and change it later, so don’t get stuck on that opening scene. But do get past it. It’s a way into the whole novel.

2.) Commonly, first time novelists need to find some way of getting themselves out of writing what is largely autobiography. Set yourself some challenges to turn your idea into fiction. Forget what happened in real life, except as the initial inspiration, and make yourself think, What if… You could also describe your brief plot or outline to someone else, who will be more objective, and may be able to say, ‘Ah, but what if the protagonist did this instead…?

3.) Set yourself reasonable tasks, otherwise you set yourself up to fail. Even if you just write for twenty minutes a day, that’s something. After a while, you can set yourself more. Eventually, if you stick at it, a novel will get written. Don’t try to do too much at first, or you’ll become overwhelmed, though of course if the novel starts to take off, then let it…

4.) Write notes on plot, character, etc. when they occur to you, on a separate document, so you don’t forget your ideas. But make sure you’re continuing to work on the actual novel at the same time. You can refer to your notes, but don’t let the notes take over or become an excuse.

5.) If you feel the opening scene of your novel is really not working, or holding you up, then try it a different way in. Use technical exercises to try something different: go from the third to first person, or the other way round; change the tense, or point of view. Or start with a different character or scene. Whatever you do, make sure you progress. You will be re-drafting anyway that is guaranteed – so be relaxed about the opening until later.

Now get on with it…



The Wasteland beanbag chair

Contemplate your masterpiece while sitting in The Waste Land beanbag.

GET IT WRITTEN with Joanna Briscoe

A school-run friendly creative writing course

10.30am – 1.30pm, every Tuesday, starts January 17th, 2012

With critically-acclaimed author Joanna Briscoe, take Tuesday mornings to turn your idea into a novel. Over ten weeks, expect to write your first three chapters and leave with a plot and a plan for the rest – all from the supportive atmosphere of Faber Academy, two minutes from Holborn, right in the heart of literary Bloomsbury.

Joanna Briscoe’s latest novel is ‘You‘, published by Bloomsbury.

*If you are interested in writing a novel, don’t miss the sessions at BritMums Live!


Share Button


BritMums is the UK’s original collective of lifestyle bloggers and digital influencers, fueling the country’s most influential social content. We lead the online conversation with members who are parent social influencers creating content on topics ranging from food, parenting, travel, politics, style and more.