Event Review: 40 Tips to Help You Write That Novel

Event Review: 40 Tips to Help You Write That Novel

Adele Parks
Warwick Masterclass
21 January 2017


Why did I go?

My friend, @WistfulCass, told me about this event and asked me to go with her. I wasn’t sure at first. She has a novel in progress that she is passionate about. I have no less than seven complete or partial very rough first drafts courtesy of NaNoWriMo (not counting the obligatory thinly disguised autobiography), none of which I considered worthy of the effort of taking any further. Of course, my sister, Cass and several other friends beg to differ – in spite of never having read any of ’em. So, having a free-ish weekend, some Christmas money left over, and knowing that the session was being led by a writer whose work I respect and that I’d not had the chance to listen to before, I thought why not? and went along.

What did it cover?

There were about 20 of us there, ranging from the man who had never written any fiction to the woman who has written three novels with the first about to come out in paperback from a major publisher. Tricky class to pitch to! But Adele Parks made sure she found out what we were all working on as well as what stage we were at and, if the conversations at lunchtime and thanks on Twitter are anything to go by, she succeeded in giving everybody things to think about. As you might expect, her 40 tips covered things to help with theme, plot and character; practicalities to do with getting in front of the screen or page; and getting publishers to pay attention as well as readers.

However, she also asked us to consider how we think of ourselves as writers. What’s our motivation? What do we read? Have we found out what works for us? How do we define ourselves and our work? This last question was rather tricky for me since every one of my attempts has been in a different genre. She told me to pick one to think about during the various exercises – but I cheated and oscillated between the literary fiction and the romance.

Adele encouraged us to apply the tips to our own WIP and share our insights and questions. This was a far better approach than studying examples which were bound to be irrelevant to some of us. By the end, we felt we knew enough about each other’s work to offer advice too, and several participants went away determined to stay in touch. (Perhaps I missed a trick by not giving everyone my card: marketing is so not my strong point!)

Who would I recommend it to?

The workshop was a perfect fit for those working on a novel and struggling with it in some way or another – although, as I’ve already said, those at other stages also felt they got plenty out of it. Of course, Adele is well-known for writing contemporary women’s fiction, but she proved herself adept at thinking outside her own field. She helped a crime writer discover their theme, a fantasy author think about their characters’ actions and a comedy writer think about their pitch. Should you have the opportunity to attend a workshop she is running, don’t let her oeuvre put you off.

What’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from it?

Not, this time, a solitary pearl of wisdom or big idea, but motivation. Looking at my drafts and fragments through the lens of these 40 tips made me realise that there is plenty to pillage and a couple of things worth developing. So now, two weeks after the workshop, I have a plan …