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Nailing Your Novel: How to Finish (or Start) Your Novel

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by Shannon Meyerkort (subscribe)
Writer. Storyteller. Find out more at
Published November 27th 2014
Learn secrets from a pro
Are you harbouring a secret (or not so secret) desire to be a novelist, but can't seem to get started? Do you have the plot for a dead-set-certain bestseller in your head, but you just can't get it onto paper? Or are you like me, and have a partially written novel languishing on your computer, and you just. Can't. Seem. To. Finish. It?

Grab your pens, quills, typewriters and lap tops, it's time to write

For the past five weeks on a Thursday evening I have been joined by around twenty other writers, all in various stages of writing their first novel. We were at West Australian author Natasha Lester's 'Nailing Your Novel' course which runs through UWA Extension.

Our reasons for being there were as similar as they were varied. Some already had a full first draft. Some people had an idea but no words on paper. Many of us were part way through our novels before we got stuck, bored or life interfered.

Natasha is well qualified to help writers get out of their ruts. She didn't let small matters like being pregnant or having her third child stop her from writing, and with her third novel due to be published next year she's heard all the excuses that people make when they can't seem to find time for writing.

Considering most writers prefer to be hidden away behind their computer, Natasha is also a natural teacher: engaging, generous and enthusiastic. Each week the class undertakes a few writing exercises, designed to kick start the process, or get you thinking about your characters and story in a new way. I was so enthused by the process, I now have a whole new story I want to write.

UWA Extension courses are run at the beautiful Claremont campus

Each class runs for two and a half hours and over the five weeks we covered a range of creative and technical topics from how to get started, making writing a habit, which voice to use, creating dramatic tension and how to make the reader care.

Using examples from Australian authors, Natasha was able to provide indispensable advice about subtext, story arcs and the critical importance of dialogue and setting. Similarly, she was able to highlight some of the common mistakes made by first time authors, and how to avoid them.

As well as learning from someone who has actually been through the process, it is also a great opportunity to connect with other Perth writers, and considering the length and depth of her courses, they are extremely good value for money.

Nailing Your Novel – for writers who abandon their books, runs twice every year, and you can go on the waitlist for the next course here.

If you haven't even started yet, then perhaps try her Creative Writing course which is run through the Australian Writers Centre. It's more expensive but runs for two full days over a weekend, and is a great way to immerse yourself in your new book. Click here for more information.

Natasha also offers a follow up course for writers who are no longer in a rut but need help getting to the end of their first draft, and the next course 'Get Your Novel Written' will be running in February 2015. Click here for more information.

As a blogger and web writer of short pieces, never more than 1,000 words, I struggle to get back into the style of writing needed for a lengthy and detailed novel. As such, I have been making excuses for about two years why I haven't been able to progress my novel beyond the 25,000 words currently sitting on my laptop.

None of them are particularly valid, and perhaps one of the best pieces of advice she gave me was simply this: don't sit down to write a novel, just sit down to write a single scene. A scene is manageable and finite and something even someone with a short attention span like me can cope with. It's good advice.

So stop making excuses and start writing. But if you need a bit of extra help, you can always click here.
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Why? For writers who need help finishing or starting their novel
When: courses run throughout the year
Where: UWA Extension courses run from UWA Claremont. Australian Writer’s Centre courses often run out of Wembley Hotel. I know!
Cost: $169-$395
Your Comment
I wish I lived in Perth. Great write up of an intriguing course, Shannon.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4212) 2608 days ago
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