Remember that feeling of staying up late past your bedtime curled under the covers with your favourite book? Have you been dreaming since then of writing your own novel? Would you love to one day see your name on a book cover at your local bookstore?
Many people long to be authors. They talk about the book that’s inside them or the stories they want to tell. But there are always reasons why they never get around to writing. They don’t have time. They’re waiting for the kids to grow up. They don’t have any inspiration.
The idea of writing a book can be daunting. At the Australian Writers’ Centre, we’re proud that so many of our graduates have had their publishing dreams come true. And for many of them, we’ve been able to help them along that daunting journey, step by precious step.
There is a clear course pathway to help you get there.
From learning the foundations in Creative Writing Stage 1, to fine-tuning the first few chapters in Novel Writing Essentials, to completing an entire manuscript in Write Your Novel, we have helped to guide our students through the whole process of writing – and publishing! – a novel.
Step 1 – Creative Writing Stage 1
Everyone has to start somewhere. Whether you’ve been scribbling away for years or just itching to write your first story, Creative Writing Stage 1 will help you to learn or hone the foundation techniques of storytelling.
What makes a compelling story? How can you bring your characters to life? How can you structure your story so that it is satisfying for the reader?
Stories are made of characters, dialogue, scenes and plot. In this course, we cover each of these essential elements. You’ll learn about characterisation, finding your narrative voice, building scenes and developing structural shapes.
With these foundation techniques, you will set your idea in motion and actually complete a short story or first chapter.
Many of our students come up with the idea for their book while working through this foundation course. Joanna Nell, author of the best-selling The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village, constructed a character during Creative Writing Stage 1, which became the protagonist of her debut novel. Joanna especially found the opportunity to give and receive feedback invaluable.
“Learning to give and receive feedback is fundamental to improving as a writer, and the way this was handled was both safe and encouraging,” she says.
Joanna has since released a second successful novel, The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parkes. Both her books are published by Hachette.
Step 2 – Novel Writing Essentials
Once you’ve got a grip on the foundations, it’s time to take your writing to the next level. With a mix of theory and workshopping, our Novel Writing Essentials course will give you a clear framework for writing the first 20,000 words of your novel.
Yes, you really CAN make a brilliant start on your book.
You’ll discover how group workshopping can make you a better writer. Build on your techniques, commit to your practice, and give your novel the best possible start. If you KNOW you have a book inside you, this course will help you get it out of your head and onto the page.
Astrid Scholte completed Novel Writing Essentials and has since published popular young adult novel Four Dead Queens with Penguin Random House. She says this was the most important course for actually completing her first manuscript.
“It gave me that structure of a novel,” she says. “You add on from Creative Writing Stage 1 where you’re learning to just explore and be creative … into the structure of a novel and how you go about that.”
Strengthen your creative writing foundations
At any point along the core creative writing path, you can take extra courses to strengthen your foundations. Our Fiction Essentials series will help you hone your craft around characters, dialogue, point of view, scenes, structure and grammar and punctuation.
Published kids author Tamsin Janu started writing her popular Figgy series as soon as she finished the Writing for Children and Young Adults course.
“The idea came to me in the midst of it,” she says. “I wrote a draft quickly, revised it, then sent the first chapter to a couple of big publishers.” A few rewrites later and her manuscript was quickly accepted. Figgy in the World saw her named the joint winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature), shortlisted in the CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers) Awards and shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize.
Step 3 – Write Your Novel
Our capstone course is designed for people who are really ready to take the plunge and finish their manuscript. Working with our experienced tutors in a supportive group environment, you will workshop your way to a complete first draft. Depending on your schedule, you can take the course over six months or a year.
This is the only program of its kind where your group reads your entire novel and provides a structural edit. Some writers go through the Write Your Novel course several times to bring each of their drafts to life.
Margaret Morgan completed Write Your Novel while working on her debut novel, The Second Cure. “The best aspect of the course was learning how to critique and prepare a structural edit. By applying those skills to each other’s manuscripts, we learned how to use them to improve our own work.”
At this stage of your journey, you’ll know you can’t be faint-hearted about your manuscript. With the support of your tutor and group, you’ll identify how to improve your story, what’s working well, and what needs to be cut. These are the sorts of insights it’s almost impossible to get on your own. As well as workshopping, you’ll receive expert guidance about your work and insights into the publishing industry.
By the end of the course, not only will you have a finished manuscript, but you’ll also have made writing friends and connections.
“Meeting up with like-minded aspiring novelists was invaluable. I still meet regularly with the writing group we formed after the course ended,” Margaret says. Her group included Petronella McGovern (author of Six Minutes), Frances Chapman, Catherine Hanrahan and Katy Pike. As Frances Chapman says, “When we started, we were all unknowns; now, three of us have publishing deals and two of us have agents. I feel so lucky to have been part of the group and to have been a part of watching their novels develop and grow.”
Following the Australian Writers’ Centre’s core creative writing path will give you the discipline, deadlines and camaraderie to see your book to completion. And that will bring you a huge step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a published author.