Monthly Archives: November 2011

Do we really need another book on novel-writing?

This morning I made a brief mention on Twitter (copied to Facebook) of an idea I have for writing a book on novel-writing. You know, a passing reference, a brief comment.

And I’ve had a flood of people responding, all saying I should go for it.

Hmm… is this another of those occasions when I’ve said something out loud and found myself pretty much committed to carrying an idea through? Maybe.

It’s an idea that’s been bubbling under for a while now.

The background is that I’ve already created an MA course in novel-writing for the University of Essex. I ran the course successfully for two years (in addition to my undergraduate science-fiction-writing course), but teaching at that level in my spare time, alongside a full-time job and my own writing, wasn’t sustainable, and this year I’m taking a break.

All in all, I’ve been thinking about the best ways to teach writing for some time now, and putting it into practice at university level for nearly ten years. And so that’s where the idea of putting it into a book came from.

My approach has always been to work with students to help them discover the best way for them to write, not to prescribe my own formula for how it should be done. For me, it’s more about exploring examples of how other writers work and providing some useful tools and techniques developing writers can use to develop their own approach. For example, among the tools I’ve used is a version of the Turkey City Lexicon, adapted to cover genres other than just science fiction; this one, in particular, has been popular with students.

Will I do it? I don’t know. If I can make the time, I’d love to.

The next question would be how to do it. Pitch it to a commercial (or academic) publisher, with all the benefits attached to that, or go it alone (perhaps through infinity plus), and put it out as soon as it’s written? Both approaches have their attractions, but I’m inclining towards the latter at the moment.

Any comments or suggestions would be very welcome!

Responses to that initial tweet, included:

“Definitely :-)”

“I’d be interested in it, really wanted to do that course”

“Why the hell not?”

“I would def buy one :0)”

“I’d vote ‘Yes’ — so many of us can’t get to uni and would certainly benefit from your experience of the course.”


“A great idea Keith, genuine good advice on novel writing is rare. I reckon it’d get snapped up.”

…from a healthy mix of my old students and fellow writers.

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