How to Write a Novel course

So I was bitching about some terrible short stories I read in the course of the making of Behind the Shadows in my last post,and what do you know? My fellow comrade in ink and author of Strange Nervous Laughter asks me whether she can guest post on my blog for her really cool and innovative program on How to Write a Novel. I do not know if it well help those other ‘writers’ but I certainly hope it can help those of you who have been told by someone other than your parents that you can write. So from Bridget McNulty, here is the guest post:

Writing a How To Write A Novel course

The funny thing about having written a novel (once, five years ago) is that everyone assumes you are now the expert on how to write a novel. Whereas, really, it could be as simple as having stumbled across a really good recipe for chocolate cake.

No, that’s not true at all. There is definitely a sense of knowing how to do something once you have done it once, the trouble is in finding a recipe that others will be able to follow. That was the challenge my brother Brendan and I were faced with when we decided to create Now Novel ( an online novel writing course that helps you start – and finish – your novel. What we noticed was that there were a lot of books and courses and essays and blog posts and forums about how to start a novel, but not so many about how to keep going. And really, isn’t that the hard part? Getting to the end?

First of all, though, we had to get to the beginning. I wasn’t an enormous amount of help at first, because my creative process involves sitting down and spewing the words onto the page, then trying to wrestle them into some kind of order afterwards. Let me tell you: this is not the most constructive or intelligent way to write a book, because the wrestling is often very difficult and carries on late into the night. My brother’s approach to life is to find a process that is guaranteed to work. As you can imagine, we had many fervent arguments about the creative spark and trying to create a formula for it… But in the end, he won me round. Mainly because the way we’ve structured the online novel writing process actually works.

Now Novel ( leads you through a series of questions in each section that result in something concrete that you can actually use: a central idea (that then gets tested), a theme statement, an idea of setting (with images to illustrate it), a sense of plot. And then each of those is delved into in more detail, aligned to one of the seven universal stories (yes, believe it or not, there are only seven) and chopped up into chunks of what needs to happen when. Instead of ending up with a steaming pile of words that need a lot of wrestling to turn into a novel, you end up with a solid first draft of a novel. It has structure and plot development, in-depth characters (with character studies for each) and a theme that really resonates with you. It’s a recipe that seems to be working for many of the Now Novel writers who’ve used it so far.

Of course, there’s also a lot of motivation involved. We’ve got a daily blog ( with inspiring blog posts about writers and writing, tips on how to stay motivated and fun facts about how poetry and film can feed into your writing – all those lovely things you want to read when you’re actually procrastinating but would like to pretend you’re working. We’ve got a creative writing forum ( where people can discuss any of their issues with (life and) their novels. We’ve got weekly emails with writing prompts and great quotes and some good old-fashioned guilt tripping to keep people writing, and a Facebook page ( with a lot of amusing images that only book geeky types will appreciate. And we’ve got the beginnings of a community: a community of people who want to get together to start – and finish – their novels.

Want to come over and say hi? I’d love to meet you. Check out and let me know what you think…

– Bridget McNulty


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