Ask LH: How Can I Learn To Write A Novel?

Hi, I love blogging and enjoy using social media, but I've always wanted to learn to write full-length novels or a graphic novel. Is there a course at university or online that would help me learn how to do that? Thanks, Aspiring Author

Writing picture from Shutterstock

Dear AA,

There are plenty of paid writing courses available in Australia including convenient online-only options. However, that's not necessarily the best approach to take. Tertiary qualifications mean absolutely nothing when it comes to getting a book or comic published. It's all about what's on the page.

Back when I was studying journalism at the University of Western Sydney, I enrolled in some creative writing subjects with my leftover units (it was either that or public relations). They were mostly a big, pretentious wank. While I did get introduced to some great books, I could have easily discovered these works via Google for free. The same thing goes for the smattering of literary theory I picked up.

In my humble opinion, the only reason to enrol in a writing course is to become a lecturer/tutor yourself. You'll still be a frustrated, unpublished writer but at least you'll get a pay cheque at the end of each month. Otherwise, your best bet is to go down the self-taught route which essentially involves voraciously reading and writing 24/7.

Bone up on common writing pitfalls, seek out advice from writing forums and read LOTS of fiction in the genre you'd like to pursue. Above all else, actually start writing something and follow it through to the bitter end. Very few authors get their first novel published, but it's still important to finish it off. Think of it as a psychological hurdle that needs to be crossed; no matter what happens you'll still be a better writer on the other side.

If you want to remove the pressure of success, start off by getting involved with NaNoWriMo (AKA National Novel Writing Month). This makes the whole exercise fun while simultaneously forcing you to maintain a strict writing schedule. You can read what Lifehacker editor Angus Kidman learned while partaking in NaNoWriMo here.

Unless you intend to illustrate your own work, writing a graphic novel brings up its own set of issues. This previous Ask LH post will talk you through the basics. If you're passionate about fantasy, also be sure to check out these Top Ten Writing Tips by Game Of Thrones author George R R Martin. Good luck!

See also: How I Make A Living As A Writer (And You Can Too) | Become A Better Writer By Learning To Be A Skilled Reader First | How To Improve Your Writing (And Get Over Writer's Block)

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Comments

    cc @shane for input

      If you insist. The best advice I can give is just seven words long, however.

      Write. Just do it. Then rewrite. Repeat.

      The advice in this article is pretty good. However, I would counter the writing course argument by saying that there are some useful things to learn from such courses, and they aren't a bad way to network with other folks at your level who share your ambition. The stuff in them is all basic, and is all available for nothing on the internet, that's true - but chances are that you won't search for them there. In the end, though, doing a course won't get a book written, and the best way to become a better writer is to simply write.

      Last edited 26/02/14 1:46 pm

    Step 1) Buy macbook
    Step 2) Go to any pretentious coffee shop - if you see a crate that is painted with 'Brooklyn' or 'NYC' while in Australia - you're on to a winner.
    Step 3) Profit?

    I finished writing a book about a month back now and the way I did it was to pick something about which I felt I had something interesting to say and then every day write 2000 words minimum on it. The book ended up being a guide-to-life sort of thing, and it covered a range of different topics that are relevant in everyday life. The most important thing though is that you commit to writing - even on nights where I had parties, after the party (after I shooed everyone away, cleaned the house, sorted out anyone who was staying the night) I would sit down and write 2000 words.

    That commitment comes from promising YOURSELF that you're going to write - not from a course or an advice column online. You have to value your word to yourself and follow through. Good luck.

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