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The first 20,000 words: The beginner’s guide to writing a novel

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Join author Tim Lott for this online masterclass on the basic skills you need to write the first 20,000 words of your novel.

About this Event

Sitting down to write your novel is the first hurdle: now faced with the blank page, your challenge is to fill it with your brilliant ideas. Getting psychologically and practically prepared for the marathon of writing a novel can be difficult, but all you really need is a beginning, a middle and an end.

In this masterclass with acclaimed novelist Tim Lott, you will focus on the all-important first 20,000 words, including research and getting started, laying down dramatic plot ‘mines’ that will explode later in the book, how to be expository without overloading your reader with information, and - importantly - how to launch yourself into the longer second part of your novel.

Aimed at all aspirational writers, the emphasis of this course is to face up to that blank sheet of paper and begin the gentle jog towards the first checkpoint, under the guidance of one of the best writers and coaches in the business.

Course content

  • Getting started: organising ideas, folders, space, research - and the inside of your head
  • Psychological barriers to writing: why starting to write scares some people
  • What has to happen in the first part of a novel: set up, character establishment, positing questions and choices, and the framing of dramatic dilemmas
  • Plot bombs: laying down dramatic ‘mines’ that will glue your reader to the narrative
  • Exposition: revealing information about your characters and the situations that begin your novel, without exhausting your reader
  • Point of view and the handling of time: who’s telling the story and from what viewpoint?
  • Keeping motivated for the longer second part

Tutor profile

Tim Lott is the author of eight novels and Penguin Modern Classic memoir The Scent of Dried Roses. He is one of the most sought-after writing teachers in the country, particularly through his personal mentoring services. His writing has been highly praised by Hilary Mantel, Alan Bennett, Sebastian Faulks, Tony Parsons and Sarah Waters, among others. His students are equally enthusiastic – read their testimonials.

"Tim’s help got me to a point where I was ready to write my next draft. That next draft got me an agent.”Ben McPherson, A Line of Blood

"No one else could have taught me what Tim did. Without him I can safely say I would still be flailing around in piles of rejection slips.”Rebecca Thornton, The Exclusives

You will be sent a link to the webinar 2hrs before the start time of 6pm (GMT). Please email masterclasses@theguardian.com if you have not received the access link within one hour of the scheduled start time.

This masterclass is available globally. If you are joining us from outside the United Kingdom, please use this time zone converter to check your local live streaming time.

6pm GMT | 7pm CET | 10am PST | 1pm EST

All Guardian Masterclasses are fully accessible but please contact us at masterclasses@theguardian.com if you have any queries or concerns.

Full course and returns information on the Masterclasses website

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