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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

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

This course is for ...

  • Writers who are approaching their first novel and want to know how to approach research and planning before getting started
  • Writers who feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting their novel and are in need of a confidence boost to tackle the first stretch

You will be sent a link to the online workshop 2hrs before the start time of 6pm (BST).

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.

Course Details

  • Date: Monday 6 September 2021
  • Time: 6pm-8.30pm (BST)

6.00pm BST | 7.00pm CEST | 10.00am PDT | 1.00pm EDT

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.

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

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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Organiser Guardian Masterclasses

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

Welcome to Guardian Masterclasses – a unique programme of learning embedded within one of the world's most forward-thinking media organisations.

Masterclasses offer a broad range of short and long courses across a variety of disciplines from creative writing, journalism, photography and design, film and digital media, music and cultural appreciation.

Harnessing the expertise and specialisms within the organisation, our courses are led by first class and award winning guardian professionals whilst also drawing on the skills and expertise of other leading figures at the forefront of the creative and digital industries.

The programme is aimed at anyone interested in personal or professional development whether that be refining your skills, focusing your ambition or simply broadening your mind and gaining inspiration.


































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