Emma Darwin – Blue Pencil Agency Online Events

‘A novel is just like one of those rickety horse-race games you get at the end of the pier, the ones in which everyone puts their 50p and the horses move forward, sometimes stalling, sometimes surging ahead. In a novel your five horses are Character, Structure, Plot, Language and Ideas; and it’s your job to bring them all over the finishing line at the same time.’

David Mitchell, award-winning author

including Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Utopia Avenue

zoom writers workshop - Blue Pencil Agency

Four Evening Craft Tutorials with Emma Darwin

One on One Editorial Review with a BPA Editor

In this series of four monthly online craft workshops, creative writing tutor and author Emma Darwin will work with individual horses in ways which should help you to bring them all over the finishing line together. While you will get the most out of this series if you join all four, each workshop will offer a great deal as a one-off. Each tutorial runs from 6 - 8 pm, with a break and plenty of time for questions at the end. Writers signing up for the full programme will have an hour one on one meeting with a BPA editor to review their first 3,000 words once the course has been completed.

Options listed below

Character & Ideas

Thursday January 28, 2021
Character & Ideas

Character & Ideas

Everyone tells you that character is the foundation of storytelling, but what does that mean for how you build your characters? What do you do if it’s not people that excite your creativity but ideas? What if you’ve no idea what your idea might be?

In this practical workshop we’ll think about how characters can show you what your ideas and themes are, and conversely how you might create characters who embody those ideas. We’ll explore what that means for characterisation from the page-by-page scale to the arc of your novel, and try our hands with some short exercises; you should leave with a new understanding of what makes storytelling tick.

Plot & Structure

Thursday February 25, 2021

Plot & Structure

Plot & Structure

Thinking of structure as the architecture of a novel, and plot as the engineering, can be very helpful – but without characters acting and interacting on your pages, who would ever read it?

In this practical workshop we’ll dig into how plot and structure are built through the actions of your characters to become a story that keeps the reader reading, and what that means for the order in which you tell it. We’ll put some of that thinking into practice with some short exercises, and you should leave with a range of ways to strengthen your storytelling.

Voice & Prose

Thursday March 25, 2021
Voice & Prose

Voice & Prose

Voice is the element which all agents and editors say they are looking for in a manuscript – but that’s by no means the only reason to work hard on the word-by-word text and textures of your novel: in the end, the words on the page are all you have to transmit your story.

In this practical workshop we will explore through short exercises how to make your prose rich and rare but never purple (except when you mean it to be), how to strip it back without it becoming drearily threadbare, and what this all means for how your characters and your narrative speak.

Revising & Editing

Thursday April 29, 2021
Revising & Editing

Revising & Editing

It’s all very well separating out David Mitchell’s five rickety horses, but how do you run them so that Character, Structure, Plot, Language and Ideas cross the finishing line together? In this workshop we will think about how you might harness what we’ve learnt over the last three weeks, so that you can cope with the stalls and surges and even find greater inspiration in them – and build a better novel

You should leave with a clearer sense of how to work, along with practical tools for drafting and editing, ready for the next stage of your writing life.


Book Full Programme

Character & Ideas


January 28
Plot & Structure


February 25
Voice & Prose


March 25
Revising & Editing


April 29

*PLUS* One on One Editorial Session following completion of the course

Emma Darwin

Emma’s memoir, This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin, was published in 2019. Her widely-read blog This Itch of Writing gave rise to Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction which publisher Scott Pack describes as ‘essential reading’. She has taught for the Open University and is a regular guest lecturer and workshop leader.

EmmaDarwin credit JPMasclet 0229

Blue Pencil Online Tutorials

Here’s what past clients have said

Frequently Asked Questions

Give me the details

Writers may sign up to the monthly Craft tutorials individually at a cost of £42 per session or to the full programme which includes an hour long one one editorial session focussing on your first 3,000 words.  The cost of the four evening sessions and a one on one meeting on zoom with a BPA editor is £320.

We will assign a BPA editor depending on your requirements once we have read your 3,000 word opening submission. The one on one sessions will take place after the course has finished.

How do I join and how will the session be run?

The day before the session you will be sent joining instructions for zoom. If you haven’t received anything on the day please check your junk mail and then get in touch.

The sessions will be conducted with writers muted but if possible with the video on so that there is a sense of a group.

During the session writers may ask questions in the chat box and after the break, there will be a Q & A session. If your question is being answered then by all means unmute yourself if you wish to clarify a point.

Some sessions may have handouts which will be submitted either before or after the session as requested by the tutor.

Recording of the sessions is not available without prior arrangement. Writers unable to attend the session for which they have paid may be able to get a recording depending on the tutor’s agreement. The recordings are the property of BPA.

What do I need to have to hand?

We will let you know nearer the time what you need to prepare but in general it might be helpful to have some of your own work printed out. Then just a pen and paper if you want to make notes.

What’s included in the cost?

Tuition, Q & A and post event, any handouts. Recording of the sessions is not available without prior arrangement.

Will the sessions be recorded?

Recording of the sessions is not available without prior arrangement. In exceptional circumstances writers unable to attend the session for which they have paid may be able to get a recording depending on the tutor’s agreement. The recordings are the property of BPA.

Need more information?

If you have any other questions about our retreats please fill out the form
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£42 per tutorial
£320 for all four tutorials and a one on one editorial review 
Contact us to check availability and reserve your place.
Payment is required in advance to confirm your booking.