‘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.’
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
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
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
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
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
PLOT & STRUCTURE
VOICE & PROSE
REVISING & EDITING
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.
Blue Pencil Online Tutorials
Here’s what past clients have said
I’m really enjoying these and a great way to stay ‘connected’ with a writing community so thank you so much for keeping them coming!
Thank you so much for organising “A Literary Marriage” with Jane and Claire this evening. It was fantastic – informative, inspiring and enjoyable.
Emma – thank you so much for arranging such an inspiring series of talks for the Online Writing Weekend. They were all of such a high level and unlike a lot of courses, had a very commercial focus which is important to remind of why we are doing this!
Thank you for another brilliant session. All three of the presenters at the retreat have been such high quality. I had high expectations but they have gone beyond those expectations. Thank you so much for all your hard work putting the weekend together.
Really looking forward to the next session. I’m trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can. It’s the only thing that’s getting me through lockdown!
Oliver’s editorial feedback was fantastically helpful. I’ve done a lot of workshopping of various kinds over the last few years, including an MA in Creative Writing, and this was honestly the best feedback I’ve had on the novel as a whole, the most helpful in helping me to see where I need to go next…
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
Tuition, Q & A and post event, any handouts. Recording of the sessions is not available without prior arrangement.
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.