Year of the Novel

Emily Maguire

Phase One: 8 x Tuesdays: 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 March; 5, 12, 26 April, 6:30-9:30pm
Phase Two: 8 x Tuesdays: 31 May; 7, 21, 28 June; 5, 12, 19, 26 July, 6:30-9:30pm
Phase Three: 8 x Tuesdays: 6, 13, 20, 27 Sept; 11, 18, 25 Oct; 1 Nov, 6:30-9:30pm

Prices below are for all three phases, with 10% discount.
Full Price: $2620
Member: $1970
Conc Member: $1700

This course is now SOLD OUT! Sign up for our waitlist here to find out when it’s running again. In the meantime, check out our list of current courses or sign up for our Newsbite weekly newsletter for updates.

Participants in face to face courses must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and must comply with any other precautionary measures Writing NSW puts in place.

Make 2022 the year you finally write that book in this course from acclaimed author Emily Maguire. Over three phases of eight weeks each, you’ll receive the tools, support and encouragement you need to plan, write and edit your novel.

This course takes place in Sydney at Writing NSW.

Is this course right for you? Read our FAQ before enrolling>> 

Course Overview

In the first phase, we’ll work on getting the bare bones of your novel down on paper (or screen). We’ll talk about generating ideas and planning, and look at the basic elements of fiction – point of view, voice, narration, character, plot, dialogue and setting.

In the course’s second phase we’ll put some flesh on the bones of your novel, looking at structure, style and theme, and going deeper still with character, voice and plot. As we approach the year’s half-way mark we’ll also talk about how to stay focused and motivated to see this thing through to the end.

Finally, in phase three, we’ll work on turning your very good novel into a brilliant one. We’ll cut the fat, plump up the too-lean bits, polish the language and ensure you have the knowledge and skills necessary to launch your novel into the world.

Throughout, Emily will use examples from classic and contemporary fiction and from students’ work-in-progress to explore the topics covered, and guest speakers will share their insights to further expand your understanding of how published writers do what they do.

At the end of the year, we’ll celebrate your accomplishments by throwing a party at which friends, family, other writers and industry insiders can hear you read from your novel.

You should come to the first class with a specific work-in-progress or idea for a novel. Sharing and discussion will be encouraged, and there will be ample opportunity for you to speak to the group about how various techniques and lessons may be applicable to your specific project, however, one-on-one detailed feedback from the tutor will be limited.

To benefit from this course, you should be working on a novel. You can contact us with any questions before enrolling.

Complete Course – Three Phases (additional 10% discount): Full Price: $2620; Member: $1970; Conc Member: $1700

Each phase can be enrolled in separately, subject to availability. See Phase One here.

Phase One: Writing the bones

This phase is all about getting the bare bones of your novel down on paper (or screen). We’ll talk about generating ideas and planning, and look at the basic elements of fiction – point of view, voice, narration, character, plot, dialogue and setting.

1. Introduction and planning

Setting goals, creating structure, identifying obstacles and figuring out ways to get past them.

2. Inspiration

Generating ideas, re-invigorating memories, stealing from life, stealing from history and making the old and tired, vigorous and new.

3. Story and plot

The difference between story and plot, and how you can make one into the other.         

4. Character

In this session we’ll discuss what makes a character complex and compelling and what you can do to make your characters as alive on the page as they are in your head.

5. Point of view and voice

We’ll talk about the advantages and disadvantages of first, second and third POV, and which works best in what circumstances. We’ll also consider the relationship between POV and voice.

6. Showing and telling

Beginner writers are often told to ‘show, not tell’, but it’s not as simple as that. This week we’ll talk about the difference between showing and telling, and how to get the balance right.

7. Dialogue

Dialogue is an essential tool in both characterisation and plot development. We’ll discuss how brilliantly written dialogue can make your characters more believable, your plot more suspenseful and the world of your novel more vibrant.

8. Setting

Using the details of time and place to create atmosphere and solidify your invented world.

Phase Two: Muscles, guts, flesh and blood

Phase two is all about putting flesh on the bones of your novel, giving your story depth and force and vigour by looking at structure, style and theme, and going deeper with character, voice and plot. As we approach the year’s half-way mark we’ll also talk about how to stay focussed and motivated to see this thing through to the end.

1. Workshopping what needs to be done

Whether you’re back from the break after Phase One, or starting with us for the first time, this is a week to take stock of your work in progress.

2. Structure

Structure is what turns a collection of scenes into a satisfying novel. We’ll talk about scenes and story arcs, and look at some common structural templates.

 3. Character: going deeper                                                                             

Avoiding stereotypes, identifying archetypes, writing across gender and cultural lines and making full use of minor and supporting characters.

4. Advanced plotting: the relationship between character and plot

Is your character mostly pulled through events by twists of fate or is your plot driven by choices your character makes? We’ll look at how integrating character and plot makes both elements stronger.

 5. Suspense, story questions and narrative drive                                           

This is where we ask ourselves: how am I going to keep the reader turning pages? We’ll look at backstory, time-jumps, transitions and pacing.

6. Voice, tone and style

What is voice and how do you find, or develop, yours? What’s the relationship between voice and tone? We’ll talk about metaphor, imagery and finding the exact right word every time.

7. Point of view: going deeper

Who’s telling this story? What do they know and how do they know it? How does ‘head-hopping’ differ from omniscient POV? And why does any of this matter? Can’t we just tell the story as it comes out? Answers to these questions and more as we dive deeper into the wonders of POV.

8. Forging on

We’ve been working on our novels for over half the year by now. It’s time to talk about smashing writer’s block, pushing through frustration and dealing with doubt.

Phase Three: Nip, tuck, primp and preen

This is where we take a long hard look at your very good novel and figure out how to make it brilliant. We’ll cut the fat, plump up the too-lean bits, polish the language and do whatever else is necessary to ensure your novel is ready to face the world.

1. Revision and editing basics

Learning to read like an editor, and the difference between structural, line and copy-editing.

2. What’s missing?                                                                                   

Every novel-in-progress has weak points and this week we’re going to confront yours head on. Whether it’s a weak antagonist, a giant plot line or dodgy dialogue we’ll work one-on-one to pin-point your problems and come up with strategies to fix them.

3. What needs to go?

You’ve done a lot of work since you first began this writing journey. Now it’s time to go back and pull down the stuff you no longer need. We’ll pull out the scissors and ruthlessly cut out all those no-longer necessary explanations, descriptions and conversations.

 4. Beginnings                                                                        

It may seem a bit late to be talking about beginnings, but it’s often only once you’re close to the end that you can see where you should have begun! This week is all about making sure your novel starts where and how it needs to (know that you know where it’s going).

5. Endings

Endings are tough, but we’re going to be tough right back at them! We’ll talk finales, climaxes, cliffhangers, epilogues, the difference between an open-ending and no-ending at all.

6. Word by word

This week we go micro considering the rhythm and flow of sentences and hunting down filter words, cliches and clumsy constructions.

7. Over to you

This week’s content will be determined by the needs and concerns of the students, and will include one-on-one time with the tutor for each student.

8. Where do we go from here?

Freelance editors, manuscript assessment, agents, publishers, competitions and more

Participant Requirements

Pen and paper or preferred device for writing. Please ensure your device is charged. You should come to the first class with a specific work-in-progress or idea for a novel.

This course is designed for writers of fiction. If you have a narrative non-fiction manuscript and are interested in enrolling in this course, please contact us to discuss.

If you are feeling unwell and experiencing any COVID-related symptoms on the day of the course, you must stay at home and contact us to let us know. As a participant in this course, you will be required to follow all COVID safety measures in place by Writing NSW to ensure the health and wellbeing of our community.

If you have questions about this course and/or COVID-safe guidelines, please contact us.


‘Emily is a great tutor. She generously gives from her extensive practical experience. She is sensitive to the different amount of experience in the group and the different genres they write.’ – David, Year of the Novel 2020

‘I started the course with a scrappy collection of half-written scenes, Emily’s keen insights and generous feedback utterly transformed my manuscript. The course content is a brilliant mix of pragmatic and inspiring writing advice. Emily created a warm and supportive learning environment, which always left me feeling invigorated and motivated to write. I can’t recommend the course highly enough!’ – Fiona Murphy, Year of the Novel 2021

‘It’s been a great course – for the structured guidance & informal advice from Emily as well as the peer support – and I think we managed well doing it online (though sadly my internet is usually intermittent).’ – Lucinda Bell, Year of the Novel 2021

‘After a year with Emily and my brilliant classmates, I struggle to see how anyone could write a novel on their own. My writing has gone from strength to strength, as has my manuscript — and my confidence! I’ve loved every minute. Enormous gratitude for this wonderful course.’ – Jen Severn, Year of the Novel 2021

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