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How To Write Your First Novel

September 25, 2013
by the gentle author

Now that the days are drawing in and with long winter nights looming, I thought readers might contemplate the notion of writing a novel. And so, emboldened by the success of the blog writing courses I have been running, I invited three Spitalfields Life Contributing Writers – Rosie Dastgir, Kate Griffin & Sarah Winman, who have each written distinguished first novels – to devise a course to get you started. Meanwhile, I am teaching a course at The Guardian on 26 & 27th October entitled How to Write a Blog that People Will Want to Read, and we hope that between these two courses, we can offer you constructive assistance in your literary endeavours.


Spend an inspirational weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields in the company of three successful first-time novelists and explore how to write your novel.

Have you ever wondered how to find the story you want to tell?

A two day course on how to begin writing your first novel, comprising a blend of talks by novelists, Rosie Dastgir (author of A Small Fortune), Kate Griffin (author of Kitty Peck & the Music Hall Murders) and Sarah Winman (author of When God Was a Rabbit), alongside practical exercises and discussion.

We suggest participants bring along an idea that they would like to pursue and, over the weekend, we’ll discuss and develop your work, and suggest possible approaches.


1. How Do You Get Started? Writing every day, learning to write without inhibition and finding a voice. Discovering your subject and researching it. We’ll offer a choice of writing prompts to get people moving forward with their ideas.

2. What Are The Elements of Writing Fiction? We’ll give a brief survey of narrative voice and point of view, and look at showing versus telling, intuition versus structure, and plot versus story.

3. Where Do Characters Come From? Are they born or made?  How do you invent plausible characters?  Drawing on examples in literature and working with practical exercises, we’ll address the elusive business of creating character.

4. Writing Dialogue. Finding your characters’ voices. How do you make characters distinctive from one another?  We’ll show ways – with practical exercises – to inject life into your characters’ sentences.

5. Personal Stories. Why are so many first time novels autobiographical?  How do you fictionalize your material?  We’ll look at some first novels and see what works.

6. Our Practical Experiences Of Writing A First Novel. Strategies for finding an agent, getting a publisher – the pitfalls, highs and lows.


The course will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November from 10am -5pm. Lunch catered by Leila’s Cafe and tea, coffee and cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £250.

Accommodation at 5 Fournier St is available upon enquiry.

Email to book a place on the course.

Rosie Dastgir, author of A Small Fortune

Kate Griffin, author of Kitty Peck & the Music Hall Murders

Sarah Winman, author of When God was a Rabbit

Portrait of Kate Griffin copyright © Colin O’Brien

Portrait of Sarah Winman copyright © Patricia Niven

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Molasses permalink
    September 25, 2013

    If I was in the same continent, I would attend!

    Suggestion: if you can arrange walking tours, with stops at Leila’s/Townhouse, I am sure you will have an avid user-base (even in the cold blistery dark days of winter). And end the day by a pub serving Trumans.

  2. September 25, 2013

    sigh! wish i were there. love all those stripes in rosie’s picture too!

  3. September 25, 2013

    Did your wonderful blog course earlier this year at the Guardian and mad keen to get onto the w/e writing course in Spitalfields – brilliant idea!! Have booked my place as I am sure there will be a rush. Paddy

  4. September 25, 2013

    What a great idea. I LOVED reading When God was a Rabbit and now plan to read Rosie and Kate’s books. Both have v beautiful jacket covers although I know you’re not meant to judge a book by its cover! Hope the course fills up swiftly, it looks as if it will be an absolute treat.
    Nicola from

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