Guest blog: Audrey Niffenegger on writing a novel
When we heard about best selling author Audrey Niffenegger’s condensed two day novel writing course in a posh Tunbridge Wells hotel with lots of good food and wine, we wished we could sign up. But we’re not writing a novel, and as Niffenegger has offered to read up to 5000 words of each participants writing (what a bonus), we couldn’t even think about faking it. So instead, we asked her to give us a précis of what she’ll be teaching. We also asked her about her own bad habits when it come to writing, and which novelist, dead or alive, she’d most like to be taught by. Read her Guest Blog below.
In this two day course I’ll be working with writers who are already making a start on their novels. We’ll be talking about characters (how to create them, deploy them, deepen them) and structure (the situation and architecture of the world the characters must cope with). This is a fast and furious version of a course I teach in Chicago at Columbia College. In Chicago I have a whole semester to impart novel-writing advice. This class is a distillation; I hope to equip people with good practices, to head off unproductive habits of mind, and (not least) to provide a little company as they work on their books. In my view the most important lesson to learn is perseverance, and a willingness to fail and start again. In that way, and many others, writing reflects life. I think that it can be easy to misunderstand how artists work; people imagine gushes of inspiration all the time, rather than occasional insight alternating with sheer hard work. My own worst habit is that I have no regular schedule at all. I correct for this by having deadlines. This used to mean I missed out on sleep but, as I like my sleep, I’ve got better at meeting them.
One of the best reasons to take a class or join a writing group is to watch other writers deal with their problems. Each writer has different strengths and weaknesses, so a group of writers can learn from encountering loads of problems at once, some easily solved and others more bizarre and intractable. As a teacher I design exercises that allow interesting problems to come up. I place students in unusual proximity to their own work, so they can see it from new vantage points. I try to make the overly familiar feel new. I hope I succeed. If I could have been taught by any novelist, dead or alive, it would have to be Henry James. I have a few questions for him about The Beast in the Jungle.
As part of the course we will be looking at the structure of The Great Gatsby. In America it’s one of the books you can count on everyone having read in school. I hope everyone will enjoy (re)reading it. And it’s something we should all be doing ahead of the forthcoming Baz Luhrmann movie in a couple of months’ time. Personally I think it’s probably unadaptable for film, but I wish I’d seen the theatre production, GATZ. I almost never go to see movie adaptations of great novels. Though I did see Cloud Atlas recently and thought it was very brave and interesting.
I have never taught in a hotel before. I’m hoping that we’ll have both uninterrupted time to concentrate on our work and a slightly holiday-ish feeling that comes with being well looked after.
|What:||The Nuts and Bolts of the Novel: a two-day creative writing course taught by Audrey Niffenegger|
|When:||12 & 13 April 2013. You must book by 3 April|
|Where:||Hotel du Vin, Crescent Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2LY|
|Price:||£375 per person|
|Tags:||Audrey Niffenegger, GATZ, Henry James, Her Fearful Symmetry, Hotel du Vin, how to write a novel, The Great Gatsby, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Writers' Academy, workshop, Writing course|
|Posted in:||Books, Articles & Talks, Guest Blog, Newsletter - More stuff we love, We Really Love|
|Print & share:|
|Email to a friend:||Email This Post|
14th March 2013