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How To Read A Novel

January 14th, 2020

One of the things that I’m sure you hear repeatedly is that if you want to be a writer then you must read, read, read. But why?

You should read – especially contemporary fiction – because it shows you what trends are current, what readers are looking for NOW and so what publishers are searching for.

You should read all fiction – contemporary, classic, experimental – to see how other authors use words, how they put together their plots, twine in sub-plots and how they make their characters realistic. When you read something you enjoy then you can analyse it and use the knowledge you have gained in your own work. When you read a book that doesn’t work for you, then you can try to decide what’s wrong with it and avoid this in your own writing.

But this kind of analytic reading often puts people off – it reminds them of being back at school. They’re not sure how to approach it. So why not have a look at this free course: How To Read  A Novel.

The course is provided by the University of Edinburgh and they say, “On the course you’ll discover four of the main building blocks of modern fiction: plot, characterisation, dialogue, and setting using examples from a range of texts including the four novels shortlisted for the 2018 James Tait Black fiction prize. You’ll also explore the formal strategies authors use, how they came to be, and how they affect us as readers.”

The course really is free, it’s online and you can sign up at any time and study whenever you like. Once you have joined you have six weeks in which to complete it. So, if you want some pointers on what you should be looking for when you’re reading why not give it a go?

The Writers Bureau’s 2020 Short Story Competition is now open for entries. Your stories can be up to 2000 words and the prizes are £300, £200, £100 and £50. Plus each winner receives a free Writers Bureau course of their choice. The entry fee is £5 per story or £4 per story is you are a member of the Association of Freelance Writers and the closing date is 30th March.

If you’re not into writing short stories, but are looking for a competition to enter, then you could always try the Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize.  The closing date is 31 January and there is a 4,000-word limit. Ffirst prize is 1,000 euros; second prize is a week at Casa Ana Writers’ Retreat in Spain plus 300 euros; third prize is 200 euros. The ten best memoirs will be published in the Fish Anthology 2020.

And if poetry is your thing, the Plough International Poetry Prize also runs until the end of this month. The prizes are: first, £1000; second £500; third £250 and the entry fee is £5.

I hope that gives you something to think about for the rest of the month; so until next time…

Author: Diana Nadin

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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