Welcome to the Write a Novel Course at NZ Writers' College.
Take on the challenge of a 12-24 month novel writing course tutored by award-winning novelists Sonny Whitelaw and Alex Smith
The course covers everything you need to write your manuscript - chapter by chapter.
Learn how to write believable dialogue, create solid characters, how to structure your plot and create tension. Walk away with a proposal ready for the publisher's desk.
You will learn about:
- The basics: theme, point of view, voice, genre, characterisation, plot, structure (Modules 1-5)
- Writing skills: style, dialogue, revision (Modules 6-8)
- Publication: finding a publisher, editing and book production (Modules 9-10)
- The writing life, issues and trends (Modules 11-12)
Our tutors have spent years assessing manuscripts written in many different styles and they are comfortable working with writers across a wide range of genres.
You'll be writing your novel as we go along, and as the course progresses, the emphasis will shift away from exercises to text critiques and support. You'll regularly send instalments of your manuscript to your tutor for feedback. At the end of 12 modules, you will have gained important skills and have a text of at least 20 000 words.
The aim of the initial course is to produce a solid preliminary text of 20 000 to 25 000 words. You may then choose to continue with the follow-up course, which will be aimed at completing the manuscript.
- Cost: $1495.00 GST inclusive
- Modules: 12 Modules
- Duration: Course can be completed at own pace: between 12 and 24 months
- Start date: At any time; applications all year round via our website
Student must complete:
- Preliminary text of 20 0000 to 25 000 words
- A cover letter to the publisher
- Basic writing skills are essential
- Computer skills, e-mail and Internet access required
- No previous tertiary qualification required
Tutors for this course:
(You may select a tutor in your application motivation or we will assign a tutor to you who we feel most suits your areas of interest)
Module 1 - Your Novel: An Introduction
- Common questions answered
- Overcoming writer's block
- Getting started
- Exercise: Construct a schedule, write a novel proposal, and complete a warm-up writing exercise.
Module 2 - The Basics
- An overview of the elements of a novel: Genre, Theme, Point Of View and Voice
- Exercise: Write two genre scenes, and discuss voice, theme and point of view in a novel of your choice.
Module 3 - Characterisation
- The importance of characters
- Creating vivid, believable major and minor characters
- Exercise: Write character outlines of a major character and a minor character, and a brief scene in which they interact.
- Text instalment: at least 700 words
Module 4 - Plot
- Understanding elements of storytelling
- The classic story structure
- Exercise: Construct a plot outline.
- Text instalment: at least 1 500 words
Module 5 - Putting Scenes Together
- Scenes, chapters and paragraphs
- Transitions, beginnings and endings
- Exercise: Practise writing transitions
- Text instalment: at least 2 000 words
Module 6- Writing Style
- Good and bad style tips
- Finding your own style
- Exercise: Examine your own writing style.
- Text instalment: at least 2 500 words
Module 7- Dialogue
- Writing natural, interesting dialogue - do's and don'ts
- Dialogue layout and formatting
- Exercise: Record and edit a dialogue
- Text instalment: at least 2500 words
Module 8 - Revising Your Work
- The importance of revising your work
- Revision Tips
- Exercise: Revise a passage, collate your novel and find areas that need work.
- Progress of your novel: at least 2500 words
Module 9 - Selling Your Book
- How to approach a publisher
- Presentation of the manuscript
- Overview of contractual issues
- Exercise: Write a covering letter.
- Text instalment: at least 2500 words
Module 10 - Book Production
- An overview of the processes of editing, design, distribution, marketing and sale of a book
- Exercise: Write a blurb.
- Progress of your novel: at least 2500 words
Module 11 - Trends in Publishing
- What's happening in writing and publishing right now?
- Publishing options: self-publishing, online publishing
- Progress of your novel: at least 2500 words
Module 12 - The Writing Life
- The lifestyle of the working writer
- Opportunities and challenges in the world of writing
- Progress of your novel: at least 2500 words
- After module 12, you will submit a revised text of 20 000 to 25 000 words for final marking and a critique.
How does the course work?
Detailed class notes covering the content of each module are e-mailed to students.
At the end of each module, students will be required to submit a certain word count to their tutor for feedback.
Once the writing tasks have been completed, and e-mailed to the lecturer, an assessment and feedback will be sent to the student, and the module will be considered complete. Students can also participate in ongoing online discussions by posting comments about the materials covered in the course or other issues pertaining to writing in the college blog.
Conditions of Certification:
Students will receive an NZ Writers' College Certificate upon successful completion of the course, provided they meet the following conditions:
- Students must have completed all writing tasks
- The course must have been completed within 24 months of registration.
- Students are expected to attain a minimum average of 50% for the course
Minimum Estimated Time Commitment:
This is hard to predict, as some people are simply faster writers than others. However, for each 1000 words of your novel, you could calculate on spending about an hour writing and at least the same amount of time in revising. The exercises should each not take more than two hours to complete. And finally, you should expect to spend some time at the end of the course, giving your manuscript a final polish. This gives a rough estimate of 90 hours over the course of 12 modules, or round about 7-8 hours a month.
“My experience on the course encouraged me and gave me the confidence that I could write a good novel. My tutor was very professional, focused, encouraging and helpful.” Bharat Kumar Regmi, Write a Novel Course
“The course was a great introduction to the world of writing; in addition, it was affordable and good value for money. I found Louis Greenberg to be an exceptional tutor. He was an impressive professional. The course certainly met all my objectives – and more. Overall it was an enjoyable, rewarding and challenging experience.” Eddie Fourie, Write a Novel Course
“The course notes were comprehensive, clear and informative. Alex was an excellent tutor who encouraged me all the way. Her instructions were clear; I enjoyed working with her and learnt a lot. She trusted and challenged my creativity all the way and made me believe in myself and my ability to write. I grew not only as a writer, but also as a person. Thank you Alex. Overall, I had a positive experience.” Magriet Visser, Write a Novel
“I loved this course, every moment of it. It has been absolutely amazing and my writing has improved so much. Working with Alex really has been a wonderful experience. She challenged me and helped me improve all aspects of my writing and creativity. I am extremely grateful for her involvement in this course. I’ve done creative writing courses before, but this course with Alex has by far exceeded my expectations. It has been my pleasure to work with The Writers’ College, from the website to the tutor. Thank you so much Writers’ College!” llona Nel, Write a Novel
“Being a school teacher for many years, I thought I knew quite a lot about writing when I started this course. I soon realised I had a lot to learn and probably still do. The course taught me aspects of Microsoft Word I didn’t know existed and straightened out my understanding of grammar rules. I learnt the rules for writing manuscripts and how to make my characters believable. The greatest learning came from Sonny’s pithy and expressive comments which constantly pop into my mind as I write. I received far more effort in guiding me to improve my work from Sonny, than I thought I would. She wades in boots and all and digs deep. She certainly knows her craft and how to pass it on. It was like the TV programme where they gave participants an entire makeover, except it was my writing skills that got the make-over.” Gaynor Lincoln, Write a Novel
“The course was exactly what I needed. It taught me what I needed to know about writing and publishing. Louis was a great tutor; he was understanding and motivating.” Christopher Zeuch, Write a Novel
“My time on the course has been one of the most enjoyable learning experiences of my life. It was an enjoyable, well laid out and well-presented course. The insight and knowledge that I have gained I would consider invaluable. Louis was a pleasure to work with. His insight and feedback were, for me, the most valuable parts of the course. His constructive criticism and suggestions always made improvements to my own work and understanding. I have come away with a better understanding of the trade and, more importantly, a better understanding of my own writing and the areas I need to focus on. After a year of learning, I feel better equipped to continue with my novel.” Brian Greaves, Write a Novel Course
“This course was very enlightening for me. Alex has been great and extremely helpful! I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. She was awesome to work with. The course met my objectives more than I had anticipated. It was a pleasure to be a student with the The Writers’ College, and to take part in an experience that has set the foundation to the rest of my writing journey.” Jade du Randt, Write a Novel
“The course was challenging and insightful. I really enjoyed the one-on-one experience with my tutor Louis. In other courses where you're in a class or have other delegates attending I sometimes find it intimidating, but this course was the opposite. The fact Louis has such great industry experience was the core to the success of this course for me. Louis is very knowledgeable and has relevant industry experience, which made his feedback valuable, relevant and usable. His feedback was constructive which helped foster my confidence and technical abilities in writing. The time spent with The Writers’ College has helped me become a more mature and disciplined writer, and has taken me one step closer to mastering my craft.” Michele van Eck, Write a Novel Course
“I found the course informative, helpful and inspiring. Alex Smith was always available and quick to answer any questions; she was very supportive throughout. The course more than met my objectives. My overall experience with The Writers’ College was a very positive one. Now I truly feel I'm a writer.” Karin Noll, Write a Novel
“I enjoyed the course, learnt a lot and gained confidence in my writing. My tutor gave excellent guidance, she was very knowledgeable and very helpful.” llse van der Merwe, Write a Novel
“The experience on the course was catalytic for me. It was exceptional in every way. It was hugely rewarding, informative, supportive and fun. It did more than meet my objectives; it was a brilliant investment. Overall, this was an outstanding programme.” Grant Sieff, Write a Novel
“It was a fantastic course: very educational and easy to comprehend. Alex was a wonderful tutor. She was very supportive and inspired me to work harder and accomplish more. Deciding to do a writing course with the Writers’ College was the best educational choice I ever made.” Aileen Smith, Write a Novel Course
“It was a very positive and encouraging experience. Doing the course has made me much more confident and I now have faith in my ability. The experience with my tutor was excellent. Sonny marked my work often within 24 hours. Her feedback was clear, constructive and her advice was given at my pace. With every module, her advice was above and beyond what I anticipated. In areas where I struggled, particularly with formatting, Sonny gave me extra support. Overall it was a very rewarding experience.” Christine Wardle, The Write a Novel Course
“The course material was brilliant! I found everything helpful and easily applicable to my own writing. I was extremely happy with the entire course. Alex is a wonderful lecturer! Her use of positive criticism was amazing. It helped me approach my editing in a different way. The support she gave me was priceless, it got me through the times when I thought the mountain of writing was too high to climb. I have so many things to say about her, but what I will say is: Thank you Alex! The course objective was a couple of chapters and twenty five thousand words. Three and a half months in, I had hit the mark already. Alex hinted that it would be a shame if I didn't finish my entire first draft of my manuscript before the end of the course. It was a tall order, but before the end I sat with a manuscript of hundred and seventeen thousand words. She helped me achieve above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. I'm happy to say that whatever made me stumble onto your college changed my life, and turned a small hope and dream into a reality.” Omri Pieterse Write a Novel
“The course was fantastic, very professional, of high quality and I really learned a lot. It was well worth it! My experience with my tutor was very good - it was an honour to have Mike teach me as he knows the field very well.” Magdel Louw, Write a Novel Course
"It was an excellent experience. It was hard work but very satisfactory. I enjoyed every moment of writing and learning which says a lot for the course content, subject matter and support. Alex Smith was an absolutely incredible tutor; I could not have wished or asked for anyone better. The course absolutely met my objectives and more. I have completed three courses with The Writers' College now. My initial objective was to learn to write; I needed to put my experiences and stories into writing. I had no idea where to begin or what to look out for. I started with the Basics of Creative Writing Course, then took Advanced Creative Writing and then Novel Writing. It was a magnificent journey. Thank you very much.” Danie Markgraaff, Write a Novel Course
“It's ironic but words really can't describe the phenomenal experience. From the help and support of Koos and Nichola to my tutor Alex, it has been sublime and life changing. Alex is a rockstar. She is amazing and supportive and honestly she is the reason that I'm taking the follow-up course in September. For years I wanted to do a course but financially I couldn't manage. That's why I want to say thank you to Mavis Bleazard for the bursary that allowed one of my greatest dreams to come true and to the College and Alex for the amazing warmth and support.” Mark Scheepers, Write a Novel Course
“I didn't know anything about fiction writing when I started. I was advised to do the basic course and take it from there. I took the risk; if it wasn't for the quality of the course, building up from modules 1 to 12 and text instalments, I wouldn't have been successful. Alex was always only an email away to respond to issues; sometimes it felt as though I was her only pupil. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have passed the course, never mind with distinction. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. Now I am confident I will get a book published within a year. It was the most creative and satisfying study experience at a professional level I have done for at least ten years. Thank you.” Louis Wiid, Write a Novel Course
“I gave a 100% and got back 500%. It exceeded all my expectations. Alex Smith is an exceptional tutor. From Module 1 she had her finger on the pulse and understood my creative vision. I was extremely impressed by her professionalism and depth of knowledge. Not only did I grow in skill and confidence but I was able to learn on many levels, which made it all the more enjoyable. I owe you Alex! The course met all my objectives. I've been wanting to write a novel for 30 years and could never get further than a couple of rough notes; now I have 48 000 words under my belt and plan to have a finished manuscript by June 2013. It has been an exciting journey, and I'm extremely satisfied with what I've achieved. Thank you! I wish I'd discovered The Writers' College years ago.” Diane Cursons, Write a Novel Course
“If you want to improve your writing skills, The Writers’ College is the place to go. The tutors are friendly and they treat you as a real writer. The course material was informative and clear! definitely a plus. Alex was so patient with me; I learnt skills that enabled me to rework my entire novel and maybe publish it in the near future. Alex inspired me when I was feeling down-and-out and I have taken a lot of advice with me. I will most certainly invite her to my first signing (laugh out loud). The course met my objectives; my finished novel was 60,000 words and I am still rewriting it again and again.” Michelle Randall, Write a Novel Course
“The course was hard work but well worth it. It was an emotional roller coaster ride; it tested my creative abilities and self-discipline. Mike gave excellent feedback. I think he expected me to write a crime thriller while I wanted to write a novel about crime and things other than those found in a conventional thriller, i.e. how the protagonist grew psychologically and about relationships in general. I had done the Short Story Writing Course through the College which was most successful; I have subsequently had a few short stories published. I am better at that than writing a novel! The fact that my skills need honing is not the course's fault; it taught me the necessary tools I needed to write a novel. Overall, it was an enjoyable learning curve.” Ann Hoffman, Write a Novel Course
“The Writers’ College offers first class courses with first class lecturers. I was guided step by step throughout the writing process and the various techniques and genres that go into writing a novel were explained. I liked the assignments in particular and the clear structure of the course. I was also impressed by the information provided about the publishing procedure and the many links to take the manuscript further. Alex Smith was a wonderfully supportive lecturer; without her constant encouragement I would not have finished the course.” Elizabeth MacDonald, Write a Novel Course
“The course was insightful. Alex was a great help; she gave very constructive feedback.” Tjaart Fourie, Write a Novel Course
“My experience was excellent; I learnt a lot from the course. I finally feel confident that I am able to complete a manuscript for publication. Louis was an excellent tutor. He managed to keep me on the right track as I have the tendency to sometimes lose focus. I feel my writing has improved a lot with his guidance. It was an excellent experience and I was assisted by very efficient people.” Erika Frouws, Write a Novel Course
“I recommend this course to anyone who wants to discover if they have talent to write. I learnt a lot more than I expected. After doing the course, I am more confident in knowing where my writing career is headed and which areas of my writing I need to work on. I have a greater understanding of the mechanics of Novel Writing. I couldn't have asked for a better tutor than Henrietta; she knows her subject. She conveyed feedback in an easy to understand manner and in a very gentle way made me aware of my weaker points, where I can improve, and of course, where my stronger points are. I have gained valuable knowledge just from her comments and in the same breath she has opened my eyes to how much I still have to learn.” Ezelle Louw, Write a Novel Course.
“I have learnt so many lessons while doing the course. I think one of the most brilliant tutors there is teaching on this subject. Alex was so warm and honest and gave me freedom to express myself. Her comments were always honest and helpful. I feel like I can write because of the Writers College and Alex Smith, it is an experience I will carry with me forever.” Chantelle, Write a Novel Course
"I loved the course! My tutor, Alex, was absolutely amazing, with her advice, encouragement, feedback. I did not expect such thorough feedback, so to say the least I was pleasantly surprised. I can highly recommend it and will advise any candidate to enroll and experience the care one gets." Deks Dekenah, Write a Novel
"The course was presented very professionally. Each module was clearly explained and very informative. It literally seemed to cover the most important aspects of writing a novel, and some other aspects that I had never thought of. I was pleasantly surprised by the input of my tutor. I found her comments really helpful, and constructive. I feel that with the ongoing commentary from the tutor throughout each module, I was able to stay focused on the different aspects (character-building; scene-setting etc). The module notes are a wonderful record which I can refer to at any time in the future as I continue to write. I am really glad that I took the plunge, and particularly that The Writers' College was the correct route to take. I have learnt a lot." Rosalynd Els, Write a Novel, Charlotte Randall
“Alex is one of the friendliest, helpful people I have ever met. She NEVER made me feel inferior or broke down my writing. She helped me find my voice and encouraged me to use it to the best of my ability. I never expected an esteemed Author to treat me with such love. I will be forever indebted to her and her guidance. The most important thing I have learned from Alex- Rewrite it!
Alex was always honest and her guidance is something I will always cherish. She is realistic and enthusiastic. She made me feel like her only student and she gave me her full attention. Alex had the ability to inspire me when I felt that my story was heading straight for the dustbin. I learned so much during this course and the writing experience is something I would never have picked up in a classroom. The learning material was always honest and never boring. I enjoyed getting a new module and doing the exercises.” Annabel Schoeman, Write a Novel Course
“Alex Smith was a fantastic tutor. Her feedback was always helpful and encouraging and the suggestions and notes she gave were always applicable to the challenges I was facing. I could not have asked for a better tutor. Alex was always available to assist me and always gave more than was required in terms of support and feedback.” Janine Patel, Write a Novel Course
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your excellence. Writing a novel was one of the biggest dreams I've ever had and The Writer's College made it a reality. You made me challenge myself and in turn, I found an endless pool of creativity within which I never knew existed. I would recommend your College to anyone who is serious about writing. Even to those who already completed their first manuscripts. You will be surprised what you will learn in the novel writing course. Once again, thank all of you! You guys are amazing!” Daubert Vermeulen, Write a Novel Course
"Alex Smith was an absolute joy to work with. Her feedback was both extremely encouraging and honest. Her guidance was truly amazing and essential for me to learn everything there is to know about the wonderful world of novel writing. The fact that she is a published writer is great because we as aspiring writers get the sense that she understands all our fears and thus is able to help us through it. Thanks to her, I have found the right avenue for my writing aspirations. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this course to anyone who asks." Marcio Goncalves, Write a Novel Course
“Working with Alex Smith has been an absolute pleasure. The insights and suggestions have proved invaluable and each assessment gave me energy and motivation to get stuck into my novel again. Alex has an incredible way with words and can even turn the negative into something intensely motivational! This was a fantastic course and I enjoyed it immensely. The biggest draw-card was the one-on-one tutoring from my mentor, which was incredibly helpful, positive, honest and motivating.” Caroline Greyling, Write a Novel Course
“I have loved every minute of this course. My tutor was great , she always made great points about my work, constructive criticism, praise where it was due, and always pointed me in the right direction, which helped immensely. Keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s great.” Clemma Waddel, Write a Novel Course
“My lecturer was Diane and I absolutely loved her. She was extremely motivating – I’m already having withdrawals. She is very insightful and I felt that she understood me and what I was trying to do with my manuscript. I loved working with her. Her feedback was always spot-on and she was very approachable. I think you guys are going an excellent job. The support is great.” Lisl McLachlan, Write a Novel
"I was honoured to have Wilna as a tutor. She was professional and easily approachable." Tanya van der Westhuizen, Write a Novel Course
"I found the course structure and materials very user-friendly and clear. My lecturer/tutor was outstanding - had to wade through very long text installments and did so willingly, with energy and insight and without complaint! I think you have a great product and a great attitude." Ashley Symes, Write a Novel Course
“The course was very well presented, easy to follow and very helpful. I feel that I have learnt a substantial amount, and that my writing has improved drastically. Henrietta has been a pleasure to deal with. She was enormously helpful in each of the modules, and I feel that I have a much broader understanding of what it means to be a writer now than I ever did. She is inspiring and manages to critique in a manner which does not offend.” Michelle Marais, Write a Novel Course
"The course content is excellent as it provides very useful writing exercises but encourages you to write your novel at the same time. I like the fact that the emphasis is not on personal introspective analysis. Diane provided invaluable advice and support. I can honestly say that without the course and Diane's incredible support and input, my manuscript would not have been written. I have enjoyed the experience and I feel that my writing has improved substantially." Hazel Carlstein, Write a Novel Course
"I cannot say enough in praise of the Write a Novel course, and of my tutor Charlotte Randall. When I started the course my confidence in my writing was low - Charlotte put such a lot into my assessments, told me exactly what I was doing wrong, how I could improve - her criticism was always fair and she seemed like a kindred spirit - really understanding what I was trying to do with my characters and with my overall novel. Her feedback was always detailed and prompt, she answered all my questions thoroughly and gave so much extra help and advice. I could not have asked for a better mentor and I will really miss her now that the course is over. Thank you Charlotte." Kathleen Jackson, Write a Novel Course
"I really enjoyed the course information. It was easy to read, enjoyable to read and really succinct and practical. Ginny made the course. She was incredibly supportive and encouraging yet insightful and challenging. Thank you so much." Helena McCloud, Write a Novel Course