Charlotte Mendelson is one of the small team of tutors who teach our creative writing courses. She’s the author of four novels, all published by Picador: Love in Idleness, Daughters of Jerusalem, When We Were Bad and Almost English (as well as one gardening memoir) and has 20 years experience as a fiction editor and publisher. Here she gives us three points about narrative momentum – that certain magical something that makes some novels un-put-downable; and the absence of which makes others pretty much un-pick-uppable. What exactly is it and how do you get it into your writing? Over to Charlotte …
(1) It’s difficult to do: I don’t give a damn if your beautiful adverbs were highly praised by your English teacher. Most of us can write a good sentence. Trickier by far is learning how to write the kind of sentences which propel the reader onward, so that they are so absorbed and compelled they forget their stop on the train.
(2) It isn’t the same as action: You don’t need car chases or the Horror of War to make your novel compelling. It’s far more important to have characters with whom your reader is engaged, so that the reader wants to know: what will they do? How will they cope with this? And that’s what keeps those pages turning.
(3) It’s vital: As a publisher, many of the novels I rejected were well-written, with a great premise, but failed to keep me sufficiently interested in the characters’ dilemmas and hopes and fears. As a novelist, it’s this that I try to create on every page. And, as a tutor, it’s what I spend most time on with my students. What does your protagonist want? What do they need? Because nothing matters more than this: make me care.
To get Charlotte’s help with the narrative momentum in your novel, apply for our next 3-month London-based novel-writing course, which she’s teaching – oh, and there’s one fully-funded scholarship place for a writer with low income.
Or you can apply to study novel-writing for 3 months online with Suzannah Dunn – or with Catherine Johnson if you’re writing YA and Children’s Fiction
Or join one of our six-week courses for all-comers: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel (enrolment closes at the end of today!) or Edit & Pitch Your Novel (enrolment closes Monday 12 March!)
Lastly, our MD Anna Davis is answering questions on Twitter on Thursday 8th March – 3-4pm – here’s how to join in with #AskAnna