Senior lecturer’s new book prepares first-time novelists for creative and commercial challenges

A NEW book by a senior lecturer at the University of Chichester is aiming to prepare first-time novelists for the creative and commercial challenges of publishing.

Writing a First Novel: Reflections on the Journey, which has been edited by Karen Stevens who teaches in the English and Creative Writing Department, offers advice on the challenges encountered by budding authors of fiction. The book also contains 19 essays by members of the University’s writing community, including Jane Rusbridge, Isabel Ashdown, Dave Swann, and 2013 Man Booker Prize nominee Alison MacLeod, who give insights from their own perspectives.

Karen, who currently teaches on both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, said the book is intended to help writers to write and to continue writing, while also offering deep reflection that is useful to more experienced writers.

She added: “I wanted to include a mix of award-winning, established, and new writers because I felt this would offer an illuminating blend of experience and seasoned reflection from experienced writers, and also fresh discoveries from newer writers. Experienced writers emphasise that creation is not a blueprint, and I think this is what I hoped the collection would highlight, above all.”

The book is divided into four sections – Inspiration, Research, Voice and Form – to offer aspiring novelists a specific focus that may shed light on their own process. It also features articles by leading writers such as Hanif Kureishi, Lionel Shriver, Valerie Maretin, David Vann, Johanna Skibsrud, and Ed Hogan. There is also a fifth section that considers the completed novel’s journey to publication.

Karen added: “It can appear to the aspiring novelist that the journey is a straight run from start to finish. It isn’t, of course, and writers often draw on words such as ‘bravery’, ‘belief’, ‘confidence’, ‘faith’ as fundamental qualities that one must possess – or cultivate – if one is truly committed to writing and publishing a novel.

“I think the book’s usefulness for new writers doesn’t rest with a single essay but in the aggregate, as the balance of personal, inspirational and practical methods build to reveal what it really takes to be a novelist.”

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