Writing a Novel

w/ Emily Bitto, Sophie Cunningham and Miles Allinson

For emerging novelists ready to dive in and make the commitment to complete a full manuscript, this rigorous three-stage course will guide you through the process of planning and beginning your novel, developing essential skills in writing and composition, as well as establishing a dedicated writing practice.

1 March  –  20 September 2023

Faber Writing Academy at Kathleen Syme Library

Kathleen Syme Library
251 Faraday St,
Carlton VIC 3053


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$6,500 / $5,525 alumni

Presented by Australia’s leading independent publishing house Allen & Unwin, in partnership with the prestigious UK Publishers Faber & Faber, Writing a Novel is a highly practical, craft-focused program designed to help you find the focus you need to stay the distance and finish your manuscript draft.

In the first three-month stage of this course (March – May), you will be given a proven combination of targeted writing exercises, group discussions and carefully selected readings. These introductory lessons will give you an important foundation for writing your novel. You will be taken through essential concepts such as narrative structure, character development, narration, voice, plotting, scene setting and more.

In the second half of the program (July – September) you will continue to develop the craft and technical skills required to turn a rough draft into a work of art. You will finish the course with a deep understanding of the novelist’s craft and how it applies to your own novel. These are lessons you can carry with you throughout your writing life.

After these two stages are complete, Writing a Novel students will be asked to submit work to our highly sought-after Faber Writing Anthology, a professionally edited and printed showcase of student work, sent to leading literary agents and publishers across both Australia and the United Kingdom.

This third stage will take place after your course work is finished, giving you the time and space to work towards completing a submittable draft of your manuscript in time for the anthology to be sent out to agents and publishers. This final stage will include a meeting with Faber’s Editor in Residence, a copy-editing process, and a catch-up session with your tutors to report about your manuscript progress.

During this course, you will be provided with:

  • Regular classes covering everything from the first conception of an idea through to getting words on a page, narrative structure and style.
  • A personalised individual consultation on your project from your Course Director.
  • The ability to connect with fellow committed novelists, joining a selective class curated by your Course Director.
  • The opportunity to make valuable industry connections with key insiders from the Australian publishing industry.
  • The chance to be showcased in the much-anticipated Faber Writing Anthology, sent to publishers and literary agents across Australia and the United Kingdom.

Writers you'll be working with:

Emily Bitto

Emily Bitto is an award-winning writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Her debut novel, The Strays, was the winner of the Stella Prize in 2015. Her second novel, Wild Abandon, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2021. She has a Masters in Literary Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and has…

Sophie Cunningham

Sophie Cunningham is the author of six books including City of Trees, Geography, Bird and Warning: The Story of Cyclone Tracy. She is a former publisher and editor and is now an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University’s Non/fiction Lab. In 2019 Sophie Cunningham was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contributions to literature.

Miles Allinson

Miles Allinson is a writer from Melbourne. His first novel, Fever of Animals won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2014 among other prizes. His second novel In Moonland was published in September 2021. He is a former Creative Fellow at the State Library Victoria and a former writer in residence at the University of…

Course outline

This course consists of twenty-two two-hour evening classes, six full-day sessions and three additional evening sessions dedicated to the Faber Writing Anthology. All evening sessions will take place on Wednesdays, 6.30pm – 8.30pm. Full-day sessions will take place on Saturdays from 10.00am –4.00pm.

Session 1: Wednesday 1 March

Introductory Session: Goals, obstacles, desires. Why are you writing? What matters? What are your themes? Why this story?

Session 2: Wednesday 8 March

Creative Process: It’s important to develop discipline and good writing habits, but it’s also important to know what works for you. How to harness your creative instincts.

Session 3: Wednesday 15 March

Reading as a writer: How to use techniques of close, targeted reading as an ongoing way of improving your craft.

Session 4: Saturday 18 March

Story, structure, plot: What are the different types of plot? Do you even need one?  How do you maintain intensity and momentum with varied pacing?  How do you find the right structure for your novel? While plot is related to structure the two operate independently, so consideration will also be given to the ways in which they should both support and develop the other.

Session 5: Wednesday 22 March

Scene and Summary: What is the difference between scene and summary? What is the function of each in your novel, and how do they work on the page?

Session 6: Wednesday 29 March

Point of view and tense: First, second or third person? Past, present or future? Different modes and what they mean for your work.

Session 7: Saturday 1 April

Characters major and minor : Who is at the heart of your novel? Who are your secondary characters and what are their roles? Inventing and observing characters. Physical and psychological description.

Session 8: Wednesday 5 April

Voice and types of prose: Who is telling the story? Finding the voice of your novel. Character voice and narratorial voice. The relationship between prose style, tone and voice.


Session 9: Wednesday 26 April

Place, setting, world building: Writing place convincingly. Setting as inspiration and as character.

Session 10: Wednesday 3 May

Dialogue : Listening; recording; pace; precision. Imagined truth and overheard truth. The difference between dialogue as spoken and as it reads on the page.

Session 11: Saturday 6 May

Handling time – flashback, flash forward and everything in between: How to handle the passage of time in your narrative, on both the plot-level and the scene-level. Different ways to incorporate back-story and to handle transitions between time periods.

Session 12: Wednesday 10 May

Showing and Telling: Giving your writing power and subtlety through techniques of ‘showing.’ Learning to trust your reader.

Session 13: Wednesday 17 May

Genre and anti-genre:  An industry professional will talk to us about different genres of writing and the differences (or not!) between them.

Session 14: Wednesday 24 May

Guest Industry professional: An industry professional will share their experience with you and answer your questions.

Session 15: Wednesday 31 May

Where to Now? Consolidating, taking stock and moving forward. Making the most of the break.


Session 16: Wednesday 19 July

Revisiting beginnings: What are some of the common ‘ways of beginning a novel, and what effects and expectations do they create for the reader? What are you aiming to achieve in your own opening?

Session 17: Wednesday 26 July

Research, ethics, writing from life: Writing fiction has freedoms, but also some responsibilities. A consideration of some ethical issues raised by drawing on real events or real people’s lives in your work.

Session 18: Wednesday 2 August

Theme, Imagery and Symbolism: What are the ‘big ideas’ at work in your novel? How are they translated onto the page via imagery and symbol?

Session 19: Saturday 5 August

Editing, part 1: Structural Editing: All editing requires perspective, but editing for story, plot and structure is very different to a line edit. This session has a focus on the big picture.

Session 20: Wednesday 9 August

Editing part 2: Close Editing: This session focuses on the process of editing your work on the sentence level, with a focus on elements such as syntax, word choice, clarity and rhythm.

Session 21: Wednesday 16 August

Pitching and synopsis boot camp: How do you describe your work to other people, particularly other professionals? This session talks about the differences between the blurb, the synopsis and the pitch, and how to tackle each.

Session 22: Saturday 19 August

Acting coach and articulating your project: Guest: presentation and pitching. In this special session students are coached by a skilled actor/voice coach in using performance skills for presentations and readings, and also for pitching. In the afternoon you will work on refining and practicing your own pitches.

Session 23: Wednesday 23 August

Character and narrative arcs: How does character drive your novel? A consideration of the relationship between character, plot and structure.

Session 24: Wednesday 30 August

Language and detail: This session focuses on the use of detail to enrich your writing, and on figurative elements such as simile and metaphor

Session 25: Saturday 2 September

Guest writer – the publication process and resolving your novel: A guest writer will discuss their experience of the publication process. The second part of the class will focus on ‘resolving’ your novel in both senses – how to create a satisfying resolution, and how to sustain your momentum as you work towards that elusive finish line.

Session 26: Wednesday 6 September

Guest agent and pitches: In this session we will be joined by a literary agent. Students will have the opportunity to practice their pitch, and ask questions about getting an agent.

Session 27: Wednesday 13 September

Guest publisher and pitches: In this session we will be joined by a publisher. Students will have the opportunity to practice their pitch, and ask questions about how to get a publisher’s attention and how to work with them in the long term.

Session 28: Wednesday 20 September

Wrap up: how to maintain your writing practice. Followed by a celebratory dinner.

Faber Writing Anthology sessions:

  •         Session 29: Meet the Editor in Residence
  •         Session 30: Meet the Faber UK Team
  •         Session 31: Manuscript progress report and catch up with tutors

All Saturday sessions are held in person at Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday Street Carlton VIC 3053, and are fully catered. Evening sessions are hosted on Zoom, except for the first and final evening sessions, which will take place in person at the Kathleen Syme Library.

The exact course content could be adjusted according to the experience and concerns of the group and availability of guest writers. The detail of the course is at the discretion of the Course Director and Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin.

Praise for this course

‘Sophie and Emily were incredible. Very generous with their knowledge and experience. The cohort was great and the coursework was very informative.’ 2022

‘They are very supportive and genuinely want you to be the best writer you can be.’ 2022

‘A fabulous experience. Sophie and Emily are both incredible facilitators and their teaching styles and interests compliment each other well. We also got the jackpot in terms of our group mix. Feel very fortunate to have landed with such a fantastic and supportive group of writers. It’s been wonderful.’ 2021

‘A very enjoyable, stimulating three months. It went too quickly! A wonderful group full of kind, smart, quietly impressive people, well guided by Emily and Sophie.’ 2021


How to Apply

In the first instance we encourage all applicants to consider applying for a Faber Writing Scholarship which allows the recipient to undertake the Writing a Novel program for free. Your scholarship application can also act as your general course application – just check the option to be considered for a paid place.

To apply, you will need to submit:

  • An online application answering several questions asked by our Writing A Novel tutors
  • An attachment with a sample of up to 1,000 words of prose

Applications can be submitted here. This selective process ensures that all applicants are applying for the course best suited to their needs and allows the tutor to determine your readiness for the course.

Payment information:

The total cost of the course is $6,500 / $5,525 alumni.

Once you have been offered a place in Writing a Novel you will be asked to pay the first monthly instalment as a deposit by the end of February 2023.

Any student who chooses to pay the full course fee by the end of February 2023, will be offered the alumni rate of $5,525.

Students who choose to pay monthly instalments will commit to 10 monthly payments of $650 / $552.50 to be made at the end of each month from February – November.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss further payment plan options via email or phone (02) 8425 0171.