Writing a Novel Stage 1

w/ Kathryn Heyman, Margo Lanagan and guests

Write your novel, and write it well…

For aspiring novelists ready to leap in, this course will guide you through the process of planning and beginning your novel, developing skills in writing from scratch and establishing a writing practice. Using a combination of targeted writing exercises, group discussion and carefully selected examples, the focus of this course will be on your own writing, with the aim of ending the course with a substantial body of new writing, heading towards a first draft of your novel.

2 March – 18 May 2021 (3 months)

Allen & Unwin – Sydney

Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin – Sydney
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065

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$3,250 / $2,762.50 alumni
or $2,762.50 for those who sign up for Writing a Novel: Stage 2 at the same time


This is a past course.

• Benefit from the structure of regular classes covering everything from the first conception of an idea through to getting words on a page, narrative structure and style.

• Learn from our experienced Course Directors, as well as guest tutors including top authors, and agents/publishers.

• Receive a personalised consultation on your project from your tutor.

• Get it done. When undertaken with Writing a Novel: Stage 2, this is a flexible alternative to a creative writing MA, designed for people who might be considering a career and who are prepared to engage fully in the hard work involved. Apart from the workshops, you will be devoting as much time as possible between classes to writing.

• Receive invaluable feedback by having the chance to present your work to your class of other committed novelists.

• Start your career. There is no better way to get on the road to publication than to meet the people who know how to make that happen.

Please note that pending the latest COVID-19 advice this course may be delivered online.


Graduates of Writing a Novel Stage 1 and Stage 2 will have the opportunity to be published in the annual Faber Writing anthology.

Writers you'll be working with:

Kathryn Heyman

Kathryn Heyman is the author of six novels, most recently Storm and Grace. She has won numerous awards including an Arts Council of England Writers Award, the Wingate and the Southern Arts Awards, and been nominated for the Orange Prize, the Scottish Writer of the Year Award, the Edinburgh Fringe Critics’ Awards, the Kibble Prize, and the…

Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan has published two dark fantasy novels (Tender Morsels and Sea Hearts), seven short story collections including the breakout Black Juice, ten teenage romance novels, three junior fantasy novels, two young adult novels and a children’s picture book. She collaborated with Scott Westerfeld and Deborah Biancotti on the New York Times bestselling YA superheroes trilogy, Zeroes. Her most recent…

Course outline

The course consists of:

11 x evening sessions (Tuesdays 6.30pm to 8.30pm AEDT) + 3 x full-day sessions (Saturdays 10am to 4pm)

The content listed below is comprehensive but is still a guide only. 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.

Session 1: Tuesday 2 March
Introductory Session: Goals, obstacles, desires, finding the essence of your novel, why are you writing? What matters? What are your themes? Why this story?

Session 2: Tuesday 9 March
Beginnings: Research and planning. Establishing your practice. Inspiration and perspiration. Diving in. Using memory and senses.

Session 3: Tuesday 16 March
Character 101: Who is at the heart of your novel? Who is the protagonist? Inventing and observing character.

Session 4: Saturday 20 March
Voice: Who is telling the story? Finding the voice of your novel. Rhythm and tone. Character voice. Finding your voice.

Session 5: Tuesday 23 March
Place: The beginnings of place; setting as inspiration and as character.

Session 6: Tuesday 30 March
Being Gorgeous: Metaphor, language and style.


Session 7: Saturday 10 April
Guest Tutor.

Session 8: Tuesday 13 April
Secondary Characters: Who are your secondary characters, what are their roles? Hearing and seeing them. Physical and psychological description.

Session 9: Tuesday 20 April
Story structure and the shape of your novel. Conflict: Why conflict matters, how to find it, how to use it to escalate drama and tension. Desire and Weakness: What is the desire that drives your novel? Harnessing desire, capturing it on the page.

Session 10: Tuesday 27 April
The Power of Secrets: What is said and what is unsaid. Character secrets; withholding information; what the writer knows.

Session 11: Saturday 1 May
Plotting: Marking out the elements of story and continuing on.

Session 12: Tuesday 4 May
Guest Agent. Eye catching openings.

Session 13: Tuesday 11 May
Point of View.

Session 14: Tuesday 18 May
What Now? How to carry on.

Praise for this course

“I applied to Faber Academy to learn how to craft words into compelling writing. I was not disappointed! Kathryn and Margo are expert tutors and wonderful inspiring company.” Participant, 2021

“Fabulous teaching. Fantastic tutors and guest lecturers. Wonderful, supportive, encouraging atmosphere. I can’t even think of anything to suggest to make it better.” Participant, 2021

“The lessons were awesome – totally eye opening and taught in a really logical and accessible way. I really felt like we were putting the building blocks in place for a solid foundation of understanding.” Participant, 2021

“The course helped me realise there’s a science to writing, as well as an art. It gave me the framework to start writing my novel – something solid to attach my ideas to – as well as some of the tools to do it. The discussions and exercises in class helped me think more deeply about my story, characters and purpose.” (2020)

“The content was what blew me away – I have read many books on writing but this was so much more insightful and useful. I loved all of the techniques and knowing that you can fix most things in editing.” (2019)

How to Apply

This is a past course.