Writing a Novel Stage 1

w/ Sophie Cunningham, Emily Bitto and guests

Write your novel, discover your readers

For aspiring and emerging novelists ready to dive in and commit to completing a full manuscript, this course will guide you through the process of planning and plotting your novel, while developing essential skills in writing, and establishing a dedicated writing practice.

3 March – 2 June 2022 (3 months)

Faber Writing Academy at Kathleen Syme Library

Kathleen Syme Library
251 Faraday St,
Carlton VIC 3053


Get directions

Course fee: $3,250/ $2762.50 alumni
$ 2,762.50 for those who sign up for Writing a Novel – Stage 2 at the same time.

Using a proven combination of craft-focused tuition, targeted writing exercises, group discussions and carefully selected readings, the focus of this course will be on your own work, with the aim of ending the course with a complete first draft of your novel.  

Based inside Australia’s leading independent publishing house, this course gives you invaluable access to the literary community. Writing a Novel Stage 1 is a targeted program specifically designed to help you find the focus you need to stay the distance and finish your manuscript draft.  

For three months, your Course Directors will provide you with:

Regular classes covering everything from the first conception of an idea through to getting words down on the page, narrative structure and style.

• Dedicated guidance from your experienced Course Directors, as well as guest tutors drawn from a community of highly respected authors.

• A personalised individual consultation on your project from your Course Directors.

• The chance to workshop your novel-in-progress in a supportive small-group setting with limited participant numbers.

• The ability to connect with fellow committed novelists, building a close-knit community of trusted readers. The connections made during this course will support and foster your work for years to come.

In addition to course work, students who complete both stages of Writing a Novel will be invited contribute to the Faber Writing Anthology, a professionally edited and printed showcase of student work. At the end of these two programs, an extract of your manuscript should be in perfect shape to submit to our anthology, which is then sent out to an extensive list of leading literary agents and publishers in both Australia and across the United Kingdom.

Writers you'll be working with:

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.

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. She has a Masters in Literary Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and has been teaching creative writing for over a decade.

Course outline

The course consists of:
12 x evening sessions (6.30 to 8.30pm AEDT, Thursdays) + 3 x full-day sessions (Saturdays 10.00am to 4.00pm AEDT)

Session 1: Thursday 3 March
Introductory Session: Goals, obstacles, desires. Why are you writing? What matters? What are your themes? Why this story? 

Session 2: Thursday 10 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: Thursday 17 March
Reading as a writer: How to use techniques of close, targeted reading as an ongoing way of improving your craft.  

 Session 4: Saturday 19 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: Thursday 24 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: Thursday 31 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 2 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: Thursday 7 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: Thursday 28 April
Place, setting, world building: Writing place convincingly. Setting as inspiration and as character. 

 Session 10: Thursday 5 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 7 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: Thursday 12 May
Showing and Telling: Giving your writing power and subtlety through techniques of ‘showing.’ Learning to trust your reader. 

 Session 13: Thursday 19 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: Thursday 26 May
Guest Industry professional: An industry professional will share their experience with you and answer your questions.  

 Session 15: Thursday 2 June
Where to Now? Consolidating, taking stock and moving forward. 

Weeknight sessions are hosted on Zoom, except for the first and final evening sessions, which will take place at the Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre. All Saturday sessions are held in person and are fully catered.

The content listed above 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.

Praise for this course

“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

“I have almost finished my first draft of a novel. I was mostly interested in structure. I would have to rate increased confidence in my work as the best outcome of the course.” 2019

“This has been such a fantastic course and it has helped my writing immensely.” 2018

How to Apply

Please note that due to the high volume of applications already submitted, we are now closed for new applications for Writing A Novel Stage 1 in Melbourne. You can, however, join a waiting list by using the FREE booking button and we will contact you if space opens for new applications to be considered.

The details below  are supplied only for the information of potential candidates.

To apply you will need to submit, in a single document:

  • A letter briefly stating any writing experience
  • An overview of the idea for your novel and its present stage of development
  • A 1,500-word sample of prose

This process ensures that all applicants are applying for the course best suited to their needs.

Course fee: $3,250 / $2,762.50 alumni

Successful applicants will be asked to pay a deposit of $500/$425 alumni by 8 February. The balance of the course fee, a further $2,750/$2,337.50 alumni, will be payable in two further instalments of $1,375/$ 1,168.75 alumni on 29 March and 26 April respectively. In the week leading up to these dates you will be sent a link for payment options.

If you are new to Faber Writing Academy and wish to sign up for both Stage 1 and Stage 2, you will be eligible for the 15% alumni discount. Please select the relevant option when you pay your deposit. You will pay an additional $500 deposit for the Writing a Novel Stage 2 course, i.e. a total of $1,000.