Writing a Novel Stage 1

w/ Margo Lanagan 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.

1 March – 31 May 2022 (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.

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 Director 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 Director, as well as guest tutors drawn from a community of highly respected authors.

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

• 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, a 2000-word 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:

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:

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

Evening sessions are hosted on Zoom, with the exception of the first and final evening sessions, which will take place at the Allen & Unwin offices. All Saturday sessions are held in person and are fully catered at the Allen & Unwin offices.

Session 1: Tuesday 1 March
Introductory Session: Goals, obstacles, desires. Why this story? What are your themes? How will you deliver them?

Session 2: Tuesday 8 March
Beginnings: Research and planning. Establishing your practice. Inspiration, perspiration and joy. Diving in. Using memory and senses.

Session 3: Tuesday 15 March
Character: Who is at the heart of your novel? Who is the protagonist? Inventing and observing character.

Session 4: Saturday 19 March
Story structure and the shape of your novel. What is the desire that drives your story? What is the weakness that challenges your protagonist? Controlling pace and escalating tension throughout the story.

Session 5: Tuesday 22 March
Point of View: Who is telling the story? Where do they stand in relation to the action? What do they care about most?
Voice: Finding the voice of your novel. Rhythm and tone. Character voice. Narrative voice.

Session 6: Tuesday 29 March
Satisfying Scenes: How to make things happen. Pacing and escalation within a scene. Moving on to the next scene. Causality between scenes.

Session 7: Saturday 2 April
Guest Author.

Session 8: Tuesday 5 April
Headspace: Placing and shaping a reflective scene. Maintaining story momentum through the quiet spells.


Session 9: Tuesday 26 April
Secondary Characters: Who are your secondary characters, what are their roles? Characterisation on the run.

Session 10: Tuesday 3 May
Place and Setting: Locating your story geographically (why here?) and temporally (why now?); setting the scene; using the scenery.

Session 11: Saturday 7 May
Lush Language: Metaphor, language and style. Paring back your prose, or going for all the pretties!

Session 12: Tuesday 10 May
Guest Agent.

Session 13: Tuesday 17 May
Dialogue: Observing and inventing conversation. Giving your conversations a point.

Session 14: Tuesday 24 May
Description: When to describe, when not to. Shaping description. Keeping it interesting.

Session 15: Tuesday 31 May
What Now? How to carry on.

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

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