Advice to novel writers

Just what we need for November, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – or whenever the decision to first draft a novel strikes – some very useful writing tips recorded online.  BBC World Service radio has made available an entire series called “Writing Time” – each episode a 13 minute recording.

Topics covered include:

  • advice for aspiring writers
  • how to start writing a novel
  • developing characters
  • setting (how to decide where to set your book)
  • establishing voice (how to find your own distinctive voice)
  • dialogue
  • endings
  • how to find an agent

If you live in the UK and pay a licence fee, you can access these via BBC i-player, and you’ll find the first episode here.

If you live outside the UK, you may still be able to access the programmes – the clue is in the name of the broadcaster “World Service”.  To find out different ways you can listen to the programmes and especially “Writing Time”, check out the information here.

The Writing Time programmes were actually recorded in 1994 but are still available as they were put into an Archive Project.  Someone was far-seeing enough to realise that good advice on creativity and writing would always be in demand!

Creativity Takeaway

  • As you write the first draft of your novel, you can treat yourself to periodically listening to one of these programmes, as an incentive to keep you on track.  “Before/After I write the next chapter, I’ll listen to a programme.”


  • Recommended to not listen to them all at once, because it might paralyse your writing time by feeding you too many facts and engaging left-brain analytical activity.


  • Make use of the way they are organised – if played in order, they build to talk you through various stages of the writing.  Beginning with the desire to write, through the practical steps of writing a novel, until, at the end, advice on getting a literary agent to get it published.


  • Bear in mind that the programmes were originally made 23 years ago – so although general principles are valid, writing market advice will have changed substantially.  The internet has given new ways of publishing and self-publishing, as well as opportunities to develop and target your own readership (nowadays, authors blog and have emailing subscribers lists).  However, as always, you still need to write the book before you get to the subject of marketing!



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