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Hey James,

Is this course totally encouragement focused, or do you also sometimes say, “This just isn’t working?” I have like 0 confidence in my writing but want the honest truth.

The worst thing that can happen to a novel is to be critiqued before it’s ready.

A Novel Approach is geared towards producing that all important first draft.

Over the seven years that this workshop has been offered we have focused on two aspects: producing a first draft and learning the craft of writing.

Sometimes authors stay true to the course and write the book exactly as they envisioned it, but most of the time the story takes on a life of its own, and pulls the author in new and wonderful directions. So you will never be critiqued by me or any of the participants about the characters, story line, writing style etc. The first draft is like plasticine. It’s important that it stay pliable until the project is done.

It’s also your story to tell. As soon as you start inviting critical attention, you’re inviting others to infiltrate your process and eventually your story. If you ask ten writers to write a story about the same event, you’ll see ten different approaches, stakes and points of view.

The main critical feedback segment occurs at the 21,000 word review stage, which is mainly a substantive review. As I read your chapters, I may notice habits that may be hurting your creative practice, which I will point out. Feedback of this nature is offered on an individual basis, if and when it occurs.

In closing. I’d like to say that authors suffer with nasty internal critics who nay-say just about everything you write. They use words like shitty and honest. They give away many other tells in our speech. They have much too much to say and and affect how you feel about yourself as an artist. The purpose of A Novel Approach is not to shut those voices up, because they’re likely with you for life, but to ignore them, allow creativity to emerge, and reinforce a discipline and accountability that makes it possible for you to have fun and write your wonderful stories.

When it’s time to write the second draft, however, the approach shifts to critical thinking about story presentation. You will need a different mindset altogether. Luckily, we’ve been teaching the craft and you’ve been learning and practicing it for a year with us.

I hope that helps.
Best, James