Arvon at Home Writing Week: Writing a Novel

How to capture life on the page

Monday March 22nd - Friday March 26th 2021


What makes a reader turn a page?

For D.H. Lawrence, the novel was ‘the bright book of life’. What does it take to capture life – a living world – on the page? How do novelists create the illusion while staying ‘true to life’? Do novels begin with a plot, an idea, an image or a question? We’ll delve into structure, and particularly the elements of ‘the unknown’ and ‘revelation’ in an unfolding story.

This course will enable you to find the bright current of the novel you’re writing, or to discover a new story you feel you want to tell. Together, we’ll explore the dynamics of narrative tension, ‘trouble’ and ‘release’. We’ll consider the fictional forces of change and metamorphosis on the page. We’ll dig deep for the wet clay of that all-important element, character. How, in other words, does one breathe life into the idea of a person? What are the questions a novelist asks when creating a character? How much does the novelist need to know in advance? What happens when our characters take us by surprise?

The tutors will try to share their experience of what keeps one going all the way through to a first draft. Once one has a first draft, what does ‘editing’ a novel entail? How can we learn to be better editors of our own work?

Together, we’ll approach these sorts of questions in group discussion and exchanges. We’ll probe short extracts or chapters of published novels. We’ll experiment in informal, friendly ways with short writing prompts and tasks. We’ll sharpen our sense of technique in, for example, character-creation, world-building, atmosphere, dialogue, imagery, openings, closings and narrative arcs. Also braided through the week will be sessions on point-of-view, voice and language.

Above all, your tutors look forward to rolling up their sleeves and helping you to find the story you want to tell, or the story you’re on the brink of discovering.

We’ll help you to make ‘Arvon at Home’, turning your own place into a writing cocoon, capturing the transformative power of our acclaimed Arvon residential courses: two brilliant author-tutors at your service, a caring and sharing group, the time and space to devote to your writing, invaluable feedback, new writing pals, and the unique creative progress that happens in a dedicated week. 

You will be offered the best of a classic Arvon residential week, with a few virtual tweaks. Spot the difference: a carefully balanced combination of tips to help you focus, daily morning workshops, one-to-one tutorials with both tutors, three evening get-togethers to chat about the day’s work, a mid-week guest reading offer, the celebratory Friday-evening collective reading, and lots of time and encouragement for you to write every day. You will receive a free ticket to our Wednesday evening Live Guest Reading.

All gatherings, one-to-one or group, will be delivered via our own Arvon Zoom, so you’ll need to have a reliable internet connection. Your Arvon Centre host will be on call to offer support as you need it, including any help you may need with your computer set-up.

To participate, and to get the most out of the week, you’ll need to turn up online for all planned morning sessions, Monday to Friday. You should also set aside your afternoons for tutorials and independent writing time.  Last but not least, we urge you to read your tutors’ published work before the week starts.

Dates: Monday 22nd March 4.30pm  — Friday 26th March 8pm
Cost: £375

Add to waiting list Grants are available to help with the course fee


I had the chance to speak with two well respected tutors about my work. Being able to do this in one-to-one tutorials was excellent and not reduced in any way by being on Zoom. A good chance for some very good advice. I am now determined to set to work on my writing.

—Writing Week Participant

What a lovely week—worked so well. It’s not the Hurst, but something different and equally special.

—Writing Week Participant


4.30pm—6.30pm: Everyone gathers online in Arvon’s Zoom Writing House. The Arvon Centre Director will welcome you and the tutors, giving you an overview of the week, technology support, and some ideas for making your writing ‘cocoon’. You’ll get to meet everyone, ask questions, and settle in. Your tutors will ask you to start thinking about your writing, perhaps setting an exercise. There’s likely to be some homework for tomorrow morning


9.30am—12.30pm: Everyone meets online for the morning workshop, which includes writing exercises, discussion and comfort breaks.

2pm—3.30pm: One-to-one tutorials lasting about 20 minutes each. You have one tutorial with each tutor during the week; the rest of the afternoon is your time to think and write.

6pm—7pm: Both tutors read from their work and take questions.


The timing is just like yesterday…

9.30am—12.30pm: morning workshop

2pm—3.30pm: afternoon one-to-one tutorials

5.30pm—6pm: evening check-in (optional)


7.15pm: The Arvon Wednesday Live Guest Reading—you get a free ticket to this.


9.30am—12.30pm: morning workshop

2pm—3.30pm: afternoon one-to-one tutorials

6pm—7pm: An evening session hosted by both tutors


9.30am—12.30pm: morning workshop

2pm—3.30pm: afternoon tutorials


5pm—7pm: Friday evening culminates with a celebratory reading where you have the chance to share some of your new writing. Expect laughter, tears and a huge sense of pride for all you have learned, written and achieved this week. There’ll be plenty of virtual hugs.

And then...

The week doesn’t stop here. You now have a writing community. Stay in touch. Share your work with each other, and take it forward.



See all Courses & Retreats