Until 6 weeks ago, I was a verified, certified, completely-and-utterly-institutionalised panster. I knew no other way. I’d heard tell of people that planned and plotted before getting started on a novel, but I didn’t really think they existed. And if they did, then I was almost certain that there was something wrong with them. Novels just kinda always burst out of me like the Alien out of John Hurt’s chest.

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I mean, sure, it was messy and a bit anti-social, but I didn’t have a great deal of control over it. Once the idea was there, it just made its own way out.

But then I did the Curtis Brown Course, met these lovely lot (I mean The Scribblers, not Sigourney Weaver et al), finished my novel, polished it up and, for the very first time, I actually got an agent to request the full manuscript. WOO HOO! This in itself is a milestone  worthy of much rejoicing.

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When the agent got back in touch, however, she said, “…The beginning really captured me, but as it went along I felt the pacing and structure unravelled and the end all seemed to happen very quickly. Unfortunately, by the end I wasn’t in love with it enough to make an offer and begin the (sometimes quite long!!) redrafting process.”

Did I curl up in a ball and consume the world’s supply of ice-cream? No, not me, I did something way more constructive…

I searched Twitter with dead-eyed despair, instead…

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This is me searching through Twitter… wait for it, wait for it… there’s the cat.

But, this time it was, because in my sorrow-fuelled searchings, I came across this post:

The 5 Dos and Don’ts of Submitting to Writing Competitions and Lit Mags.

It was inspired. And sweary. And it left me wanting more. So, I checked out the author’s website, writershq.co.uk. It was equally inspired. And sweary.

And it felt like home.

But this was only the beginning of the 5-point process because then, my friends, I took action (& you can too)…

1) I checked out their awesomely-titled Plotstormers course

I mean, who doesn’t want to get to pretend to be a Stormtrooper, while at the same time learning how to plot a novel? That’s the kind of multi-tasking I can get down with!

2) I got stuck into Week Zero straight away.

Week Zero? I hear you ask. What is this Week Zero you speak of?

It is, my friends, the start of the course FOR FREE:

NO HARD SELL

NO COMMITMENT

No one even needs to know you’ve done it.

Not even your grandma.

3) I booked myself in.

GO ON! DO IT! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO! There, that wasn’t so difficult was it? It comes at a great price, too. Especially if you use this FANTABULOUS 10% DISCOUNT VOUCHER!

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That’s right, you heard me! That’s 10% off all available courses (not including the 9 month novel-gestation course) that were already cheap as chips! What have you got to lose?!

4) I got stuck into the course.

It is true that this course is not for the fainthearted. It’s a full-on commitment. You don’t just pay your money and a fully-drafted plan of your novel magically appears in your inbox. You need to roll up your sleeves and work like you’ve never worked before. It WILL turn your brain to mush. And it WILL dribble out of your ears. But, I guarantee you, it WILL all be worth it.

5) That’s it.

I know. I lied. Five just seemed like a nice round number. But quit complaining. You’re all done. Wasn’t that hard now, was it?