How to Write a Gripping Commercial Novel

A course with Roz Watkins and Sophie Draper

24 Feb to 7th April 2021 (Wednesdays - FULL)

and 25th Feb to 8th April 2021 (Thursdays - FULL)

(Please enquire about future courses)

A course packed with secrets and surprising insights, from two friendly and helpful commercial authors published by Big Five publishers.

7 sessions, online via Zoom on Wednesday/Thursday evenings, 7pm - 8.30pm.

Sophie Books.jpg

Roz and Sophie first met on a writers' course in Derby. It was a chance to learn and share our writing efforts and the evenings often concluded in the pub... Sadly we can't offer that now, under lockdown, but we can offer an online teaching experience which we hope will help your writing ambitions and allow you to get to know a small group of like-minded writers just like we did.

We both went on to publish with HarperCollins, Roz writing her acclaimed DI Meg Dalton crime detective series ('The Devil's Dice', short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, 'Dead Man's Daughter' and 'Cut To The Bone'), Sophie winning the Bath Novel Award 2017 and publishing the bestsellers 'Cuckoo' and 'Magpie'. For more info on Sophie, see We're both experienced workshop leaders and would love to share some of what we've learned, encourage new writers and offer what we hope is a practical insight into the business of writing.

The course program is set out below. Places are strictly limited to ensure a manageable group. To book, email Sophie at with the heading "Course Booking".


The course cost is £235, payable in full on booking. 

You don't need a Zoom account to participate but you will need access to the internet and we'll email you the link to the weekly online meetings.

Week 1 - An irresistible Idea 

  • Finding the commercial potential in your novel, so it grabs agents and publishers and won't let go!

  • Creating your perfect plotting strategy, whether planning or 'pantsing' or a bit of both!

  • Understanding plot and character arcs to give your novel depth and meaning.

Week 2 - Unputdownable Scenes 

  • Why your characters need goals, motivation and conflict, consequences and escalation in every scene.

  • How to include subtext and irony, and why you must do this.

  • Creating suspense and tension, absolute essentials for a commercial novel! 

Week 3 - Using the power of your mind to succeed as a writer

  • Why some writing goals help and others hinder.

  • Why failure is good and how to use it! 

  • Overcoming 'writer's block'

  • Common ways you may be hijacking your progress. 


Writing Dazzling Dialogue 

  • Top dialogue mistakes.

  • Making dialogue authentic and exciting to read.

Week 4 - Editing to Perfection 

  • Understanding the different types of editing (Structural editing, copy editing, line editing, proof reading...)

  • Story, Story, Story - vital in today's market! 

  • Editing your novel to make it shine. 

  • Motivation, theme, character deepening, voice, atmosphere, setting and mood, world-building and other essentials to consider during edits. 

Week 5 - Character and Point of View 

  • Why your main character MUST be compelling (not necessarily likeable), and surprising ways to achieve this.

  • Why everyone goes on about 'voice', and how to get it into your writing.

  • Point of View - why subtle problems here get so many writers rejected within one page. And most don't even realise they have a problem! 

Week 6 - Secrets of the Industry - Roz and Sophie tell all! 

  • Overview of the industry and key players - agents, publishers, imprints, etc.

  • Financial realities. We'll help you understand the confusing world of advances, royalties (and how they differ between different publishers and even different imprints within the same publisher), TV options, joint accounting, foreign rights, and anything else you'd like to ask us! 

  • Knowing your market, genre and the different publishing formats. Hardback, paperback, eBook, audio, and how traditional publishing differs from self-publishing (the mechanics of self publishing is not covered on this course). 

  • Sales, distribution networks, the bestseller lists, reviews, readers... and the importance of pitch.

  • Your agent submission package.

Week 7 - Feedback and What Next? 

  • Group share (only if you want to!) and discussion - bring along your pitch and first page.

  • The story checklist 

  • Books to read, conferences, competitions, one-to-ones, critiquing websites, where to go next.

  • Q and A.