Writing a novel is hard work.

Lucky you’ve got us on your side.

The Six Month Novel

 

Monday 6th March – Sunday 3rd September 2017

Applications open January 2017

Imagine yourself looking smugly at a big sheaf of paper on your desk. It’s six months from now, and that’s your finished draft.

Yep. It’s possible. Not only is it possible, but you can do things that make it likely to happen.

Like, er, actually working on your novel. Every day for six months.

This time next year you could have finished edits, be talking to agents and be working on your next novel. Sound good?

So why haven’t you written it yet?

The thing is, even if you’ve completed novels before, there’s no getting away from the fact that they take a lot of work. Slogging along by yourself month-in month-out is hard, and it’s easy to lose faith when the first 26,592 words look worthless (hello, wall).

There’s a reason why deadlines are a writer’s best friend.

The Six Month Novel from Urban Writers’ Retreat is for committed writers who need that extra push to help them finish their next book, who want to actually sit down and write and to make the journey alongside a team of fellow writers.

Think of us as your personal trainers. We’re here to motivate and guide you, not to teach you to write or judge your efforts.

We’re Charlie and Amie.

We’ll give you online accountability, with a month-by-month structure to take you from initial idea to completed first draft. We’re not so much into giving lectures on character or setting essays deconstructing character in War and Peace. Fun, easy worksheets that will get you creating believable worlds and characters is much more our style.

You already know most of what you need to (even if you don’t realise it). We provide the framework and support that puts you back in charge of your writing.

The thing is, we actually care about you and your writing. We only take small groups of writers, because we want to know YOU and your work personally. We both write so we understand the joys/horrors of writing and we’ll be behind you all the way, supporting you and holding your hand (in a digital sense, otherwise things might get weird).

Uh, did we mention the accountability yet? You’ll get weekly cheerleading and tools aplenty from us, and we’re always on hand to help, but we also set firm deadlines and will give you a firm dig in the ribs if you miss them.

Carrot and stick folks, carrot and stick.

Here’s how it works

The Six Month Novel runs from Monday 6th March to Sunday 3rd September 2017.

We’re entirely online, which means that you can join in whether you like to work at 5am or midnight and regardless of where you are in the world – we’ve had writers from California across the globe to Beijing.

You’ll carve out large chunks of your free time over the next six months to write (yes, this is possible if you have a full-time job),  and with a nifty combination of your dedication and our prodding support you’ll leave with a completed first draft of your novel.

You get

4-week plotting bootcamp

  • Weekly tasks walking you through developing a plan so that you know the world of your novel inside-out before starting
  • An editorial review of your plot outline

4 writing months

  • Weekly emails prompting you to check in, set targets and cheer on/commiserate with your teammates
  • Targets that you set yourself to fit your novel and life
  • Monthly deadlines for submitting your work to us
  • Personal accountability (yes, we will chase you if you submit late)
  • Monthly live group video call with Charlie and Amie
  • 2 Catch-up weeks

4-week editing bootcamp

  • Weekly tasks taking you through editing from a big structural audit right down to checking grammar
  • Professional edit of your polished first 3,000 words

Online forum

  • A space for you to support your team, share work and discuss writing, life and the relative merits of hob nobs vs custard creams (chocolate hob nobs every time)
  • Monthly reader reviews
  • Weekly progress check-ins

The short version

We’re behind you all the way.

We provide the structures, support and accountability; you provide the elbow grease.

After all that hard work, you’ll have more than just a first draft of your novel, you’ll have a deep sense of satisfaction and achievement as well as knowing how to edit your novel and a having plan to get you there.

Plotting bootcamp

Cut through the confusion and make sure your plot and characters workbefore you start writing with a 4-week novel plotting bootcamp.

You’ll get a deep understanding of your story by exploring everything from character, point of view and setting to conflict, structure and subplot.

You’ll write a plot outline – your map to save you from the swamp of saggy middles – and a plan for your writing months complete with those all-important targets.

A review of your plot outline

We’ll work with you to make sure your character and story arcs make sense so that your story will satisfy readers. Everything feels much easier with a sensible, workable plan in place, and if you ever get lost during writing this will be the map that you use to get back on-track.

4 writing months

The Six Month Novel is structured so that each month has a theme that mirrors your writing progress: openings, turning points, climaxes and conclusions.

Four months somehow manages to feel like a very short time to write your novel and a very long time until it’s finally going to be done. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey, you could call it.

To put it into context though, if you aimed to write an average-ish length novel of 80,000 words and to have catch-up weeks off, you’d need to write 5,000 words every week. That’s 715 words a day with one day off per week, or one really solid day of work each weekend.

Target-setting and planning

We’ll help you to break the project down into manageable chunks and set targets for each of the writing months based on what’s realistic for you and what you need to do to complete your draft. Then we’ll hold you accountable.

Personal accountability

We are now entering a no excuses zone! We all know that nothing motivates a writer like a deadline, so you’ll submit your words to us monthly. We don’t judge them, but we want you to actually write that novel so we’ll hold you accountable to targets that you set yourself, (this is a non-negotiable condition of the Six Month Novel) and yes, we chase if they don’t appear in our inbox!

 

Monthly reader reviews

Each month you’ll put time aside to submit a section of your writing for review by other writers, and in turn you’ll comment on their pieces. You’ll benefit just as much from reviewing what works and suggesting improvements for other writers as you will from their suggestions. The reason Amie (a professional editor) doesn’t give feedback until you’ve finished is that we know too many writers who have been thrown off course by getting an editor’s feedback too early. Gentle critique and suggestions from the group can improve your work and be truly uplifting, and we’d rather you help each other than have writers get stuck Because An Editor Told Me This Was Wrong So The Whole Thing Must Be Terrible. Not that writers are prone to exaggerating criticism or getting melodramatic about it…

 

Weekly motivational emails

Every week you’ll get an email from us to help you keep going. Some will be pep talks, some will discuss the monthly theme, and we may even occasionally tell you to eat cake or take a day off.

 

Weekly accountability check-in

Every week you’ll keep yourself on track by posting your progress in the forum, setting goals for the week based on your monthly targets and cheering on your fellow writers. You really will get more out of this if you’re willing to be part of the team.

Editing bootcamp

We don’t want you to just spew out words for a few months then throw them away in horror. We’ll help you identify and fill in big-picture gaps before you gradually hone and polish your first 3,000 words. You’ll learn about publishing options as well as self-editing tips and tricks, and you’ll leave with a system for editing the rest of your manuscript and a plan for making it happen.

Comprehensive professional edit of your first chapter

You will submit an edited version of your first 3,000 words at the end of the six months for review by Amie (who is a professional editor in real life).

Support and community

The Playground is the Urban Writers’ Retreat private forum. You’ll have your own area  where you can support each other and share your work safely and securely. The other writers on the Six Month Novel will quickly become your teammates and trusted sounding-boards, and you’ll also be able to ask us questions.

 

Monthly online writing retreats (Get It Done Days and word races)

To help you, well, get it done. Log in on a set day, set yourself a target and off you go, or log on for just an hour and race against your team for the highest word count. Working alongside other writers will boost your motivation and help you hit those deadlines, and both of these happen monthly.

 

Monthly live Q&A session

Each month we’ll run a live online video call where Charlie and Amie chat about our monthly topic and answer your questions, both general and specific ones about your novel relating to that month’s theme. We can also talk to you either as a group or directly about motivation, confidence, and generally help to keep you moving.

Is it for you?

This is perfect for you if

  • You have an idea for a novel you’re longing to write
  • You know you’re capable of doing the work and dedicating the time to completing this novel… but it’s still daunting to do alone
  • You know you can do it, but seem to have lost faith in yourself. You’re struggling to start your next project. You’d love a little extra help and support.
  • You’ve done all of your research, or can complete it by the start date
  • You read the last couple of pages and thought, accountability, woohoo!

We’re not right for you if

  • If you think it sounds great but you’re not ready to truly commit just yet. Please wait and apply next time.
  • You’re part way through your draft; this is only for new novels that are still at the planning stage (or only a few thousand words in at most).
  • You don’t like planning. If you have a track-record of stalling at 20,000 words though, it might be worth reconsidering your approach?
  • You know that your creative process is one of constantly circling back and perfecting before you move on. If you’re that kind of writer and it works for you, don’t force yourself into the ‘draft fast’ box, which is what you need to do to write a draft in 4 months.
  • You don’t have the time. You’ll probably need to do an hour of work every day. Yes. Every day. You can choose whether to do that in small bursts or a couple of long sessions a week, but there are no shortcuts.
  • You don’t think… yessssssssss! Basically, if this sounds awesome then it’s the right approach for you. If you have a sneaky feeling you’d rather do something different, you’re probably right. You already know if you want to join or not, you just have to listen.
  • You can’t afford it. It’s not a huge amount for six months of support, but if you really don’t have the money, don’t do it.

Cost

Applications open on Monday 13th February 2017 and close on Sunday 19th February 2017

Six Month Novel

(currently approx $1400)
£950
  • 4-week plotting bootcamp
  • 4-week editing bootcamp
  • 4 months of writing time
  • Weekly motivational emails
  • Weekly online progress check-in
  • Personal monthly accountability
  • Editorial review of your plot outline
  • Professional edit of your polished first 3,000 words
  • Monthly reader reviews
  • Monthly live video hangout
  • Access to The Playground forum
  • 1 x professional editor review of 1,000 words of your choice
  • 1 x 30 minute story planning video call, plus a follow-up email
  • 1 x 30 minute procrastination-busting video call, plus a follow-up email
  • 1 x one-day writing retreat in London (or an extra 30 min call if you’re too far away to attend)
  • Payment plan available: 6 payments of £165.
Applications closed until 2017

I’m so in! How do I apply?

There’s an application form and it does require some preparation work, but it’s not one of those terrifying 10 page things!

Things we’ll ask for on the application form include:

  • Brief 100-ish word synopsis of your novel (see below)
  • Confirmation that you’ve done/can do all of your research in advance
  • What genre and audience you’re aiming for

We’d also like to know, if possible:

  • A little about your main characters
  • A little about your setting
  • What your fears and concerns are, what’s holding you back
  • A comparison novel, one that relates in some way to your novel that you can look to for guidance and inspiration (it shouldn’t have a similar plot – think of stellar examples of your genre, characters or voices you love, or one that is brilliantly structured)

The 100(ish) word synopsis is the one you’ll need to prepare in advance, and it should include: who the main character is, what they want, what the central conflict/question is, who/what stands against them and how it ends. This is your chance to intrigue us, but we’re primarily looking to make sure that you have an idea that can be turned into a workable story and that you’ve put thought into it. This is a big commitment, and we want the spaces to go to writers who are serious about finishing a novel.

If you haven’t written a 100-word synopsis of your novel yet, sign up at the bottom of the page to join the free 10 day Novel in a Nutshell idea development challenge.

 

ApplyNow(1)

 

Can I apply now? How about now? Well then when?

  • Friday 5th – Sunday 14th February 2016: Free Novel in a Nutshell story development challenge to help you work through your idea and write your mini synopsis
  • Monday 15th February: Applications open
  • Sunday 21st February: Applications close
  • Monday 22nd – Sunday 28th February: If we want to quick chat with some writers, we’ll do that this week before making decisions, sending out acceptances and collecting payments (midnight on Sunday 28th Feb is the payment deadline)
  • Monday 1st – Sunday 6th March: Final acceptances (if anybody pulls out, shortlisted writers will be offered space), and a chance for you to join the forum, meet your fellow writers and explore the pre-arrival bonuses
  • Monday 7th March 2016: Six Month Novel begins

Because this is a small group programme where you get personal accountability from us, we have limited spaces. We’ll try to choose writers who we think we can help, but if we get too many applications we may close the application period early.

We’re also giving the first 5 people to join a bonus 30 minute 1:1 video call where we can help you with any writing issues, go over your plot or brainstorm ideas.

Is it worth it?

Only you can decide that. Think about it this way… how long have you been wanting to write that novel? We’re willing to bet the answer is years. Are you going to actually sit down and write it in the next six months? If not, how much do you want to? Enough to put your money where your mouth is and finally commit?

You need to think about whether this is the right approach for you too, whether you want to be part of a group, whether planning well then writing relatively fast will benefit you, whether you’re able to just write without stopping for another round of research, whether you like having submission deadlines. Because these are all things we will expect you to do, so, you know, it’s probably better on balance if that sounds great rather than awful.

We think the Six Month Novel is pretty reasonable. The alternatives that we’ve considered ourselves in the past, including postgrad degrees and courses with big names, cost many thousands of pounds, may take years to complete and tend to focus on being taught how to write rather than actually sitting down and writing a novel. Sometimes you’re only asked to prove you’ve written 20,000 or 30,000 words, and people tend to run out of steam and find it really hard to write those extra 50,000 words once that support is over. We think that what you’ll get from a focus on actually completing that draft is priceless, and that pushing through and reaching the end is one of the best ways you can learn and improve your writing.

But you don’t need us to tell you that. If this isn’t for you then you’ll know, and that’s cool. There are many ways to write a novel and we wish you safe travels, friend. If you secretly reallyreallyreally want to join us though, you’ll already know that too. Maybe you just want a little nudge, or for someone to tell you it’s okay to take your dreams seriously.

If that’s the case, then nudge. We think your dreams matter. You should too.

I want to join but I’m in the US. Is that okay?

Sure! The beauty of doing something like this is that it’s all online. Amie’s based in the US, and Charlie is British but somewhat nomadic. We’ve had writers join us from across the world, from the USA, UK, China, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands and Dubai.

The payment request will come up in pounds sterling, but don’t let that put you off. We use PayPal, which will automatically convert the payment into your own currency – the reason we only list an approximate price in US $ is that PayPal will use their exchange rate on the day you pay.

I have a full time job. Is that an issue?

Most of our writers have full time jobs or other commitments. As long as you dedicate the equivalent to an hour every day (some people like to write daily, some do full days at the weekend) consistently, you’ll be fine. If you want to write approx 80,000 words for your first draft, that’s 5,000 words every single writing week.

 ApplyNow

Got more questions?

Email sixmonthnovel@urbanwritersretreat.co.uk and we’ll do our best to help.

About us

We’re Charlie and Amie. We met at Charlie’s first residential writing retreat, and realised we had the perfect combination of skills and personality traits to make a complete novel programme, the kind that we really wanted for ourselves.

Charlie’s retreats give writers time and space that allow writers to just forget the world and write. And it works – Amie actually finished the first draft of her second novel that November week in a cozy cottage, with Charlie providing cake and sympathy.

We’ve both found that we could get a novel started (that idea phase and starting line — all the adrenaline and shininess…), but we’d get half way through and hit a brick wall. That or it would just become a muddy swamp that we continued to slog through without much direction or ambition. We needed an extra push. We know other writers who need help getting over those starting hurdles, and we both know that for all writers nothing beats deadlines and accountability to make it happen.

We can’t all live at a writing retreat full time though, so we wanted to make something that would help writers who live in the regular world finish a first draft. Something that would work for anyone, anywhere, that was designed by people who really get the weirdness of being a writer and the emotional rollercoaster of a novel’s progress.

Add the fact that Charlie will tell you as many times as you need that you’ve got this, and Amie is a strict professional editor and, cake in one hand and a whip in the other, you have the perfect team to help you get your novel on the page.

That’s me on the left. I’m Charlie, Head of Words, Procrastination and Stuff at Urban Writers’ Retreat. I’m the chatty one, especially in writing. Sadly, brain and mouth don’t always connect in person.

Despite not being of the overly cheery persuasion (particularly in the morning), I love cheerleading writers. Seeing people all happy with their writing gives me warm fuzzy feelings. Turns out I also love finding the best information out there, collating it and boiling it all down into easy steps with worksheets. Amie thinks this is a little bit magic.

I: travel a lot, make a lot of cake, love flying trapeze and am clumsy, awkward and super-English (bumping into lamp posts and apologising, that sort of thing).

And I’m Amie, on the right. I’m a voracious reader. My calling in life is editing. I’m ambitious and strong, but shy and like to sit in the background. (Charlie’s note: Amie is also amazing at making sure things get done and keeping wayward writers like you and me on track… I suspect that she is a little bit magic.)

I’m American and move around the world with my husband, camera, computer, and a lot of ideas floating around in my head. They tend to take over (the ideas), and most of the time you’ll catch me staring off into space.

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Six Month Novel

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