Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to start a novel by Gianna Schorno

Gianna Schorno was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland. Her origin is Italian among others, and she has always been a bit of a nomad. She decided at a very early age to explore the globe.

Her knowledge of various languages and her keen interest in getting to know different cultures took her on many travels around the world. She has also lived in various countries, including Canada, Turkey, Ecuador and Peru. She currently lives in the UK.

In this blog, she very generously shares her insights on what it takes to write your first novel. We hope you find her advice of interest!

Firstly, if you are multilingual/bilingual, choose which language you are planning to write in. Which language do you feel most comfortable in? This might not be your mother tongue, but another language. (The novel can be translated later through a publisher).

Step two I would consider the most important. It is basically like writing an essay at school. If you already know what topic or perhaps life experience you want to write about, you think of a plot. That’s the most important step as this is your basic storyline, what should grip your readers. Then you divide it into 3 main sections: introduction, main story, and conclusion (this can be a short chapter like an Epilogue). This will be your structure.

Once you have established that, you’ll think of the characters you want to create for your story. If you write about real events or your own life story, it’s a little easier. If you create a story from scratch, think about what personality your characters you create should have. You can base that on real people or a combination of people you know. It’s also good to have a “goodie” and a “badie” in the story, so that good and bad is represented. If you set your story during a historical event, it’s important that you get the facts correct. Meaning, that real events have the correct dates and it’s set in the respective country and area. With regards to the chapters, you can worry about that later. You don’t have to name them, you can just name them as Chapter 1, etc. for the time being.

With regards to a title for your story, you can decide that later, or it could happen that it will come to you during the writing.

So, once you have written the plot and you are happy with how the story should flow, you have created your characters and you have made your research, if necessary, you are all set and you can get started!

If you decide to write a comedy story, then I would consider it best to use one’s own experiences from for instance the school days, childhood days, maybe between siblings, so-called embarrassing but funny events from the past, or just general normal life experiences or travels, evenings out, etc. and tie them together. Look at comedians such as Micky Flanagan, Peter Kay, Billy Connolly and get an idea of what they have used and how they went about telling them.

Good luck!

Gianna has published several novels, available from various sources:


Austin Macauley Publishers

Barnes and Noble






WH Smiths







Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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