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







Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to make a daily micro story funny.

Think of an incident in your life and ask the following questions:

1 How old were you and when did it happen?

2 Where were you? Be specific.

3 Who were you with?

4 What can you see and what can you hear?

5 What are you doing?

6 What are you feeling on the inside?

7 What was the outcome?

Meld and compile these separate lines into a short story of no more than 100 words.

Now do something to it that will make you laugh, chuckle, smile or guffaw. Anything that tickles your funny bones which might be anywhere in your anatomy.

Don’t worry about whether it makes anyone else laugh. It has to make you laugh first of all.

You could do all sorts of things: change perspective, modify the language, make fun of yourself, subvert cliches – the list is probably endless. There are loads of websites out there which will ask you to fork out to join a course to hear the words of wisdom from a humour expert: when the truth is, you know what makes you laugh. And you can bet your life it will make it other people laugh too. As we’re only too fond of quoting William Goldman, ‘No-one Knows Anything”. So you’re in good company!

Voila, your short funny story for the day!

Please feel free to share your stories with us here!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to make a daily micro story.

Think of an incident in your life and ask the following questions:

1 How old were you and when did it happen?

2 Where were you? Be specific.

3 Who were you with?

4 What can you see and what can you hear?

5 What are you doing?

6 What are you feeling on the inside?

7 What was the outcome?

Meld and compile these separate lines into a short story of no more than 100 words.

Voila, your short story for the day!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: what could schools do for writers? 6 Easy Pieces…

Many years ago, the Labour Party had the bright idea of engaging artists, celebrities and other media types to support the campaign efforts of the party. Entitled, Arts for Labour, the programme involved wheeling out celebrities and artists at key moments during the 1987 campaign. In hindsight (always a best friend, Mr. Hindsight), this may not have been a particularly effective use of many people’s time and energy: but one thing it did do was getting artists asking of the Labour Party, how about a Labour for the Arts parallel campaign? Or, what did the Labour Party ever do for the Arts?

This fell on deaf ears at the time but these days, what with schools engaging writers in a kind of Writers for Schools campaign, one might be tempted to ask, what about Schools for Writers? We might ask ourselves what did schools ever do for writers apart from pay them modest remuneration for a role which can be confused, disconnected and intended to provide short term attainment fixes to long term systematic problems?

Here are 6 things schools could do for writers if they had the health of writers at heart:

  1. Commission new plays from new, local playwrights rather than repeating yet another version of Willy Russell’s Our Day Out
  2.  Install a writer in residence for a term with a brief to capture the ‘essence’ of the school which is not just flattering and designed for best possible impact in PR terms, but is critical and capable of shaking up a few well held preconceptions
  3. Role model creative writing by all school staff to students which encourages the development of voice, style and expressivity and goes beyond secretarial niceties
  4. Encourage the whole school community to read any kind of writing – literature, pop culture, graphic novels – for pleasure as opposed to reading for assessment, policy keepie-uppie, and duty.
  5. Appreciate that different authors give you new knowledge of the world – not just different perceptions of existing knowledge – and build that knowledge into the curriculum.
  6. And thanks to Ruth Pringle from Blue Noun... “Encourage blogging, social media posts. Loads of school kids are being massively creative on their own SM platforms. I guess schools don’t even see this, and I know unmanaged SM/kids a minefield but it’s a really valuable modern day skill which kids are developing themselves – often excelling in and being massively creative in without the school ever seeing/grading those skills. A resident writer working on a media project/website/blog could get them engaged and expressing themselves in really workplace relevant ways.

More from the NOP Werkshop here.

You can also download the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) research report on the impact of writers in schools, Class Writing here.

Please feel free to share your tips here too!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: 21 tips for better writing in a digital age

1. Psyche yourself up to write something that needs writing.

2. Write it out as a word or pages document – or use any other relevant software.

3. Don’t save it at all.

4. Close the doc without saving it.

6. Watch your hard wrought efforts disappear.

7. Try and write it again.

8. Admire it, second time around.

9. Don’t save it again.

10. Close the doc, watch it disappear again.

11. Continue this process for as long as you can bear it OR upgrade your computer to the newest operating system and carry out steps 1-6. The effect is the same.

12. When you feel like abandoning it, print it off.

13. Don’t save the doc. Shut down the app.

14. Scribble all over your hard copy, make amendments, cut it up with scissors. Get closer to what it is telling you.

15. Re-type on your computer – or better still, non-correcting typewriter.

16. Throw away the tippex.

17. Print again, despair again.

18. Discard computer, typewriter and anything with a memory. Apart from yourself. Buy a Parker. And some nice parchment.

19. Write with physicality, with full body attention.

20. Sweat, breathe hard, ache.

21. You are now a better writer.

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