How to write an award-winning bestselling first novel | Nathan Filer | [email protected]

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Or at least be happier whilst trying! This is Nathan's guide to novel writing in 7 easy (ish!) steps. Nathan won the Costa Book Prize in 2013 with his debut novel, The Shock Of The Fall. It has been translated into 27 languages. Nathan worked part time as a mental health nurse in Bristol and his book’s narrator is a 19 year old boy with schizophrenia. He graduated from Bath Spa University in 2010 with an MA in Creative Writing and is now a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University. About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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He deserved more laughs...Pretty nice guy
Sounds like he's about to rhyme
Wow.If you can't come up with these tips on your own, you best go back to middle school.
I prefer the self-publishing route myself. I don't have to deal with rejection letters, or finding the right agent, or my book isn't something THEY think will "make it big." However, I do have extra pressure on my back because self-published novels are usually stereotyped as "un-professional" or horribly written. I find that most of the novels coming out, especially this year (2017) are all one-sided and rather cliched by now. They are pushing the goals that the publishing companies want to get out there (ie. The Hate U Give) and not the goals that the writer had for even attempting to produce such a work in the first place. Many wonderful, inspiring works of art never make it into the world because authors were beat down by the "all-knowing, all-powerful" chiefs sitting in a chair surrounded by fifty novels apiece and found only two or three that they wanted to invest their time on.
I guess the take-away from this was to set specific goals and do it. Other than that, it wasn't too helpful. Not worthy of a Ted talk IMO.
Wow, that intro was an abrasive sudden sound. Thanks for the wake up! lol
Well, I'd settle for an award-winning, bestselling _second_ novel.
Very well delivered and explained presentation. This will help a lot of people ^^
Good tipa
Quite possibly the WORST how WRITE video I've ever seen
You look like Tintin because of your hairstyle.
Read my book:
Wow. I want to meet this man.
Great advice..hope it will help me. alot
So how much say does the author have in designing the cover?
He looks like Woody Allen.
'Write drunk, edit sober.'- Hemingway
This guy offers a couple of useful suggestions but I disagree with about half of them. First of all, he is talking about ways to get a book written and published, not how to write an award-winning best-selling novel. Perhaps that was discussed in another part of his presentation, but not in this video. I think his best advice is to write something every day to stay motivated. Most popular prolific writers admit they have a writing schedule and they stick to it. However some writers do write according to inspiration for weeks or months at a time, but not every day (Anne Rice or Danielle Steel for instance). The advice I disagree with is the belief that you should "be prepared to fail." I very strongly believe there is no such thing as failure. Every writing effort is an achievement. No writer should feel he or she is a failure or has failed because a story didn't get published or because of a problem with plot, characters, etc. Writing is a test of endurance. If you love writing and you keep at it, you will eventually succeed in achieving your goals.
1.) Have specific goals - 2:45 2.) Make sure your goals are achievable - 4:15 3.) Be prepared to fail - 6:05 4.) Base your affirmations on fact - 8:07 5.) Be flexible in how you get there - 9:16 6.) Take responsibility - 10:11 7.) Focus on what you can control - 11:16
Oh dear, How manipulative is he?
Is it a coincidence that his name is Nathan filer
I am planning on writing one i dnt care at this time whether its good or not i just want to write and share it with someone who is also writing or atlast starting to and share the odds and the mutal thoughts about writing
This was a splendid talk and while in no way is it unrealistically optimistic it also is not as pessimistic as it could have been. Well done.
Really valuable information.
Thanks Tedx. Great Points to follow.
Recently, I was writing, I I had nine full google doc pages with two chapters. Then, I decided to backspace the whole thing, and start over. I discussed the story a bit with my mom, and she helped me develop it more. This person was helpful and relatable. Thank you! :)
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Nathan, thank you.I have absolutely cried twice.I want this so badly, it was so good to hear someone affirm that it is hard!Thank you so much for sharing with me, and thus the world, that rainy Spring day.God bless and every happiness ~ NAR
So it isnt possible to choose your own cover or only when you choose to hire a writer?
This is good for feeling good, but it's not good advice for a new writer.
There's a lot that doesn't make sense here. "The rejection letter for my second debut"?There is no "second debut". The debut is your first novel. That's it. Thirty rejections is nothing. It sounds like Nathan has a very distorted view of the industry, and saying something as absurd as this does a disservice to writers in the query trenches. And why was he sending agents "writing samples" before his novel was finished? At least, from this talk it sounded like that's what he did. I've done an extraordinary amount of research into agents over the last few years, and I can't name one , on either side of the Atlantic, who says they're open to reviewing material before a novel is finished, unless you're already published. Perhaps that's why his work was rejected at that stage. Who knows.
Unrelated to writing but also relevant: 2 STEPS TO BECOMING A BILLIONAIRE Step 1. Invent a cure for cancer Step 2. Take up smoking again because you now can
30 rejections means your books isn't any good? As a literary intern let me counter with OR You just haven't sent to the right agent yet OR Said agents have full lists, or just took on a novel similar to yours, or are having a hard time selling XY and Z, or are having a shitty day, or dislike your character as a matter of personal opinion or...I could go on OR You just need that one agent to give you thorough, useful feedback to improve your manuscript so that is ready for representation. I'm also a writer and personally got to 36 rejections before I got said feedback with an R&R, after that I had multiple offers. If you're watching this, take lots of this great advice but PLEASE don't think 30 rejections means your book isn't good.
What's with writing talks on TED and clickbait titles that have little in common with the talk itself? I like the talk, these advices are useful, but the title seems cheap.
He looks like grown up Tintin!!
How to write a novel. Step 1: have something relevant to say.
Omg he looks just like the pins and needles guy!!!
3:12 spit :D
You guys need to really think about how saturated the markets are today. If you think there is some kind of formula - or that you need practice or something - then you need to squeeze your head out of your ass. This video should be re-titled, "How to spend like 1-2 years perfecting a novel (with dreams of a Pulitzer), only to discover that your hard work earns you $150 a month on Amazon at best." Take MY advice. Write as fast as you can, edit even faster. Who gives a crap whether what you are saying is good or bad. Think, write, publish. Repeat.
Heck the book Filthby Irvin Walsh has a talking tape worm in it and became a best seller.
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Writer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Jack Canfield - took over 30 rejections from various publishers. So, even after 30 - your stuff might still be good, just keep going when rejected. :)
Tom Clancy's first novel was published by a company that did not publish fiction. They took a chance on him. The book was so successful, the Department of Defense and the FBI investigated him! They along with the CIA wanted to know where he got his technically accurate information from. The novel became a top selling movie called "The Hunt for Red October". Now, who says your story can't get published and you can't be a success. If Clancy with his boring, techno-babble filled books can get published with movie deals, anyone can!
I'm always in self-doubt. This helped excite me and me realize that my goals aren't too far fetched.
Currently writing my first novel. If anyone is too or has already written one, please feel free to message me. I'd like to have someone I can actually talk to about all this.
James Patterson was rejected by 34 publishers before he found the one. He is currently the best selling author.
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If you publish with Montag Press, you don't need an agent and you get to choose what the cover looks like. Montag Press is highly selective, however.
Thank you Nathan x
Cheers tintin
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How are you doing i need your help am writing a noval and before i publish it i would love it if you read it
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I just finished writing a 130000 words horror novel but i dont know what to do next. i wss told to find agents but i have no time as i am currently studying.
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I had a guy come to my school, said he was rejected over 100 times, but he finally got published.
So l'm listening to this, and hear his was twenty pages in. So for giggles I thought I would check how far I was into my novel. Damn twenty pages, I need to get busy!
When I write I always get incredibly annoyed because I know it'll never be as big as Harry Potter or just as good. But then I remind myself that Cassandra Clare thought that, and told herself to stick to fanfic. She wrote the most successful Draco/Hermione story of all time. Then when she did write a book, her character can frequently be seen in what I like to think of as the golden five. (Hermione from HP, Annabeth from PJO, Tris from Divergent, Katniss from HG and Clary from Cassandras book, Shadowhunters) like any edit of female characters in YA books, all five are there. And if that's not rlly inspiring idk what is
I just want to point out, that James Patterson's first novel was rejected 31 times by 31 different publishers...
In the research phase of my first non-fiction story. Any advice from the public as to the timeframe of submitting my transcript to an agent (I don't have one and am terrified of the process of finding one)? I know that non-fiction is different; 3-4 chapters and a solid gameplan are more vital.
It's all about S.M.A.R.T. Everything.
Matthew Reilly who now has 4 million a year and he just self published it
Nathan is a wise man. However, might I suggest another strategy. Stephen King. I have been writing stories, essays, books and poems since I was 8 years-old. Writing is a very lovely sickness for me. I also grew up in an environment where the dream of becoming an author, let alone a bestselling novelist, were just not fostered. No one knew what to tell me, or in what direction they should point me. I nearly gave up that dream when my first child came along. Either I go back to school, or I start writing. I choose school, but prayed about it that night. The next day, I installed cable for a published author. He flippantly told me that he would read my stuff and let me know later if I had the 'chops' to be a writer. The day after, I installed cable for a lady who asked me if I needed any books. She gave a bag full. One of those books was Stephen King's 'On Writing: A memoir of the Craft.' Those two consecutive days were the greatest of my life. The published author contacted me and said not only did I have chops, but I was there! I was ready! I just needed something more than two short stories. I read King's book. In it, he states these truths: -Some people who write are not writers. -If you're a writer. Write. -Write everyday. Set daily goals (His is 2,000/day) -If you wait around for inspiration, you will die of hunger. Just write and hit your goal - everyday. The last truth is so profound that it must be explained. Those words you write when you have no inspiration, are padding. They will be cut out later, but you have to start somewhere. JUST START! As you start hitting your goals (My goals were 2,000 words/day, and 120,000 in two months) your story will come alive before you. I blew passed 120,000 words. In my novel, The Dark Trail, I finished with 156,000 words and I had to remove 50,000 words (In other words, I had to throw away nearly a month from my life). The words I started with were long trashed, and the book that resulted was crisp. Another thing, there is joy in writing. If you can not find joy in our craft, find joy elsewhere, but find 'your' joy. I'm a big ass southern man who likes guns and fishing. But, as I wrote the part of my female lead and the situation she found herself in, I had tears streaming down my face. My character was alive and had a past, and I created that. I hope that my novel becomes a bestseller. Until then, I can't tell you how to do that. But approach writing like a 9 to 5 job, the faster you finish, the quicker you get off. Like the video said, "make reasonable goals" If you polish off 1,000 words in an hour and it felt good, step it up to 1,250, or 1,500 the next day. Give yourself incentives for meeting certain goals. If I didn't type 2,000 words, I didn't eat until I did (And I held myself accountable to that). When I hit 20,000, I bought the watch I wanted. When I hit 100,000, I had a fancy meal. If you have questions about being a writer, DO NOT HESITATE! Buy Stephen King's book. He doesn't address specifics in the craft, just what it takes to be a writer... and it's an awesome autobiography (Spoiler alert: He threw his first published novel 'Carrie' in the trash and had given up the whole writing thing. His wife took it out, started reading, liked it... and the rest is history). Stop reading. Start writing!
Focus on what you can control! Well... I'm in the process of writing my first novel, but I happen to have a degree in journalism and commercial arts, and I already have a specific title for my story and designed my cover for the book, so I don't think it will sit well with me if somebody else titled and designed my book! Lol!
I'm agree with "How to write a novel. Step 1: have something relevant to say." Useless talk
"when you get 6000 rejection letters THEN you can consider giving up on it." - Stephen King
I like to listen to him speak.
I'm writing my own first novel and I'm only fourteen. Trying to document the process on my channel, but I would love to talk to anyone that has written one before. Thank you.
How to Write an Award-winning, Bestselling First Novel, or at Least, Be Happy Whilst Trying: 1. Have specific goals 2. Make sure your goals are achievable 3. Be prepared to fail 4. Base your affirmations on fact 5. Be flexible in how you get there 6. Take responsibility 7. Focus on what you can control
Great info.
I don't like the title of this video, I think that if you write a novel for it to be a "bestelling" one you're in a wrong path. Of course money is a plus, yet sharing a story which captivates, fascinates your reader is much more interesting than writing one to be sold.
I'm working on my Sci-fi fantasy novel. I have been writing everyday (somehow) and have made ten pages that have survived so far. 15 have been taken out. I hope I do well :)
I have a feeling the "award-winning best selling" bit is meant to be a joke. It appears too many people who have remarked before me don't get British humor.
Thino, drink and write..of course bit always in that chronological order. go for a woman who is a jaw dropper slash traffic stopper. and then write about it
Thank you
Cheers, between this and the TEDx talk "How to Write Your Novel in Under 20 Minutes," I've cranked out 6 best sellers already this morning! :P Seriously though, some good advice here, thanks!
Hi, good video with great advice. But I would like add here that to become an author today without having the creative talent to write a book is easier than ever; all thanks to Fiverr. I was fascinated about uploading a book to Kindle and selling for some income but never knew what to do till I came across this woman who sells her service on Fiverr. She writes short stories, novels in whatever genre you desire. She has written 20 short stories for me so far and her creativity was dynamic. Do you want a book written for Kindle for you? I recommend you visit her today at
I am a freshman, rising sophomore in a few days, and I started writing my own novel just a few weeks ago. It isn't my first shot at writing, most everything else are just silly short stories that will go unfinished, but I am committed to what is two thousand two hundred words and I want to see it completed where all of my other works aren't. I wish anyone that reads this and anyone else that doesn't the best in their writing endeavors
Basic advice for life really.
I wasn't aware that writers were not in control of how the covers on their books looked. Is this always true?
This is superb
If you get 30 rejections, but you editied your book like ten times and you can't find the flaws in it, even while comparing it to other best sellers . . . maybe rewrite your query letter BUT don't stop trying to publish the book. If you honestly believe in the book you've written then do not stop querying every single agency, and every single agent from every single agency nationally and internationally until you get the darned thing published. They're have been successful authors who have been rejected from over 100 agencies, don't discount their stories. You can still have success from that manuscript.
"hasn't anyone seen how this is poetic?" that is the skill in writing! theme is a lost skill...
30 rejection letters means the novel isn't any good? This speaker clearly has not been through the normal process and has no idea how literary agents nor the publication process works.How to write an award winning best selling first novel? Be a well off white male with a lot of connections. It doesn't matter so much about the quality of the book.
I really enjoyed reading The Shock of the Fall. Great to see what in a way sparked the novel.  He definitely gave some good tips :)
The real challenge is getting something published. I've been trying to publish short stories and my first novel for years. I hesitate to self publish because that can be a rip off. 
He's not saying anything.
Please take this advice from a 2x super bowl champ Peyton Manning. Now he is a top novelist. Truly a talented man, even in retirement..
" If you get 30 rejection letters for your novel, then your novel might not be any good...." This is the part I shut the video off at. 30 is child's play lol.
J.K. rowling is laughing at you and you saying that 30 rejections = any good
So 30 rejections mean maybe your book is no good?Does that mean 30 publishers or agents who have seen your manuscript? or simply 30 who have seen your query package (which may contain a sample chapter)?
Can anybody answer this:how do I keep writing and not give up on the book,I seem to have a problem of not finishing my stories, (2)what software,app or website is best for writing a book.(3)what are the top website's for books to be displayed in;ex:wattpad,good reads..etc.(4)how do I contact u,for further references/questions... thanks😁
These are all excellent points, not only for writers to keep in mind, but for all those involved in creative endeavors. The last point, "focus on what you can control," is especially important. So many of my author-clients feel they have no control in getting their books published or even what happens to them after publication -- but there is so much that they do have control over, and that's what keeps them writing.
J.K Rowling
Really liked this fella, he's got an optimistic realism that seems above the usual TEDs bull-shitery.  I have a couple of half-baked ideas, but I'm just not a big reader of fiction. I've avidly read biographies and history from before there were girls and booze, but never any fiction. I'm a bit concerned that everyone says you need to read. Will I simply lack the knowledge of prose to write a decent novel? I've always been told I have a nice style, just maybe lacking the confidence. Would appreciate any help on this. x

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How to write an award-winning bestselling first novel | Nathan Filer | [email protected]