The Ultimate Novel Writing Course – My Experience

This post is by Angela Williams. A Founder Member of Pens Around the World, she left us in 2021 to pursue a demanding creative writing course. Now she has completed the course and written us this report!
More about Angela on our Friends of Pens page here.


Under Starter’s Orders

Even though I had completed many courses in the short forms of fiction, it was with a mixture of hope, excitement and trepidation that I signed up for the Ultimate Novel Writing Course given by Jericho Writers. The UNWC is marketed as a condensed MA in creative writing. In July 2021 I sent off my application with a sample of published writing and about two weeks later I got an email stating my acceptance! Committing to a year-long study at this level was a huge step. I had just moved from Amsterdam to Nijmegen so it was a gutsy decision to make requiring plenty of staying power. But the course would give me structure and was held in high regard amongst industry professionals, so I paid up and purely on gut instinct chose my mentor, cosy crime writer, Helen Cox.

Jockeys on horseback racing in the White Turf race at Sant Moritz. Photographer Pietro Mattias via Unsplash

Cold Feet

In preparation for the course I revisited my 2019 Nanowrimo novel, The Charioteer of Selina. The UNWC is primarily aimed at writers who have a first draft and wish to polish it to publishable standard. A LOT of work would be needed to brush up my intended project. I hadn’t gone back to it earlier due to personal issues coupled with the fact that a similar middle grade novel about a female charioteer in ancient Rome had been published in March 2021. But after a chat with an employee of JW, I was persuaded that that was a good sign, meaning that a market for my story already existed. Also, I decided to aim at a YA readership and set the story in a low-fantasy world to distinguish it from competitors. My cold feet remained icy though and even after the phone call to JW, I contemplated starting a new novel. The first Zoom call with my mentor and twelve-strong cohort was fast approaching and I needed to be able to talk about my plans with insight. At least I had the bare bones of a story which followed the three-act structure of Save the Cat Writes a Novel so that was all in my favour. And I was fond of my protagonist, Yara, and was happy to spend a year in her company. Decision made.

Tight Jeans

My gut instinct choosing Helen Cox as my mentor served me well. I got a lot out of all the modules but her module aimed at expressing emotions and using the senses opened up a new world of possibilities. Because of my background in the visual arts I see stories in pictures, and had come to rely on visuals to convey my character’s interior world and emotions. The old adage, ‘show don’t tell,’ had become constricting like a favourite pair of jeans that one has outgrown. When these beliefs were challenged by my mentor’s and fellow writers’ comments, I had a light-bulb moment and realised I could take my reader much deeper into my protagonist’s emotions. Now, I am going back into the 3rd draft of my novel armed with a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus.

To Zoom or not to Zoom

Each month started with a Zoom webinar on the theme of the month led by one of the course tutors. All students, which was roughly about fifty of us, would be present for that. There was a chance to pose questions during these calls. Recommended reading and homework assignments were posted by the relevant tutor on Teachable. We shared homework with our fellow cohort of twelve and mentor on our group’s page. I tried to give feedback on most members’ writing. As the course progressed we got to know each other better and after testing the waters I felt confident in giving and receiving constructive but critical feedback without worrying that my fellow writers would be offended. The monthly Zoom talks with our mentor group where each of us had to talk about our progress or lack thereof was an aspect of the course that I dreaded but I could not have got through the course without the emotional support those calls provided. Helen created an atmosphere in which people felt safe to share their challenges both on a writing and personal level. Giving voice to one’s concerns and listening to others makes the hard and lonely job of writing more surmountable. I wasn’t the only one dealing with imposter syndrome or worrying who would ever want to listen to a white, middle-aged woman’s fictive dreams. My one-on-one calls with Helen meant I could go deeper into my writing challenges. She would point me in the right direction and together we could battle my inner critic into submission and I would go back to my WIP with enthusiasm again.


Cover image of the 2021/2022 Ultimate Novel Writing Course Anthology of Graduates UK & Europe

After the final self-publishing homework in August I was thrilled to get positive feedback from the founder of Jericho Writers, crime writer, Harry Bingham. He said my self-publishing package was really strong and his pony-mad daughter would love to read the book in a few years’ time!

Here’s my hook

Young Adult
Book Title: Born to Race (formerly Charioteer of Selina)

Gutsy heroine, Yara, needs the heart of Spartacus and the audacity of National Velvet to survive in the cutthroat world of chariot racing.

Read the UNWC anthology showcasing 21/22 students’ opening paragraphs by clicking through to my blog here.

I would love to hear more about your writing journey! Do you need a writing course or group to spur you on? Do share your thoughts here.

Horse race picture credit: Photo by Pietro Mattia on Unsplash


  1. jane hindess

    How nice to read your experience of participating in this course. It certainly gets me thinking of my own writing ambitions. I wish you success on your publishing journey

    • Angela

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks for commenting! I have learned to enjoy the process of improving my writing.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I started an MPhil in 2013 (following redundancy) to improve my writing. I enjoyed the research element so much, I went on to complete a PhD. Lots of luck with your novel – love the elevator pitch.

    • Angela

      Hi Gail,
      Glad you enjoyed the blog! Yes, there was a lot of research for my novel but that turned out well because Nijmegen has a rich Roman history.
      Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. This is very timely and interesting as I’ve just received an invitation from JW to apply for next year’s course. My background is mainly Creative Non Fiction but I’ve long had an ambition to write a novel. I have an idea (loads in fact) about a protagonist but little idea about plot (apart from the ending!) and structure.
    From your experience do you think it worth a newbie novelist investing the time ( of which I have a lot) and money (of which I don’t!) on this course?

    • Angela

      Hi Jeremy, Glad you found the blog helpful! In my group there were two other writers who started more or less from scratch, i.e. they hadn’t already written a novel so I wouldn’t worry too much about that aspect of it. In fact it might be a bonus not to have a fully-fledged novel. Fewer darlings to kill!
      I had plenty of time too but still found time to procrastinate which is a thing of mine.

      As to your financial situation, I can’t say. If you are determined and don’t need the support of peers and a mentor I guess you could go it alone and find lots of free stuff online. The really valuable thing I found was having external deadlines. Plus I learned loads about the craft of novel writing/writing and an insider’s peak into the publishing industry. Good luck whatever you decide!

  4. Kimberly Hirsh

    Hi Angela, it’s great to hear about your experience in this intense program. I wasn’t familiar with it before. I wish you wonderful success in 2023 with your creative pursuits and everything!

    • Angela

      Hi Kimberly, glad you liked the blog and thanks for responding. I wish you all the best too!

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