Write the Perfect Opening to Your Novel (Intermediate/Advanced)

Monday 24 June
£ 300.00 - early bird discount

A strong opening is the essential spark that will grab the attention of readers, agents and editors. Find out how to get your first few pages right with Okechukwu Nzelu.

Getting the opening of your novel right is vital for the success of your finished manuscript. Explore ways to grip your reader’s attention from the first page in this online tutored writing course with Okechukwu Nzelu, award-winning writer of Here Again Now.

In this course, we will look at some of the key features of the opening chapters of your novel – including introducing characters, setting up your plot, and grounding your readers in the world and time of your novel.

This eight-week course is designed for writers with a work in progress. Okechukwu will read and provide feedback on two assignments, including up to 3,500 words of your manuscript in progress, and at the end of the course you will have a 1-1 tutorial with him to discuss your writing and potential next steps.

Start date

Monday 24 June





8 weeks (please see course schedule below)




Course programme

Week one – Character

In the first week of the course, you will attend a live, online introductory session (via Zoom). You will meet your course mates and Okechukwu will give an overview of the course structure and materials, before moving on to a discussion on how to tackle writer’s block. On the course website, you’ll begin to work through exercises on characters.


Week two – Plot

We enter the world of plotting and the ways in which the opening pages of your book are essential for establishing the plot of the narrative. We will look at the ways character and plot intertwine, and you’ll be encouraged to apply this to your existing novel. You’ll also be working on polishing up a 500-word excerpt to send to Okechukwu for feedback.


Week three – Setting

Regardless of whether your novel is set ‘here and now’ in the real world, deep in the past or far in the future, or on a different planet or world entirely, this week will get you thinking about the ways you can make sure your reader knows exactly the story is set. You will also send an 500-word excerpt of your manuscript to Okechukwu for feedback.


Week four – Submitting

You will receive the feedback on your excerpt this week and you’ll be encouraged to look at the ways this can be applied to your manuscript as a whole. You will also begin to look at the future of your manuscript and you’ll have a go at writing a cover letter for submitting to agents and publishers.


Week five – Editing

In this week of the course, you will focus on writing your final assignment. This is a 3,000-word excerpt of your work in progress, and you’ll want to be re-writing and editing this with a critical eye, considering everything that you’ve learnt in the course so far.


Week six – Finalising

In the final week of the course, you will finish up your final edits and send your 3,000-word excerpt to your tutor.


Week seven – Feedback

Okechukwu will spend the next week reading and returning your 3,000-word excerpt with feedback.


Week eight – Tutorial

In the final week of the course, you will have a 1-1 tutorial with Okechukwu to discuss your writing and next steps.

Live sessions

There will be two live sessions for this course, which will take place over Zoom.

Zoom one: Wednesday 26 June, 6.30pm BST

Zoom two: Bookable one-to-ones on Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 August

Okechukwu Nzelu


Dr Okechukwu Nzelu is a Manchester-based writer. In 2015 he was the recipient of a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North. His debut novel, The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney (Dialogue Books, 2019), won a Betty Trask Award; it was also shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Polari First Book Prize, and longlisted for the Portico Prize. In 2021, it was selected for the Kingston University Big Read. His second novel, Here Again Now (Dialogue Books, 2022) was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Encore Award, the Polari Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Diverse Book Awards. He has made several appearances on national radio, and is a regular contributor to Kinfolk magazine. He is a non-executive director of ALCS and CLA, and Lecturer in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Image © Alex Douglas

Why study with National Centre for Writing?

National Centre for Writing has been supporting writers to develop their craft for over 25 years. Our online tutored courses are developed in partnership with University of East Anglia, home to the prestigious School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, which boasts award-winning alumni including Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Anne Enright. Our course tutors are all published writers, many of whom have studied or taught at UEA themselves.


While there are many online courses available to you across the world, ours are unique in offering:

  • One-to-one feedback on up to two assignments, directly from your course tutor
  • A tailored learning experience with 15 students maximum
  • Flexibility to progress through the course anywhere, any time
  • Support and structure to develop a writing routine
  • Skills and knowledge to improve the craft of writing
  • Confidence in your ability as a writer
  • Opportunity to join our NCW Alumni, an international network of like-minded writers and translators.

How it works


We have partnered with digital learning platform Teachable to host our self-paced courses. The platform is accessible across a range of devices, simple to use, and does not require any specialist equipment.

We want to make sure that you get the most out of our tutored online courses and feel confident that you’re choosing the right course. Each course contains a mixture of teaching content, reading to prompt discussion, writing exercises for you to hone your skills, and group and one-to-one feedback.

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Got a question?

If you still have questions, get in touch with the learning team by email [email protected] or phone (+44) 01603 877177 between our working hours of 9am – 5pm BST, Monday to Friday. We’re here to help!

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