Use your lockdown time to write a novel

Vivien Horler

Mike Nicol

When you read detective thrillers by overseas writers you can enjoy them, knowing your chances of bumping into the baddies roaming London or Los Angeles are pretty small.

Mike Nicol’s books are different. The Clovelly-based writer creates recognisable Capetonian baddies of the type you would not want to irritate on the M5 on a dark night.

Now Nicol, author of successful and chilling crime novels, biographies – including one of Nelson Mandela – and memoirs, is offering budding writers who want to end the tedium of the lockdown an opportunity to write a best-selling novel.

“The lockdown provides at least one of the critical elements of writing a novel – and that is the time to write,” says Nicol.

The adage says: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Nicol however is both a successful doer and teacher.

Now he has developed a step-by-step online course to share his skills as a fiction writer. The interactive course takes 11 weeks, and includes videos, a wealth of research, examples from successful writers, assignments, and the opportunity to interact with other writers.

The course, titled Writing Fiction, begins on Monday June 29.

Nicol says: “It’s all very well to want to write, but unless you learn the basics your best efforts are, nine out of 10 times, bound to fail.

Aspiring writers need to learn the basic techniques.

“For a writer, these include defining the plot, deciding on what it is that you want to write – thrillers, romance, speculative fiction – learning to develop characters and, most difficult of all, learning to write authentic dialogue.

“These and other essentials are the foundations of this writing course,” says Nicol.

For the past 20 years Nicol has been teaching creative writing techniques, initially to university students and then online. He also works as an editor for several publishers.

“I’ve thought a lot about writing over the years so this course is the product of what I’ve learned and encountered.

“I’ve had to deal with all the problems that aspiring writers experience and developed this course as a toolbox of the techniques that will help them to become disciplined, dedicated writers on the way to a publishing career.”

Of the course Nicol says: “You will begin by selecting a genre. Then we’ll look at developing characters and at writing punchy dialogue, before getting to grips with crafting dramatic opening paragraphs and developing your writer’s voice. Then comes that all-important task of rewriting.”

Writers who have published books after taking Mike’s courses include Qarnita Loxton who said: “Mike Nicol’s creative writing course changed my life. I am now a published author.”

Karen Rutter said: “Mike supervised my Masters in Creative Writing degree at UCT – and he was brilliant.”

A non-fiction writing course begins on August 3.

For more information see or email Nicol on


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