How The Handmaid’s Tale can help you write your novel

Odds are you’ve seen at least the first season of The Hand Maid’s Tale, but have you read the book?

If the answer is no, then you are in for a double treat.

Treat # 1. Margaret Atwood is a master of her craft, so it’s a fantastic read.

Treat #2. You get a free DIY writing masterclass along way.

Why? Because when you know what happens in the story, you can focus more on the writing.

You are less distracted by wondering what’s going to happen, so you can pay more attention to how the story unfolds.

You can slow down your reading and enjoy the prose, ponder the choices the writer makes and re-read powerful sections to analyse why they are so good.

Slow reading is a fantastic way to learn more about your craft.


I read with a pencil. I mark passages that jump out at me and dog-ear the page so I can come back to it later. My co-host of the Curious Writers Book Club, Stephanie Preston,  who also writes Instagram book reviews as the word witch, uses little sticky notes – her books are bristling with them.

A great way to start a slow reading practice is to either re-read a book you love, or read a book that you’ve seen dramatised on screen. These are slightly different experiences, but they have the same effect.

Your familiarity with the story allows you to take your time.

Taking  your time allows you to see more.

When I read The Hand Maid’s Tale I was blown away with Margaret Atwood’s deft hand. She feeds us bits of information at the right time (not an info dump in sight), slowly building the dystopian world and revealing Offred’s back story. At the same she has us trapped in that room with Offred, enduring the long tedious hours of doing absolutely nothing. Later in the book she juxtaposes this with the oppressive humidity of summer and a storm that won’t break. It’s a returning motif that is subtle but powerful. And enduring – it’s still with me about six months after reading the book. I can still feel Offred’s terrible inertia. If I hadn’t seen the series I might not have even noticed it. I might have been too caught up in the claustrophobic feeling it gave me without seeing how Atwood achieved it.

I learn more and more about writing with every book I read. If you adopt a slow reading practice, you will too.

The Handmaid's Tale book

Want more writing tips like this?

Sign up to my email list for more tips and tricks, as well as notifications of events and discounts. Nothing too spammy, I promise.

You can unsubscribe at any time if you decide it's not for you.

...almost there...

Thank you for signing up to my email list.




Lu Sexton

Hello, I’m Lu Sexton. I’m an editor and writing coach. I’ve been working with writers like you since 2009 and I love it. My mission is to help you bring out the best in your writing and get you one step closer to being published.

As an aspiring writer, I didn’t know exactly what to expect from an editor, but nevertheless, Lu managed to go beyond and impress me with her practical approach and useful tips. I feel that “an ice block” in the way of my finishing my first novel manuscript melted away in Lu’s hands. Thank you!

Anu Besson

Creative writer

Thanks Lu for doing such a great job copyediting my novel. All the feedback, from general notes to specific comments and changes, made sense to me and have improved the book in so many ways. I hope to work with you again some time.

Cover of 'Red Reflection'

Phil MacNamara

Author of 'Red Reflections'

I had been working on my first novel for years, but despite all my plotting and planning felt I was going in circles after five drafts. Lu offered to read my first 10k words and then provide a one-hour video review. She explained this is a far less expensive way to get someone like me back on track than to have her read the whole thing, editing every page. And she was right!

Her feedback was very thoughtful and honest, exactly what I needed. She covered some technical aspects, characterisation, voice, and plot themes, and diplomatically pointed out some things which might confuse the reader.

So it’s a developmental type of review with a structural twist that has inspired me to reconsider what wasn’t working so well and enhancing what was. Perfect!

Robert Frew

First-time novelist