Three-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell

With teaching sessions designed for online spaces and flexible scheduling, you can join this course wherever you live, in whatever time you have free.

CBC photo


Nov 14 2016 - Mar 13 2017






The Curtis Brown Creative Three-Month Online Novel-Writing Course will run from Monday 14 November 2016 to Monday 13 March 2017, and will bring all the ingredients of our successful London-based novel-writing courses to those unable to attend sessions at our offices. We welcome applicants from different countries and timezones – this course is incredibly flexible time-wise and it doesn’t matter how many hours ahead or behind the UK you are.


Lisa O'Donnell, author

Lisa O'Donnell is the author of the Commonwealth Book Prize-winning novel The Death of Bees, published by Windmill. Her second novel, Closed Doors is published by William Heinemann. Lisa won the Orange Screenwriting Prize for her screenplay The Wedding Gift and was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters’ Award. She is currently working on her third novel.

Guest Speakers

Curtis Brown-1266_opt

Anna Davis

Author and Agent

Christopher Wakling


Nikita Lalwani

Erin Kelly

Erin Kelly

Curtis Brown-1141_opt

Jake Arnott

Suzannah dunn pic

Suzannah Dunn



Our Three-Month Online Novel-Writing Course features dedicated advice and Q&As with agents from Curtis Brown and our sister agency C&W – something we believe to be unique in the online-learning arena. And the literary agents from both companies will read the openings and one-page synopses from our students at the end of the course. Commonwealth Book Prize-winning author and tutor Lisa O’Donnell will give direct feedback to students on their novels-in-progress via weekly online workshops and one-to-one tutorials. Lisa will also deliver specially designed teaching sessions on key topics and set homework exercises. Places will be offered to 15 students, selected on the basis of ability as demonstrated in their applications.

Curtis Brown and C&W have a reputation for launching new writers in a competitive publishing environment, and for developing successful writing careers. And in the five years since it was established, Curtis Brown Creative has seen 25 former students – including now-well-known authors Jessie Burton, Janet Ellis, Kate Hamer and Lisa Williamson go on to secure book deals with major publishers. And there have been deals for several students from our online courses – including Alice Clark-Platts (Bitter Fruits), Jane Harper (The Dry) and Nicholas Searle (The Good Liar). While we can't guarantee publication or representation for our students, we believe this online course gives talented authors everything they need to make their novels fly, and to make the agents they submit to sit up and take notice.

We welcome applications from anyone with writing talent and a strong idea for a novel.



Our online novel-writing course is designed, run and taught entirely by Curtis Brown and tutor Lisa O’Donnell, with participation from the C&W agency. All students will get:

• Weekly writing workshops with Lisa O’Donnell and your student peers, taking place in a secure group space, hosted on a tried-and-tested educational online platform.

• Two 30-minute, one-to-one tutorials with Lisa, delivered on the phone or by Skype (depending on student’s choice), and scheduled in consultation with you.

• Weekly teaching sessions on key topics with Lisa, with video material, and homework to include writing exercises, discussion and preparing synopses.

• A first-page workshop offering direct feedback for all students on their opening pages.

• Feedback on your essential one-page synopsis.

• A day-long session for dialogue and Q&As with the Curtis Brown and C&W literary-agent teams.

• A day-long opportunity to get feedback from the Curtis Brown and C&W agents on the all-important pitch letter.

• The opportunity to have your 3,000-word opening and synopsis read by the Curtis Brown and C&W literary-agent teams at the conclusion of the course.

• A secure discussion space to share material and thoughts with your student peer group informally.



Weekly workshopping of students’ novels
Each week, three students will be asked to submit 3,000-word extracts from their novels-in-progress to a private online discussion space, and will receive comments from the tutor and fellow students (both private, one-to-one comments and comments in the group discussion space). This provides focused feedback and encourages students to develop their capacity to self-edit, to read as writers, and to receive and provide constructive criticism.

Weekly workshop timetable
Workshop extracts are submitted to the tutor and group each Monday. By the following Monday, students must have read the three extracts and submitted their comments and a fully annotated version of each text to Curtis Brown Creative. Following this, the tutor opens up the group workshop discussion, which takes take place across 48 hours. At the end of the 48 hours (on Wednesday morning), we close the group workshop discussion and deliver all one-to-one written feedback to the relevant three students.

Weekly teaching sessions
Beginning each Monday morning, Lisa’s teaching sessions will cover a range of issues crucial to the writing of novels, such as plotting, characterisation, point-of-view and rewriting. As the course progresses, Lisa will post video material and teaching notes, which will form a library of resources available only to this student group.

Agent advice sessions
In a special day-long session, students are given the opportunity to put questions to the Curtis Brown and C&W agent teams in the discussion space, and to gain advice on how to navigate the choppy waters of the publishing industry.
In a further special day-long session, Curtis Brown and C&W agents will give feedback to the students on their agent-pitch letters and show them how to bypass the dreaded slush pile.

Individual tutorials
Each student will receive two 30-minute, one-to-one tutorials with Lisa O’Donnell. These will be conducted over the phone or via Skype, and will each be based on 3,000 words from the novel-in-progress, which Lisa will read ahead of time. Students will also be asked to highlight for Lisa any issues they may wish to discuss and put questions to her.



At the start of the Online Novel-Writing Course, each student will be given two dates by which to upload extracts from their novel-in-progress (up to 3,000 words each) to a private discussion area on our course website. These extracts will be discussed by the tutor and fellow students a week later in the workshop – and each student will receive both a full annotation of their work as well as detailed comments from the group. (So, students submit work and have their material ‘workshopped’ twice during the course.)

Students will also be given two dates to submit extracts of up to 3,000 words plus their questions and concerns in readiness for their one-to-one tutorials with Lisa.

Students will be given a ‘homework’ exercise each week. This will relate to the teaching topic scheduled and could be anything from a writing task to a reading requirement.

At the start of each week, students will be asked to read the workshop submissions of three students and to contribute an annotated version of the text to their peers as well as to feed their comments into the discussion space.

During the course, students will also be asked to prepare pitch letters and one-page synopses for discussion and feedback from the agents.

Students will be asked to contribute to frequent online discussions concerning the teaching topics, the work of other students as well as their own work, and Q&A sessions with the agent teams.

At the conclusion of the course, students are invited to submit the 3,000-word opening of their novel plus one-page synopsis to be read by the full Curtis Brown and C&W agent teams

This writing course is designed to be flexible. Students can go on- and offline at times to suit them throughout the period when workshops and discussions are open. Once a session starts, students will have access to the new content, and can act on this in their own time.




Monday 14 November – Sunday 20 November
Introduction (Anna Davis)
Teaching topic 1: Inspiration and Reading as Writers (Chris Wakling)

Monday 21 November – Sunday 27 November
Teaching topic 2: Openings (Lisa O’Donnell)
Writing workshop

Monday 28 November – Sunday 4 December
Teaching topic 3: Writing from Life (Nikita Lalwani)
Writing workshop

Monday 5 December – Sunday 11 December
Teaching topic 4: Story, Plotting & Planning (Chris Wakling)
Writing workshop

Monday 12 December – Sunday 18 December
Teaching topic 5: Voice and Narrative Point of View (Nikita Lalwani)
Writing workshop

Christmas break

Monday 9 January – Sunday 15 January
Teaching topic 6: Characterisation (Suzannah Dunn)
Writing workshop

Monday 16 January – Sunday 22 January
Teaching topic 7: Description, Tone & Style (Erin Kelly)
Plus briefing from Anna on Agent Q&As
Writing workshop

Monday 23 January – Sunday 29 January
Teaching topic 8: Dialogue (Suzannah Dunn)
‘Ask the Agents’ online discussion and Q&As with the Curtis Brown & C&W agents – Thursday 26 January
Writing workshop

Monday 30 January – Sunday 5 February
Teaching topic 9: Building Suspense (Erin Kelly)
Plus briefing from Anna on Letters to Agents online session
Writing workshop

Monday 6 February – Sunday 12 February
Teaching topic 10: Endings (Lisa O’Donnell)
Letters to Agents online session with the CB & C&W agents – Thursday 9 February
Writing workshop

Monday 13 February – Sunday 19 February
Teaching Topic 11: The Synopsis (Anna Davis)
Writing workshop

Monday 20 February – Sunday 26 February
Teaching topic 12: Editing and Rewriting (Jake Arnott)
Briefing on end of course submission to Agents (Anna Davis)
The Synopsis (I) – comments on 8 students’ synopses – Lisa O’Donnell

Monday 27 February – Sunday 5 March
The Synopsis (II) – comments on 7 students’ synopses (Lisa O’Donnell)
Briefing from Anna on First Page Workshop (a chance for students to get feedback from Lisa on their first page – having had chance to rewrite or amend it in light of the course)

Monday 6 March – Sunday 12 March
First page workshop (with Lisa)
Final questions and farewell from tutor

Monday 13 March
Students to submit 3,000 word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the CB and C&W agent teams.

*Please note, teaching topics and dates are subject to change



The course fee of £1,600 (inc VAT) per student is payable, in full, by bank transfer or cheque. Funds must reach our bank account before the course begins. Successful applicants who have concerns about being able to pay the fee in full at the start of the course should email

We regret that we are unable to refund fees, and would suggest students make their own insurance arrangements if required.



Applications for this course have now closed.