28 January 2013

Beyond Curtis Brown Creative

Jeffrey Archer with a Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing groupJeffrey Archer with a Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing group
by Rufus Purdy From Our Students, Guest Blog

Please ignore the byline above. This wonderful blog piece is by Theresa Howes (www.theresahowes.co.uk), an alumnus of the Curtis Brown Creative three-month creative-writing course. If our first six-month novel-writing group – which begins working together on 13 February is anything like as close-knit as the one Theresa describes below, then those to whom we’ll be offering places on the course can count themselves very lucky.

It’’ hard to believe it’s been over a year since the Autumn 2011 three-month novel writing course ended. At the time, we’d all come so far with our novels that we didn’t want to lose the momentum, so in spite of some of us living as far away as Wales and the south coast, we decided to form a writers’ group.

One year on, we still meet every month to read and comment on each other’s work, employing the model of the workshop-style sessions that helped us so much during the course. We set writing exercises for each other, impose deadlines, and offer support and encouragement. We’re no longer just that group of strangers who eyed each other up nervously the first time we met in the reception of the Curtis Brown offices; we’ve become friends.

Much has happened during the year: one of us has been signed by a Curtis Brown agent and has a publishing contract. One of us has had a prize-winning short story read on Radio 4. A baby has been born and another one is on its way. People have moved houses and jobs, and one of us had a near miss with the New York hurricane, but the writers’ group remains the one still point in our lives.

The group works so well because we have the background of the course in common, which means we have the same focus on learning to self-edit, and we continue the Curtis Brown Creative ethos of striving to be objective about our work. The regular meetings help us to keep going with our individual writing projects because knowing you’ll have to admit to your peers how much you’ve actually written during the past four weeks really concentrates the mind. We’re all at different stages with our novels and most of us are writing in different genres, but the one thing we share is a trust in each other’s critical judgement.

We learned many things on the course about the dark arts of novel writing, about developing plot and character and how to write a synopsis and so on, but the enduring legacy comes from being taught to understand the value of constructive feedback and the benefit of giving your time freely and generously to fellow writers. Writing can be a lonely business, but in the past year, I’ve discovered that sharing the experience makes it a whole lot more worthwhile and it’s surprising what you get back in return.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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