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15 July 2019

Catherine Cho: ‘Stories need to have rhythm and pacing’

Catherine Cho, Curtis Brown 120
by Curtis Brown 120 Curtis Brown 120, From the Agents, Writing Tips

As part of our 120th birthday celebrations, Curtis Brown – in partnership with Curtis Brown Creative – have launched the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize! Our mission is to find the exciting new voices of the future. To enter all you need is a 10,000 word novel opening and a one-page synopsis (find out more here). The deadline for entering the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize is August 1st …

Tracy Chevalier, bestselling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring and A Single Thread, will chair the judging panel formed of Curtis Brown agents and the Curtis Brown Creative team. 

To help you prepare your submission every Monday across 5 weeks a member of the Curtis Brown 120 Team will share their 3 top tips for writers thinking of entering the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.

Last week Norah Perkins talked about the importance of reading your submission aloud. Now it is Catherine Cho‘s turn to share her wisdom. Catherine is an associate agent. She started at Curtis Brown as an assistant to Jonny Geller and is now building her own list …

1. Focus on the opening. Think about whether your novel starts in the “best” place. Does it create an immediate sense of conflict and narrative momentum? The beginning of a story isn’t necessarily the most intriguing place to begin and setting the stage for a character’s backstory isn’t always necessary. There are many practical examples of this, but the ones that come to mind are Sarah J Maas and Throne of Glass (we find out the character’s rich backstory as the story continues, but it doesn’t start in the most logical place) and Ann Patchett, who is a master of opening a story.

2. Think about your voice. A strong sense of voice is one of the most distinctive elements of a submission, and it’s one of the most effective ways to draw in a reader. If your novel is in first person, make sure that the voice stands out, that the first person perspective is earned.

3. Trace your narrative arc. We’re only asking for the beginnings of novels, but we are going to be looking at the plot outline for your novel. Stories need to have rhythm and pacing, and a synopsis is a good exercise in figuring this out for your novel. Think about whether your novel builds in an effective way and whether it has a central narrative heart.

Find everything you need to know about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize here

Meet the Curtis Brown 120 Team

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