Writing Crime & Thrillers – Advanced

Work on your crime novel or psychological thriller with dedicated online teaching from a genre expert and bestselling author.


09 May 2022 - 11 July 2022


Taught via live webinars and workshops on our Learn platform

Selective Entry

We'll offer places to 15 writers whose work shows promise


Advanced genre-led course


Are you plotting the perfect murder – perhaps in the mode of Tana French, Richard Osman or Abir Mukherjee? Or maybe you’re channelling Patricia Highsmith, Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins to craft your suspense novel? On this high-level course for people writing crime fiction and psychological thrillers, bestselling author Emma Kavanagh will draw you deep into the workings of your genre and reveal the tricks and techniques that can help you take your novel to the next level.

You’ll join a group of 15 crime/thriller writers, tutored by Emma, for flexibly-timed weekly writing workshops delivered on our bespoke online learning platform, plus live group teaching sessions via Zoom covering important genre-topics, and an in-depth one-to-one tutorial with Emma towards the end of the course.

Students will also take part in an exclusive Zoom masterclass Q&A with a top literary agent. And at the end of the course, you’ll be invited to share the opening of your novel informally with the agent teams at Curtis Brown and C&W – and then with our specially curated selection of top UK literary agents working in your genre.

For those not familiar with Zoom, it’s a video conferencing technology that enables you to meet up virtually with others. By using video and audio, you’ll be able to connect with your class and experience Emma’s teaching live as if you were all in the same room. You’ll be able to ask questions and give your thoughts, ensuring the natural back-and-forth you’d encounter in the classroom – and the CBC team will be on hand to help if you have any problems.

The course is a great next step for those who have taken CBC’s six-week online Writing Crime Fiction or Writing a Psychological Thriller courses – though it’s also suitable for anyone who is working on a crime novel or thriller, irrespective of whether you’ve studied with us before. To get the best out of the course, you’ll need to be able to spend around seven hours per week on your writing, reading other students’ work and completing homework set by Emma in addition to attending the classes.

We’ve been helping writers tell their stories for the past ten years. Since launching in 2011 over 150 of our former students have gone on to get major publishing deals for their novels, including award-winning and bestselling crime and thriller writers, such as Jane Harper, Caz Frear, Nicholas Searle, Jenny Quintana, Heidi Perks, Alice Clark Platts, S D Sykes and Jo Jakeman. You can read more about our online course success stories here.

While we can’t guarantee publication or representation, we lavish our expertise on our students. The agents of Curtis Brown and C&W are hungry for new authors and will be actively looking for clients among our writers.


Emma Kavanagh, Author

Dr Emma Kavanagh received her PhD in cognitive psychology in 2004, and then moved on to specialise in trauma, specifically survival in high-risk situations. She went on to spend a decade providing training to specialist police teams across the UK (firearms, counter-terrorism, body recovery) and NATO forces throughout Europe on the psychology of life threatening situations. Emma then began writing fiction, with her first four novels (Falling, Hidden, The Missing Hours & The Killer On The Wall) being published by Arrow, and next two (To Catch A Killer, The Devil You Know) with Orion. Her first non-fiction book, How To Be Broken, was released in 2021, and she is currently in the process of writing her second. How To Love A Psychopath will look at those with psychopathic traits and will examine how those traits impact the people who love them.


Teaching Sessions

Explore your genre

On six Wednesday evenings, Emma will welcome the group for a 90-minute Zoom class, covering topics of significance to crime and thriller writers, such as how to plot a mystery, build suspense and construct a killer twist.

Writing Workshops

Led by your tutor

You'll get a dedicated workshop centring on the opening 3,000 words from your novel-in-progress with your tutor and the group. These sessions offer in-depth written feedback and are also designed to help develop your editing skills.

One-to-One Tutorial

Work closely with Emma on your material

You’ll get a 45-minute one-to-one tutorial with Emma, conducted via Zoom or phone, based on a 3,000-word section of your novel plus a one-page synopsis to articulate the plot. This is a great opportunity to address specific concerns about your work.

Industry Masterclass

Hear from bestseller Lisa Jewell and her literary agent

Students will take part in a special 90-minute Zoom masterclass with author Lisa Jewell and literary agent Jonny Geller. They will share their experiences and answer your questions about the current market for crime/thrillers and the publishing process.

Student Forum

A hub for your writing community

We have developed a bespoke learning platform exclusively for our students. Here you can give and receive workshop feedback, and discuss the teaching topics with your fellow students and tutor.

End of Course Submission

Share your work with top literary agents

At the end of the course all students will be invited to submit the 3,000-word opening of their novel, plus a synopsis, to be shared first with the agent teams at CB and C&W - and then with our selection of top UK agents from across the industry. This is not a formal submission but a chance to give the agents a taste of your work at this stage.


We pride ourselves on the tightly knit writing communities that are established on our courses. As well as getting feedback on extracts from your own novel during the course, we’ll be asking you to read the work of your 14 fellow students week by week, and provide constructive written comments in our online discussion space. We find this process helps students develop their own inner editor and has a hugely positive impact on their own writing. On each of five weeks, three students will submit 3,000-word extracts from their novels-in-progress to be workshopped by the rest of the group and the tutor. Each student gets one workshop focused on their work during the course.

Applications now closed

Our application form asks some questions about you and your writing – and it also asks you to send us the first 3,000 words of the crime novel or thriller you’re working on and a one-page synopsis.

Places will be offered to the strongest applicants with promising work, as selected by the CBC team. The final deadline for applications is midnight Sunday 10 April and we will reply to all candidates by Thursday 14 April.

The course fee of £960 per student is payable by bank transfer or cheque. Funds must reach our bank account before the course begins.

Please upload your application via the form at the end of this page. If you encounter any problems during the application process, or have any questions about the course, please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.


Students of this course are invited to join our alumni community, meaning that when this course finishes you’ll be able to access a range of exclusive writing services, available only to the alumni of our selective courses. These services include individual mentoring from some of our most experienced tutors (you get to choose your supervisor from the available tutors), a five-day alumni summer school, editorial reports on your completed novel, submission reports on your ‘pitch package’ and coaching from experienced practitioners. If you’d like further details about these services, and current prices, before applying to this course, you can email us on cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk .

Additionally, any students from our selective course who want to formally submit their novels to agents from Curtis Brown or C&W will be given advice and support from the Curtis Brown Creative team with their submission. Full information about this free service is provided during the course.

Masterclass speakers

Students will attend a special live Zoom masterclass with author Lisa Jewell and literary agent Jonny Geller.

Course Schedule

The course will take place online and teaching will be split between the weekly writing workshops on our online learning platform – and live Zoom sessions. Teaching begins at 7pm UK-time and will run until 8.30pm on Wednesday evenings on the dates listed below (in the same way that classes would happen in our offices).




Mon 9 May – Fri 13 May

Introductions and intention-setting in the online forum.


Wed 11 May, 7-8.45pm

Welcome Zoom session with Emma Kavanagh and a senior member of the CBC team. Students will introduce themselves and their novels-in-progress, having a go at a short pitch. Emma will provide a brief overview of starting our stories and how we can best spark our reader’s interest.

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The creative brain + writing workshops

Mon 16 May – Fri 20 May

Emma kicks off the week by posting some thoughts and encouragement to the students, then opens the writing workshops for three students, which will run flexibly across the week in the online forum, based on 3,000-word extracts from their novels.


Wed 18 May – 7-8.30pm

In this live Zoom session, Emma ill look at how our stories begin. She will discuss how creativity works in the brain and work with students to develop strategies to maximise the brain’s creative operation. She will also cover what happens on those dreaded moments when creativity fails & look at what we can do to manage it. This session will also answer the big questions of why tell stories at all, how stories affect our perceptions of the world around us, and how authors can use this knowledge to best effect.

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Writing Workshops

Mon 23 May – Fri 27 May

Emma starts the week by posting to the students, then opens the writing workshops for three students, which will run flexibly across the week in the online forum.

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Writing crime + writing workshops

Mon 30 May – Fri 3 June

Emma gives her weekly post, then opens the writing workshops for three students, which will run flexibly across the week in the online forum.


Wed 1 June – 7-8.30pm

In this live Zoom session, Emma will look at the enduring pull of crime stories and the role they play in our coping with the world around us. We will cover how to plot like a criminal mastermind and consider the all-important role of pacing in moving the story forward. We will also look at the role of facts when writing fiction, and consider how the understanding of a reader’s capacity to process stories can help us in structuring our novels.

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Writing workshops

Mon 6 June – Fri 10 June

Emma posts to the students, then opens three writing workshops, which will run flexibly across the week in the online forum.

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Protagonist, antagonist and suspects + writing workshops

Mon 13 June – Fri 17 June

Emma posts to the students, then opens three writing workshops, which will run flexibly across the week in the online forum.


Wed 15 June – 7-8.30pm

In this live Zoom session, Emma will look at what leads us to empathise with characters and consider how we can use this knowledge to build a better protagonist. This class will also look at why we need complexity in our antagonists and the value of the role of the bad guy. We will also look at the role of character development across the span of the stories and how to use motivation to better fuel the plot.

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Guest speaker session + individual tutorials

Mon 20 June – Fri 24 June

Emma gives her weekly post to the group in the online forum, and five students get individual 45-minute tutorials with her on Zoom, based on 3,000 words and their one-page synopsis.


Weds 22 June – 7-8.30pm

In this live Zoom session hosted by a member of the CBC team, bestselling crime novelist Lisa Jewell and top Curtis Brown literary agent Jonny Geller will discuss the publishing of crime and thrillers, as well as answering students’ questions.

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The criminally unexpected + individual tutorials

Mon 27 June – Fri 1 July

Emma posts to the group in the online forum, and five students get individual 45-minute tutorials with her on Zoom, based on 3,000 words and their one-page synopsis.


Weds 29 June – 7-8.30pm 

In this live Zoom session, Emma will consider themes and the meaning within our crime novels, how we can go about keeping our writing fresh and innovative whilst still respecting the genre. We will talk about the techniques we can use to keep even the most seasoned crime reader guessing, and what we can bring to our hero’s journey to make the reader want to follow along.

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Course conclusion

Mon 4 July – Fri 8 July

Emma posts to the group in the online forum for the last time, and five students get individual 45-minute tutorials with her on Zoom, based on 3,000 words and their one-page synopsis.


Weds 6 July – 7-8.30pm 

In this live Zoom session, Emma and the group – along with a member of the CBC team – draw the course to a close with  some concluding thoughts and advice on next steps. There’s a last chance for students to practise pitching, and for them to ask their final questions.

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Ready your submission


Mon 11 July – Mon 18 July

Students to submit 3,000-word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents.

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Ready to apply?

Please apply with the first 3,000 words of the novel you’d like to work on during the course, and a synopsis of no more than a page (both need to be in the same document, as you can only upload ONE file in the application below). The CBC team will select applicants based on the quality of the writing sample provided. The deadline for applications is midnight, end of day Sunday 10 April, and we will respond to applicants by Thursday 14 April.

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