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Writing Your Novel – Six Months

Our biggest online course gives you an intense learning experience as a writer with direct engagement with authors and a publisher, as well as literary agents.


Sept 6 2021 - Feb 28 2022


Take this course from anywhere in the world

Selective Entry

We offer places to the most talented applicants

Course Fee £2,800

Work on your novel with the experts

Course Overview

This online novel-writing course is designed to be as useful and fulfilling as the courses we run in our offices, with contributions from agents here at Curtis Brown and C&W. This is a course for people who are serious about writing a novel. As well as being packed with useful content, it’s flexible so you can write and study at times to suit you.

We’re excited to be offering two brilliant tutors for this course meaning you’ll get two experienced teaching perspectives and two distinct teaching voices focused on your work across six months. The first half of the course will be taught by author Lisa O’Donnell and the second half of the course will be taught by Cathi Unsworth.

Your tutors will each lead weekly online writing workshops, set weekly writing exercises and provide one-to-one tutorials where they will give direct feedback to all students on their novels-in-progress. Weekly teaching and workshops will take place on our private online forum, and one-to-one tutorials will be conducted via phone/Zoom. In addition, you’ll have access to a wealth of teaching videos, notes and resources from our CBC tutor team (listed below), all made available on our online learning platform.

The Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents, and a guest author and a guest publisher will offer writing and pitching advice in special events across the course including exclusive Zoom webinars. At the end of the course, students get to share the opening of their novels informally with the agent team.

In the nine years since we’ve started Curtis Brown Creative, over 130 of our former students have gone on to get major publishing deals for their novels. We’ve had some fantastic success stories across all genres, including online course students  Jane Harper (The Dry) and Nicholas Searle (The Good Liar), both now international bestsellers whose novels are being adapted for the big screen. 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.

‘Having some really positive feedback and stirring up quite a lot of debate made me feel more confident that my characters were leaving the page and having an effect on people. It also took a while to find my protagonist’s voice – but with Lisa’s fabulous tutorials, we got there in the end!’
Rachel Marks, whose debut novel, Saturdays at Noon, was published by Michael Joseph in 2020.


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.

Cathi Unsworth, Author

Cathi Unsworth is the author of four crime novels, most recently That Old Black Magic; plus two further (non-genre) novels, all published by Serpent’s Tail. She has published numerous short stories and edited the short story collection London Noir. Cathi is a journalist and editor, has taught for the Arvon Foundation, and regularly delivers feedback to students on CBC's six-week writing courses.


Teaching Videos & Tasks

Tips on a range of topics from our tutor team

Your tutors will set weekly tasks for the group - writing exercises or topics to prepare for discussion. Across 14 teaching modules, videos and notes will be made available on our platform, covering a range of topics such as plotting, characterisation, point-of-view and rewriting. 

Writing Workshops

Led by your tutors

You'll get three dedicated workshops centring on material from your novel-in-progress with your tutor and the group (extracts of 3,000 words, each time). These sessions offer in-depth written feedback and are also designed to help develop your self-editing skills.

Curtis Brown Creative learning platform forum

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses – find your writing community

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

One-to-One Tutorials

Extracts of your novel will be closely reviewed by your tutors

You'll get one 45-minute, one-to-one tutorial with Lisa O'Donnell – and one with Simon Ings – over the phone or via Skype/Zoom, based on 3,000-word sections of your novel-in-progress. Use these tutorials to address your specific concerns about your writing.

Pitch Workshop

Agent feedback on your letter & elevator pitch

We'll give you the vital dos and don'ts of agent pitch letters and elevator pitches - you'll then write your own and get in-depth written feedback on both the letter and the short pitch from a Curtis Brown/C&W literary agent.

Synopsis Advice

Expert critique of the dreaded synopsis

We'll draw on our agenting expertise to give you the vital ingredients of a great synopsis - then you'll write one, and get individual feedback from an experienced member of the CBC editor team.

Tutorial with an Industry professional

Intensive one-to-one discussion of your novel-in-progress

Near the end of the course all students will get a 45-minute one-to-one on Zoom/phone with an experienced CBC editor or a Curtis Brown/ C&W literary agent. They will read a 6,000-word extract from your novel-in-progress plus your synopsis. They will provide detailed feedback and publishing industry advice.

Jonny Geller, agent

Three Industry Webinars

Join exclusive live video chats with top literary agents, publishers and authors

Students will take part in three special 60-minute video webinars. Guest speakers include literary agent Jonny Geller, author Sairish Hussain, and a publisher. These industry experts will talks about writing, books and the publication journey. There will also be an opportunities to ask questions.

End of Course Submission

Share your opening with the Curtis Brown and C&W 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 with the agent teams at CB and C&W teams. This is not a formal submission to the agency 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 (both privately and 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. Each week three students will submit 3,000-word extracts from their novels-in-progress to be workshopped by the rest of the group. It’ll be your turn to get the group’s dedicated workshop attention three times across the course.

Exclusive alumni services

By popular request we have now launched a range of exclusive writing services, available only to the alumni of our selective courses, which you’ll be able to access after your course finishes. These services include individual mentoring from some of our most experienced tutors (you get to choose your supervisor from the available tutors), a four-day annual alumni summer school at our London offices, 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 .

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.

Novel-writing student

Guest Sessions

This course offers direct interaction with the literary agents at Curtis Brown and C&W, published authors and a commissioning editor from a major publishing house. Every week you’ll also get access to a new module of teaching with exclusive pre-recorded teaching videos from the expert author-tutors on our team:

Federico Andornino

Federico Andornino is Publishing Director at Weidenfeld and Nicolson, the literary imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, where he acquires literary fiction with an edge, sharp and original suspense and crossover, LGBTQ+ literature, graphic novels and fiction in translation. Recent publications for W&N include Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, a dazzling novel about modern love up against the confusing, sad aches of mental illness and an instant Sunday Times bestseller; Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers, a word-of-mouth hit with over 120,000 copies sold across formats, longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction; Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson, an exploration of class, queerness and race in America, longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction; The Weekend by Charlotte Wood, a stunning novel about friendship, anger and ageing, a book of the year for The Times, Observer, Independent, Daily Express and Good Housekeeping; Shooting Martha by David Thewlis, a darkly funny, Hitchcockian new novel by the award-winning actor and writer; and The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi, the ‘magnificent’ (Guardian) new novel by a master of European literature. Federico started his career at Two Roads, an imprint of John Murray Press. He is a graduate of UCL’s MA in Publishing and holds a degree in Dante Studies from the University of Siena, Italy. From 2008 to 2010 he was a fellow at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, one of Europe’s oldest grandes écoles for university learning.

Federico Andornino

Publishing Director

Applications now closed

Our selective applications process means that you will be writing your novel in a peer group of 15 students working at a high level. Many of our former students have found their trusted readers with us – and form strong working friendships with class-mates which go on long after the course is over.

The course fee of £2,800 (inc VAT) per student is payable, in full, by bank transfer. Funds must reach our bank account before the course begins. If you are unable to pay the full fee upfront, let us know and we can arrange an instalment plan.

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 more questions about the course, please email for assistance.

Course Schedule

Module 1

Inspiration and Reading as Writers

Monday 6 Sept – Sunday 12 Sept

With videos from Anna Davis and Simon Ings


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Module 2


Monday 13 Sept – Sunday 19 Sept

With videos from Laura Barnett

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 3

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Module 3

Writing from Life

Monday 20 Sept – Sunday 3 Oct

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 6 (3 per week)

see more

Module 4

Story, Plotting & Planning

Monday 4 Oct – Sunday 17 Oct

With videos from Andrew Michael Hurley

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 6 (3 per week)

On Wednesday 13 Oct students will join a special live webinar with Curtis Brown literary agent Jonny Geller.

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Module 5

Voice and Narrative Point of View

Monday 18 Oct – Sunday 31 Oct

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 6 (3 per week)

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Module 6

Place & Setting

Monday 1 Nov – Sunday 7 Nov

With videos from Andrew Michael Hurley

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 3 – and farewell from Lisa.

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Module 7

The Synopsis

Monday 8 Nov – Sunday 14 Nov

With videos and notes from Anna Davis. You will be required to post your synopsis on the forum by 9am, Mon 15 Nov and feedback from one of our team of editors will follow before Mon 21 Nov.

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Module 8


Monday 15 Nov – Sunday 28 Nov

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

Workshops led by Cathi Unsworth x 6 (3 per week)

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Module 9

Description, Tone & Style

Monday 29 Nov – Sunday 5 Dec

With videos from Laura Barnett

Workshops led by Cathi Unsworth x 3

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Module 10


Monday 6 Dec – Sunday 12 Dec

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

Workshops led by Cathi Unsworth x 3

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Module 11

Building Suspense

Monday 13 Dec – Sunday 19 Dec

With videos from Christopher Wakling

Workshops led by Cathi Unsworth x 3

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Module 12


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Module 13


Monday 10 Jan – Sunday 23 Jan

With videos from Christopher Wakling

Workshops led by Cathi Unsworth x 6 (3 per week)

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Module 14

Editing and Rewriting

Monday 24 Jan – Sunday 30 Jan

With videos from Simon Ings

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Module 15

Agent Letter & Pitch Workshop

Monday 31 Jan – Sunday 6 Feb

With videos and individual feedback from the agents at Curtis Brown and C&W.

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Module 16

Final Questions

Monday 7 Feb – Sunday 13 Feb

A chance to ask final questions – and farewell from Cathi.

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Module 17

End of Course Submission

Monday 28 February

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 15 August, and we will respond to applicants by Thursday 19 August.

Not quite ready?

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