Writing Your Novel – Six Months

Our biggest online course gives you an intense learning experience with feedback and one-to-ones from expert tutors plus industry advice from literary agents. Scholarship available.


Feb 21 2022 - Aug 02 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 live webinar sessions featuring agents here at Curtis Brown and C&W – and with a one-to-one tutorial at the end of the course from an agent or experienced editor. 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 Simon Ings.

Your tutors will each lead weekly online writing workshops, set weekly writing exercises and provide one-to-one tutorials where they will give feedback on your novel-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 140 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 have been adapted as movies 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

‘Simon set fascinating tasks on the forum which really got us thinking. I learnt so much about the emotional journey of my characters. The tutorials were extremely helpful, Simon was enthusiastic, constructive and really helped me to work out the structure/plot of my novel. 
Tilly Rose, CBC alumna


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.

Simon Ings, Author

Simon Ings is an author and critic based in London. His eight critically acclaimed novels include The Weight of Numbers and Dead Water - and the science fiction novels Hot Head and The Smoke; while his non-fiction includes Stalin and the Scientists and The Eye: A Natural History. As editor of New Scientist magazine's Arc project, he published Margaret Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson and others. He writes an SF column for the Times, and was on the judging panel for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. Simon has run workshops and classes for literary festivals and for the Arvon Foundation, and has been a tutor and editor on many of  Curtis Brown Creative's 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.

Three Industry Masterclasses

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 will include a literary agent, author, 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 as well as a select group of agents from other UK-based agencies.. 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 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.

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:

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 cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.

We read all application material promptly after the closing date and make our selection of students swiftly at that time. However if you require an earlier response from us in order to be able to take part in this course, please email us on cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk with full details and we will consider and respond on a case by case basis.


The Breakthrough Novel-Writing Scholarship for Writers of Colour will award one talented writer of colour with limited financial means a fully paid place on this course. If you’re without the financial means to attend a Curtis Brown Creative course, this scholarship opportunity is for you. To submit your application for the scholarship place please fill in the form found here. Deadline Sunday 30 January.

The scholarship is part of the Breakthrough Writers’ Programme, a major outreach initiative offering opportunities to under-represented writers.

Course Schedule

Module 1

Inspiration and Reading as Writers

Monday 21 Feb – Sunday 27 Feb

With videos from Anna Davis and Simon Ings


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Module 2


Monday 28 Feb – Sunday 13 March

With videos from Laura Barnett

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

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Module 3

Writing from Life

Monday 14 March – Sunday 20 March

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

Workshops led by Lisa O’Donnell x 3

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Module 4

Story, Plotting & Planning

Monday 21 March – Sunday 3 April

With videos from Andrew Michael Hurley

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


Tues 22 March

Guest speaker masterclass with author Elizabeth Lee and her agent Lucy Morris.

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Module 5

Voice and Narrative Point of View

Monday 4 April – Sunday 17 April

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

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

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Module 6

Break Week

Monday 18 April – Sunday 24 April

No teaching across the Easter break.

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Module 7

Place & Setting

Monday 25 April – Sunday 1 May

With videos from Andrew Michael Hurley

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

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Module 8

The Synopsis

Tuesday 2 May – Sunday 8 May

With videos and notes from Anna Davis. You will be required to post your synopsis on the forum by 9am, Mon 9 May and feedback from one of our team of editors will follow before Tues 16 May.

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Module 9


Monday 9 May – Sunday 22 May

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

Workshops led by Simon Ings x 6 (3 per week)

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Module 10

Description, Tone & Style

Monday 23 May – Sunday 29 May

With videos from Laura Barnett

Workshops led by Simon Ings x 3

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Module 11


Monday 30 May – Sunday 5 June

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

Workshops led by Simon Ings x 3

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Module 12

Building Suspense

Monday 6 June – Sunday 12 June

With videos from Christopher Wakling

Workshops led by Simon Ings x 3

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Module 13


Monday 13 June – Sunday 26 June

With videos from Christopher Wakling

Workshops led by Simon Ings x 6 (3 per week)

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Module 14

Editing and Rewriting

Monday 27 June – Sunday 3 July

With videos from Simon Ings

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Module 15

Agent Letter & Pitch Workshop

Monday 4 July – Sunday 10 July

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

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Module 16

Final Questions

Monday 11 July – Sunday 17 July

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

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Module 17

End of Course Submission

Tuesday 2 August

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 23 Jan, and we will respond to applicants by Thursday 27 Jan.

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