Bestselling author Jojo Moyes came in to the Curtis Brown offices recently to chat to our students on our creative writing courses. As you’d expect, her talk was full of inspirational advice and excellent tips on getting ahead in a competitive industry, as well as some wonderful anecdotes on her journey to making it as a writer. For those unlucky enough to miss her, there are two options as we see it: (1) enrol on a CBC novel-writing course, in which we hope Jojo will speak again; or (2) read our favourite 12 snippets of advice from last week’s talk.
‘Creating stories is the best job in the world. I get excited every time I get the chance to spend all day in my office.’
‘My first three unpublished books weren’t good. If they had been published, I wouldn’t be here now.’
‘You need to be conscious of your own voice. It’s this that will speak to agents, publishers and editors.’
‘I get up at 6am because there is a thing that happens first thing in the morning – your subconscious strips out all the junk in your head and what you’re left with is a story. My worst time to write is between midday and 3pm.’
‘I’m rigorous about getting words down every day – it’s important to be moving forward. A couple of times a year, I go off to a hotel for two nights and do nothing but write. I produce around 7,000–10,000 words in those three days, though I once did 18,000. If you’re in a rut, I suggest you skip the bits you’re struggling with and move onto something you want to write.’
‘Don’t write for the market. Readers are cleverer than that. You have to write the story you feel passionate about or it won’t ignite.’
‘The biggest mistake for new writers is over-writing. Be ruthless. Rip it away.’
‘I write a history for all of my main characters. I won’t use 95 per cent of this, but I still think it’s worth it. I like to use Stephen King’s idea of throwing stuff at each of my characters to see what happens – how would they react, for example, if they were walking down the street and saw someone kicking a dog?’
‘Leave your writing alone for at least a month before you go back to rewrite. And don’t be afraid to dig in with your scalpel. All the things that have worked for me have involved some quite radical surgery.’
‘Social media gives you a chance to advertise your voice, and I devote one to two hours a day to it. It means your name is lodged in people’s consciousness. This only works, however, if you have something to say that is interesting and funny.’
‘Promotion presents your face to the world. If you don’t express an interest in promoting yourself, it gives agents and publishers an excuse to reject you.’
‘Be nice. If you’re called in by an editor or an agent, remember they don’t just want a good book. They want to know if you’re someone they can work with.’
For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:
Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Sunday 21 January).
Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Sunday 28 January).
For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for:
Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sunday 4 February).
We are also offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ online courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:
Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).
Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).
Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).