Huge congratulations to former student from our online writing courses Jane Harper (above, with the CBC team), who we’ve just heard has passed the 100,000 paperback sales mark in the UK for her debut novel The Dry. Jane, who studied with us back in 2014, came up with the idea for the bestselling crime thriller – set in the Australian Outback – for her submission to our course, and worked hard to complete it over six months with her 14 coursemates and tutor Lisa O’Donnell, as she explains in this video.
What with such huge sales and a film adaptation with Reese Witherspoon’s production company in the offing, it’s no surprise that Jane has featured prominently in the press of late. She was interviewed by The Sunday Times in July, appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Book Club and has featured in several publications in her home country of Australia. Recently, though, Jane’s story – entitled ‘From online writing course to Hollywood deal in two years’ – was the cover story in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend magazine.
‘“I’d always had this underlying feeling that I would love to write a book,” she says [in the article]. So she applied to join an online novel-writing course offered by an offshoot of the London branch of literary agency Curtis Brown. “You had to send off a synopsis of a book you wanted to work on, and a 3,000-word opening. I sat down and thought, ‘What would I like to write about?’”
‘“This was an opening that made me sit up and stop what I was doing,” says Harper’s course tutor, Scottish writer Lisa O’Donnell (whose own first novel, The Death of Bees, won the Commonwealth Book Prize in 2013). O’Donnell had read many promising introductions by would-be authors during her teaching career. But Harper’s stood out. “I was like, ‘Wow. This is really strong.”
‘As the course progressed, the 15 participants submitted pieces of their work for appraisal, not only by O’Donnell but their fellow students. “All that group discussion I found quite useful,” says Harper, who at first adopted a more flowery prose style than she used as a journalist. “I thought, ‘It’s fiction. I must put in all these adjectives.’ But people said, ‘There’s a lot of unnecessary description here.’ And as soon as they said that – ‘You don’t need it’ – I was like, ‘Oh great! I can cut it out then.’ Because I didn’t really enjoy writing it.”
Read the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald, here.
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.