As one of the writers to secure a place on Curtis Brown Creative’s inaugural novel-writing course, 29-year-old Nan Craig worked on her book Déja with agent Anna Davis and novelist Jake Arnott. Her impressive work definitely fell into the ‘extremely promising’ category and Nan is hoping to emulate fellow student Tim Glencross, who secured an immediate book deal at the end of the three-month period. Her soon-to-be-finished manuscript is eagerly awaited by the agents at Curtis Brown, who constantly scan their inboxes for any sign of Word documents sent from her email address. Here, she shares her thoughts on the novel-writing course and how it helped in the quest for that elusive book deal.
How did you come across the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course?
I just saw it advertised somewhere – I think I saw someone talking about it on a blog. At the beginning, I didn’t have much more than a couple of thousand words and an idea. And I suppose I wanted confirmation of whether that idea was any good or not. I’d been thinking I’d like to do a course for a while, but I’d always found it hard to fit anything around my day job. And I didn’t want to take time out to do a Masters in writing – I certainly didn’t feel the need to have a qualification. I’d had a go at joining writing groups; but it’s quite tricky, I think, to find a group that fits well with you and the level of what you’re doing. The Curtis Brown Creative course appealed because I knew everybody would be at a similar place in terms of writing and how experienced they were.
Are you more focused as a writer now that you’ve completed the course?
It definitely gave me something to work towards. Previously, I’d been writing on my own without any sense of whether anyone was actually going to read my work. And one of the most useful things to come out of the course, for me, was I found a group of writers who were on the same page, and who were incredibly helpful. We’re still in touch and I know I’ll get good feedback from them. I’m a terrible person for starting things and not finishing them – partly because there’s that horrible moment halfway through when you think ‘Oh my God, this is awful’. I think that happens to everyone. But if you’re a published author, you have an agent or an editor who’s expecting your manuscript and is either (a) going to want their money back or (b) be on top of you until you finish it. If, however, you don’t have that – even if you do have an encouraging partner or friend – it’s much harder to find the self-belief to get to the end. At the very least, the course gave me a group of people who want to read my book and access to agents who provide that much-needed encouragement.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about doing a Curtis Brown Creative course?
You need to think very seriously about what kind of course is going to work for you. The novel-writing course I did was focused on specific stories we were writing, and it helped me and others in the group with particular books we were working on. If you want encouragement and in-depth critique on a particular piece of writing, then you couldn’t fault it. The teaching was excellent, and both Anna Davis and Jake Arnott gave me some great advice. Sometimes contradictory, I might add! But that’s kind of how things work. People always have different ideas of what’s going on with your novel.
And where do you go from here?
Well, I’m trying to finish the first draft of Déja and I’m also redrafting the early chapters because I was trying to push on towards the end, which means the beginning is now a bit of a mess. The biggest thing for me, though, is I’m certain I’m actually going to finish it, because I know there are people out there who want to read it – even if it doesn’t turn out to be publishable. I’m a lot more at ease with that idea now. From having several successful authors coming in and talking to us throughout the course, I got a real sense of how people have got to where they are. Some people write three or four novels before they get one published. But I know with this one that at least it’s going to get finished – and that’s something I’m sure wouldn’t have happened had I carried on writing in my own little bubble.
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our 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.