14 September 2016

Some feedback on CBC’s first Starting to Write Your Novel Course

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by Jack Hadley Our Courses

In May this year, we ran our first-ever six-week online Starting to Write Your Novel course. While we’ve been running six- and three-month online writing courses since 2013, this was the first time we’d attempted to run this shorter course. The thinking behind this more concise option was that it would be a chance to let new authors dip their toes in the waters of creative writing. For new writers who weren’t quite sure whether they wanted to make the larger commitment to our three- or six-month courses, it was an opportunity for them to get a taste of the kind of things we offer at Curtis Brown Creative.

Starting a new course like this is always a big undertaking, and we were unsure of exactly how students would respond to the tutorials, and to each other’s work. In the event, the course was a real success; students found the course notes and the tasks useful, and embraced the opportunity to engage with one another’s writing in a lively and conscientious atmosphere. We asked the students for some feedback on the course, and the replies we received were encouraging to say the least.

A common factor in a lot of responses was the amount of students who felt that the course worked as a way to supply that elusive initial creative spark. Joanne Clague wrote that it ‘gave me the kickstart I needed and helped me find a voice for my novel’, similarly, Vanessa Glennie explained that ‘It was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me the confidence, inspiration and motivation to finally sit down and write.’ Another student, Anouska Huggins wrote that ‘in just six weeks, I was able to transform a vague idea into a plot with fully formed characters along with an opening and synopsis.’

One of the most valuable things a course like this can offer is the chance to build relationships with other writers who are in similar circumstances. Writing can be lonely work, so it was great to see Pauline Dawes express that she had ‘never expected a bond to develop so quickly within the group. It was amazing how much time and effort many people spent giving very useful feedback’.

Reading and exploring the process behind other people’s writing can be an important inspiration in itself, as Vickie Johnstone put it: ‘the standard of writing of other people made me realise I have to work harder and try harder, and push myself further.’ There’s nothing more invigorating (or daunting) that letting your peers read your work, but as Jennifer Harvey explained ‘it’s a very useful way to get started and to test the water with an idea, and see if it has legs. That’s very energising’.

It’s fantastic to hear that a lot of students from our Starting Your Novel Course have already applied, or are considering applying, to one of our longer courses. For someone just starting out, or someone looking for inspiration or impetus, the course represents a great opportunity to get inspired, and to challenge yourself (as well as having fun). As another student from the course Janet Lewison writes, the course offers ‘critical evaluation in a safe, yet lively space. It felt like a treat to me!’. Enough said.

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.


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Our Courses

Lisa O'Donnell, Author and CBC Tutor

Six-month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell

18 Feb – 22 Jul
Laura Barnett

Six-month London Course With Laura Barnett

18 Feb – 11 Jul
Catherine Johnson

Writing YA and Children’s Fiction With Catherine Johnson

01 Apr – 01 Jul

Starting to Write Your Novel

16 Jan – 27 Feb