11 May 2016

Starting to write my novel #2: my experience of CBC’s new online course

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by Eli Keren Opinion, Our Courses

The very first of Curtis Brown Creative’s online writing courses open to all-comers – Starting to Write Your Novel – opens in just two weeks. Costing only £200, the six-week course is aimed at anyone with a fresh idea and the drive to turn it into a full-length novel. As you may know from my first blog piece on the experience of taking the course (and from the examples of great writing already being posted), we’re currently running a test version to iron out those last few creases, and I’m the official Curtis Brown Creative mole. Here’s an update on how the course is going so far.

When I started the course, I had almost nothing. I had a bit of plot, a few ideas, a couple of lines of cutting dialogue that I was determined to shoehorn in here or there, but I lacked substance. So now I’m four weeks into the course, what’s changed?

Well, for a start, I’ve made a lot of decisions. I’ve chosen a narrative style, a perspective and a tense, I’ve mapped out a lot more of the plot, I know more or less where I’m going, but unlike with most of my previous writing, they’re not just gut decisions. This course has forced me to actually think about why I’m going to write in the third person, about how I’m going to integrate different aspects of my plot. It’s pushed me to experiment, it’s made me try things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise, and when I was choosing between turning left and turning right, this course has suggested that maybe there’s a straight ahead as well.

Interactions with my fellow students have been a great highlight of the course, too. We’ve been sharing our responses to the tasks in the course forums, which has been a great way to get used to sharing our work in a warm and healthy atmosphere. I’ve found that the more I put in, the more I get out; the more I read and offer (constructive) feedback to my coursemates, the more inclined they are to do the same for me, which means we can choose the level of interaction with the course that we’d like. This week left me a little nervous, because it was the first time a task asked us to incorporate actual material from our novels-in-progress into our response (mine is currently a mere three pages) and share it with the group. The feeling of nervousness was a productive one, though. It gave me that extra boost to polish my work a little more, to cast that second eye over it, to stop writing just for me and start writing for an audience. And I’m glad to report that it’s paid off – my coursemates’ responses to my work were positive, useful and affirming. We’ve also been making good on our promise to send a book to the student who provides the best response to a task each week. And we’ve also featured some stellar work from my coursemates as a blog post, which we’ll be continuing to do when the course officially launches.

Finally, I’ve noticed one important thing I wasn’t expecting from this course. It’s kept me writing. I’m putting in those extra few minutes, I’m that little bit more focused, playing fewer games on my iPhone and spending more time brushing up my plot, designing my characters and actually writing. This week is dedicated to working on character – which, I think, is the last piece of the puzzle I need to really get stuck into this thing. After that, I’ll be flying through. Stay tuned for more updates.

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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Lisa O'Donnell, Author and CBC Tutor
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Six-month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell

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Six-month London Course With Laura Barnett

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Writing YA and Children’s Fiction With Catherine Johnson

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Starting to Write Your Novel

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