OK, – you may have made a New Year’s resolution to finally finish that blank-verse dystopian fantasy novel in which the earth is conquered by genetically modified bumble bees, but is it what the book world is looking for? To save you from wasting your time, we asked the Curtis Brown agents what they’d most like to see in the submissions pile this year. And if you could do with a little help refining your chapters and pitch before sending your work in, you could always apply to the Curtis Brown Creative six-month novel-writing course (though you’ll have to be quick, as the closing date is Sunday 27 January) –on which you can shape your novel with the help of Tony Parsons, Anna Davis, Liz Jensen, Nikita Lalwani and Christopher Wakling.
I’d love some historical fiction. I was recently blown away by City of Women by David Gillham. If it came with a crime/thriller plot at its heart, I’d be even happier. I loved Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death for the expert melding of historical context and medieval forensics. I happen to love medieval England, so anything in that area is always going to pique my interest. But really there are so many points in history where you can set a crime plot; there was so much plotting going on anyway: princes locked up in towers, influential families seeking ascendance, murdered monarchs, marriages of convenience – there is so much to exploit. Upmarket psychological suspense is also always on my wish list, something that has me reading far too late into the night. Great writing, a tense plot, a believable protagonist and an ending that manages to surprise are the hallmarks of what I’m looking for.
Upmarket, well-written and strong storytelling; something that will make you bump into bus stops and plate-glass doors.
Something clever that sticks with me, surprises and challenges me, and yet which ‘works’ in the real world. Something that reminds me that there are all sorts of human stories and challenges and dilemmas out there happening all the time as we live our overlapping and parallel lives. But handled in a way that makes it a story I can own for myself – even if it’s not all my experience.
More middle-grade fiction for children aged eight to 12 please!
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.