30 September 2015

Writing Tips From Our Published Students

hamer tim chanter
by Leonora Craig Cohen From Our Students, Writing Tips

Since 2011, 17 of the students who’ve taken our creative writing courses have gone on to get book deals with major commercial publishers. But what did they learn to give them that extra push into print? Here, three published authors who worked on their debut novels with us share some of the lessons they learnt on their course.

1.      Read more books

‘Read. Stephen King says you have to be a reader before you can be a writer. Read anything you can get your hands on. You can be selective or you can just join a library, start at A and work your way through to Z. Whichever way you choose, be as avid a reader as you can. Sometimes I’ll read books I’ve really liked twice – once to be swept up into the story and a second time to see how it works – taking all the nuts and bolts apart as much as possible. Try and read lots of contemporary stuff too – that’s something which was highlighted on the course. It’s immensely useful to know what’s going on out there.’
–          Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat (Autumn 2011 Novel-Writing Course).

2.      Get on with writing

‘Don’t think of yourself as an aspiring writer. If you’re thinking seriously about attending a Curtis Brown Creative course and reading this, the chances are you are already a writer. You’re writing because you feel driven to, because you have something to say or a story to tell, because you love words. So tip number one is blindingly obvious, but not easy. Write.’
–          Catherine Chanter, author of The Well (Spring 2011 Novel-Writing Course).

3.      Listen to yourself

‘Occasionally when I get stuck, I try to imagine the particular sentence or paragraph I’m working on already exists, as if it were something I’ve previously glimpsed in a dream. The idea is then to “recall” this out-of-focus fragment. Possibly this merely reflects that in fiction-writing the subconscious is king: the upside of this arrangement is the subconscious can do a lot of the work for you; the downside is that it may embarrass you with what it wants to say.’

–          Tim Glencross, author of Barbarians (Autumn 2011 Novel-Writing Course).

4.      Find your rhythm

‘Read your work out loud; it gives you a different perspective on your writing. You notice things you wouldn’t do otherwise and you get more of a feeling for the rhythms and cadences of the writing. Another approach to try is if there’s a scene you are struggling with, then write it as a poem. It condenses it down so you get to grips with what you’re really trying to do. Also, you’ll be sparer with the prose when you return to it – something a lot of us need a help with!’
–          Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat (Autumn 2011 Novel-Writing Course).

5.      Editing is vital

‘As TS Eliot puts it in Little Gidding, the real aspiration for a writer is to make every phrase and sentence right: “(where every word is at home,/ Taking its place to support the others,…)” For me, what this means is that when I think I have finished something, whether that’s a poem, a short story or a novel, then the difficult work has probably only just begun.   So write. Revisit. Read it aloud. Let it rest. Return. Rewrite.

All the other aspirations, to be read, to be published, to be acknowledged, they follow.
–          Catherine Chanter, author of The Well (Spring 2011 Novel-Writing Course).

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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