04 March 2014

Our Online Novel-Writing Course: what the students said

by Rufus Purdy Course News, From Our Students

When the very first Curtis Brown Creative Online Creative-Writing Course, taught by novelist Christopher Wakling, ended in December, we emailed out forms to all the students, asking them for their feedback on the previous three months. We felt the course had gone well (one student even found an agent while the course was running), but we were totally unprepared for the wave of positivity that arrived back in our inbox. Here – in the format of the feedback forms we went out – are some of our favourite comments.



Online teaching sessions
• ‘Considering the challenge of delivering workshops via video/written notes, I found each lesson informative, engaging, enjoyable to follow and very beneficial. I was concerned at the outset how this would be delivered, but it was done with ease and really made me feel part of a class, rather than just working individually.’ Kate Chisman
• ‘I loved the videos which were just the right length. Obviously, we are all doing this online so couldn’t devote an hour or so at a time to watching videos in the same way you would if you attended a course in person. These were perfect and you could always go back to them. The written notes were also useful and the homework exercises particularly so.’ Alice Clark-Platts

Written feedback on students’ submissions
• ‘Chris Wakling’s feedback was invaluable in that it was evident that he had read each and every submission, got to know our work, and provided very useful tips, advice and suggestions to improve it. I cannot thank him enough to giving it as much attention as he did.’ Dawn Goodwin
• ‘I was worried that in studying online we would lose something – maybe the intimacy of face-to-face interaction. However, the written feedback was easy to understand and I liked to be able to pore over points at my leisure.’ Grace Coleman

Teaching topics
• ‘They were very practical and always seemed to tie in with an issue I was currently dealing with in my draft. I have an MFA in Creative Writing and felt that I was constantly learning new things about the craft of writing in general and my own work.’ Moyette Gibbons
• ‘I’ve previously studied writing in an academic setting but I found a lot of the topics we covered on this course were more relevant as we focused specifically on our own novels and were encouraged to explore different directions, possibilities and avenues that may not have been covered and/or considered before. From some of the topics covered, I have developed new scenes and chapters which may not have come to be otherwise.’ Kate Chisman

One-to-one tutorials
• ‘Chris Wakling was brilliant at tutorials – enthusiastic and thorough, making sure all my questions were covered.’ Alex Tyler
• ‘I always felt that Chris was taking such time and care over any questions I asked or the extracts I submitted. He was always very encouraging but also very “straight up”, pulling no punches!’ Julietta Henderson



How effective was the course in helping you improve your novel and your writing skills?
• ‘Very effective. I found I looked at my work much more objectively, even after only a couple of classes and critiques. I feel more confident to cull and edit my manuscript.’ Catherine Bennetto
• ‘There were vast differences between my writing at the beginning of the course and towards the end as I put into practice what I had learnt.’ Dawn Goodwin

How effective were we at giving information about the publishing industry.
• ‘It was incredible to be able to chat with the literary agents at Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh – and their honesty and generosity of time was wonderful. They were certainly able to give some excellent insights into how they work and their expectations of a writer.’ Julietta Henderson
• ‘I’ve always been pretty terrified of the publishing industry to be honest! After studying with Curtis Brown Creative I don’t feel as intimidated and I feel that I’ve had a good opportunity to learn things I didn’t know before. The agent days, synopsis and cover-letter classes were all fantastic as they gave a real insight into what is expected and desired. It felt like we were being let in on industry secrets and encouraged.’ Kate Chisman

Is the course good value for money?
• ‘This was one of my biggest concerns as I took out a loan to pay for the course. From week one I knew I had made the right decision. Not only the advice but the enjoyment I have had from the course justifies the fee.’ Grace Coleman
• ‘Absolutely! I would have been happy to pay double that if I had known how much I was going to gain from it.’ Julietta Henderson



How did you rate the group dynamic in the online environment (something we’ve never attempted before)?
• ‘Although from very different backgrounds, our group immediately connected and worked very well together. A few of us have since met up and continue to chat online, which will continue as we progress with our novels’. Dawn Goodwin
• ‘This worked really well. I suspect that many find it easier to interact on this level than in person. There’s less opportunity for cliques.’ Jason Elliott

Was the feedback of other students useful to you?
• ‘Fourteen people turn over a lot of stones. It’s astonishing what you miss. And what you disagree with, you can quietly put to one side.’ Robert Maslen
• ‘It was most valuable to hear others’ opinions and suggestions of our work. The fact that it was in written form means that we can refer to it over and over again as we complete our novels.’ Dawn Goodwin

Was it useful to read and comment on the work of others?
• ‘Looking at other people’s work helped me to think critically about my own. I saw what I liked and disliked in other stories, and could then link it back to my own writing.’ Grace Coleman
• ‘Yes. It helps clarify thinking of what makes writing good, when you critique others’ work. And I genuinely enjoyed the extracts I read.’ Alice Clark-Platts



Was the course run smoothly?
• ‘Absolutely. Right from the beginning the few queries I did have were answered immediately. Rufus Purdy was fantastic if anything went amiss and always made me feel like I could contact him at any time.’ Julietta Henderson
• ‘I felt Anna Davis, Rufus and Chris were all very approachable and that I could contact them without hesitation if I had a question or concern. Emails and queries were always answered quickly.’ Moyette Gibbons

How good (or bad) was the applications process?
• ‘The application process was easy and straightforward, and we were not left waiting for ages to hear the outcome.’ Dawn Goodwin
• ‘Excellent: very clear guidelines. Everything was said/done when stated and, when I was informed of my success, Anna’s letter was very gracious and encouraging.’ Julietta Henderson

Were we able to provide clarity and authority when needed?
• ‘Yes, and in particular when I needed advice about seeking an agent, Anna and Chris provided sound and cohesive advice, spending time on it and it was much appreciated.’ Alice Clark-Platts
• ‘The course was managed very effectively and Anna was fantastic in giving us an upfront idea of what to expect on the agents’ days, etc, so we knew what was coming.’ Dawn Goodwin



‘I have loved doing this course. I have gained a great deal from it, made some friends and been shored up in confidence as regards my writing.  I would recommend the CBC online course to anyone who might struggle to attend classes in London. It has been invaluable in finishing my novel and I have enjoyed all aspects of it.’ Alice Clark-Platts

‘Overall the course was a 10/10 for me. Each and every class was helpful and Chris also made them fun. I feel privileged to have read the other students’ work. I thought Anna’s final message to us all gave us clear steps as to what to do next. It’s nice to know there is continuing support there. I only have positive things to say. It was nurturing, energising, intense and consuming – and I loved it!’ Catherine Bennetto

‘The course was invaluable to me in terms of feedback, keeping me focused, pushing me to finish my first draft, and teaching me what I should and should not be doing. I also now have the tools and knowledge to finish my novel and feel confident that I know how to distribute it to the relevant industry players.’ Dawn Goodwin

‘Really enjoyed the course – the setup is good, but it’s the people that make it. Chris, Anna and Rufus have been great, along with the literary agents. And the other students have been fabulous. It’s felt like really a community and I feel inspired to redraft my work and get it out there with all that positive energy and goodwill injected into it! I’m really sad to finish it and would definitely recommend to others.’ Elin Daniels

‘It’s difficult to not get gushy, but I really found everything so useful and enjoyed Chris’s teaching immensely. My only criticism would be that it felt too fast – I was so busy! But that in itself is remedied by having the course materials to look back on. 10/10!’ Grace Coleman

‘I felt so valued as a student and a writer by Anna, Chris and Rufus, and very supported by my fellow students. I genuinely feel that Curtis Brown Creative is working with me and doing everything it can in order to get me to the next level.’ Julietta Henderson

‘The course was definitely five-star. Chris was an excellent tutor and gave detailed and insightful critiques And where else would I have had the benefit of drawing on the experiences and creative wisdom of, among others, an international fraud investigator, a chef, a barrister, television scriptwriter, stay-at-home mums and a human rights lawyer – all in different locations?’ Moyette Gibbons


To apply for our next Three-Month Online Novel-Writing Course, please click here.


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