30 June 2015

Writing tips from ex-CBC stars

by Wei Ming Kam From Our Students, Writing Tips

We asked some of our published ex-students for their top tips for aspiring writers, what the most important advice was that they took away from their writing course, and how they would describe the Curtis Brown Creative courses in three words.


Antonia Honeywell – The Ship published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson


Top tip: Persevere.

The most important advice our courses gave you: Don’t be precious. David Ings came as a guest speaker on my course. I was a bit shaken by having been advised (not by David) to think about retitling my novel Ship – just Ship, rather than The Ship, in order to put readers in mind of the best-selling novel Room – and launched into all kinds of reasons why this was something I didn’t want to do. David Ings heard me out, then quietly said that anyone who gives you advice is helping you to get your novel out there. Did I want my novel to be called The Ship, or did I want people to read it?  I was lucky enough not to have to make that decision – but in other ways, it made taking professional advice much easier.

CBC courses in three words:  Supportive, aspirational, professionally driven


Catherine ChanterThe Well published by Canongate

Top tip:  Keep going:  keep writing, even when you don’t feel like it;  keep editing, even when you hate every second of it; keep submitting, even when everything comes back as a no; and if all else fails, keep reading.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you:  Publishing wonderful books is both an art, a craft and a business; you need to engage in all three aspects if you want to see your book on the shelf.

CBC courses in three words:  Wake up call.


Alice Clark-PlattsBitter Fruits published by Michael Joseph on 2nd July 2015


Top tip: Write! You can always edit and improve things you’ve written but if there’s nothing on the page, there’s nothing to work with. Just get the words down and let the story unfold.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: Never ever use the word “slightly”.

CBC courses in three words: Inspiring, challenging, fun.


James HannahThe A-Z of You and Me published by Doubleday


Top tip: Grieve over that piece of abandoned work that took you a decade to write with the same indulgence as if it had taken you an afternoon.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: Reserve the right to declare that most writing tips as – be honest, now – not applicable to you.

CBC courses in three words: Access All Areas


SD SykesPlague Land published by Hodder & Stoughton

Top tip: Write every day. Learn your craft and, most importantly, persevere.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: The novelist Harriet Evans said this to our group back in Spring 2012. ‘To keep a splinter of ice in your heart.’  For me, it means this. In order to succeed, whether that is being published or just finishing a novel to your own satisfaction, you need to become more selfish. Ruthless even. Be sure to guard a precious core of your energies and your time for your writing.

CBC courses in three words: Inspiring. Challenging. Fun.


Maria GraceWhite Petals published by Firefly Press

Top tip: It might take you ten months, it might take you ten years, it might take you fifty years. You may need to work every day, you may need to find some time for yourself to write whenever you can squeeze it in, but really all it takes is for you to put your bum on the chair, have something to write on (computer, writing pad and pen), somewhere to write, and something to write about.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: Be objective with the story. You can be passionate, but stay objective.

CBC courses in three words: Exciting. Nurturing. Honest.


Lisa WilliamsonThe Art of Being Normal published by David Fickling Books


Top tip: Don’t be afraid to write badly! You can’t edit an empty page.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: It’s not advice or information as such but I still regularly meet up to workshop my writing with five other people from Autumn 2012 course. The CBC course set up this habit and made the act of sharing my writing with others rewarding and exhilarating, rather than something to be feared. The trust we developed in each other while studying on the course has continued to evolve and my former course mates have become a vital part of my writing life.

CBC courses in three words: Inspiring, discipline-building and fun.


Jake WoodhouseAfter the Silence published by Penguin

Top tip: Stop scouring the internet for Top Tips and go and write. Like, now.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: Trust yourself, and your writing.

CBC courses in three words: Never been very good at restrictive word limits… Great tutor and fellow writers.


Nicholas SearleThe Good Liar published by Viking


Top tip: Tell a truth (at least one). Not necessarily the truth, but your truth. And tell it through the lie of fiction.

The most important advice CBC courses gave you: There are no rules in writing, only examples of what’s worked in the past and what not. Well, there is one rule (it’s not quite like Fight Club): intend whatever you do, don’t do it accidentally or out of control. And that’s a rule I break more often than not.

CBC courses in three words: Challenging, confidence-building, fun.


As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our selective 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.

back to Blog

Our Courses


Write to the End of Your Novel

18 Sep – 30 Oct