17 November 2015

Words don’t come easy… or do they?

ella dove, good housekeepingElla Dove, Good Housekeeping
by Ella Dove Events, From Our Students, Writing Tips

We’re now just over halfway through National Novel-Writing Month (or #NaNoWriMo, as it’s known in its more hashtag-friendly form), in which writers commit to producing 50,000 words of their work-in-progress by the end of November. We’ve covered NaNoWriMo before on the Curtis Brown Creative blog (here and here), but we’ve never actually tried it for ourselves. But luckily, our former student Ella Dove, who studied on our Spring Three-Month Creative-Writing Course with Matt Thorne, has been putting in the hours on behalf of the team.

‘Write a novel in a month,’ they said; ‘it’ll be easy,’ they said.

Well, let me tell you, it’s not. National Novel-Writing Month is not for the faint-hearted. You need grit, determination and, if possible, a really, really good coffee machine.

Now into my second attempt at NaNoWriMo, this year I’ve been juggling my journey to the elusive 50,000 words with a new job, family issues and a very hectic life in London. Last time, it seemed easier, somehow. I was living with my parents in Kent, merrily typing away on my daily commute for an hour and a half each way, perhaps factoring in the odd leisurely lunchtime sprint. Job done. In fact, my first NaNoWriMo novel was the one I worked on during my time on the CBC three-month course. Having spent so long immersed in that world, I was actually rather sad to leave the characters behind. Yet dutifully, I waved them farewell, knowing that a new adventure was looming. For a first-time novelist, writing something new is scary.

If you’ve ever tried to write standing up in a packed Central Line tube carriage, you’ll know, like me, that it’s no walk in the park. In fact, even if I do take a walk in the park, there’s no guarantee the words will flow. However, on the whole, the experience has been a positive one. Allow me to share with you my top five tips….

  1. Characters are crucial. This year – and always in my writing – they were my starting point. After reading a newspaper interview with her, I followed a technique used by the fabulous Anne Tyler, creating characters and then assigning them random actions. For example, XX gets run over, XX gets divorced, etc. For a character-centred writer like me, this proved a good way to establish some action.
  2. Establish routine. Often when you’re writing, life can get in the way. Find a time that’s good for you and stick to it. I find that a solid hour or so in the morning before I leave for work works well – any more is a bonus, and I catch up at weekends. Accept and embrace the inevitable sleep deprivation. You’re writing a novel, for goodness sake! Think of the lie-ins you’ll have when it’s done.
  3. Don’t read your writing back! That is, until the end of the month. I made this mistake at the end of day one, and promptly began to loathe everything I’d just written. Plough onwards, don’t dwell – editing is for another day.
  4. Let your characters rule. Don’t try and force them into boxes they seem not to want to go in – let them take you on an adventure.
  5. Go to Write-Ins. Meeting the NaNoWriMo community is a great way to motivate yourself – and make friends along the way.

Write, off you go then, my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers. Off into the unknown, to discover those fabulous worlds, people and places lurking inside your own wonderful brain. If I can do it, you can too. Good luck!

P.S Does this blog count towards my 50,000 word total? No? Ah, well, it was worth a try.

For more information on National Novel-Writing Month, please click here.

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.

back to Blog

Our Courses


Write to the End of Your Novel

18 Sep – 30 Oct