Six-Month Novel-Writing Course With Lisa O’Donnell

Our biggest online course gives you an intense learning experience as a writer with direct engagement with authors and a publisher, as well as literary agents in London and New York. Includes fully-funded Jane Fallon Scholarship place.


Sep 09 2019 - Mar 02 2020


Take this course from anywhere in the world

Selective Entry

We offer places to the most talented applicants

Course Fee £2,600 / (US) $3,300

Work on your novel with the experts


We’ve designed this online novel-writing course to be as useful and fulfilling as the courses we run in our offices, with contributions from agents here at Curtis Brown and C&W in London, as well as ICM Partners in New York. This is a course for people who are serious about writing a novel. As well as being packed with useful content, it’s flexible so you can write and study at times to suit you.

Tutor Lisa O’Donnell – a Commonwealth Book Prize-winning author – will lead weekly online writing workshops, set weekly writing exercises and provide one-to-one tutorials where she will give direct feedback to all students on their novels-in-progress. Via our online learning platform, you’ll get access to teaching videos, notes and resources from our CBC tutor team (listed below).

The Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents, a guest author and Editorial director at Borough Press (HarperFiction) Charlotte Cray, will offer writing and pitching advice in special events across the course. At the end of the course, students get to share the opening of their novels informally with the agent team. Two agents at ICM in New York will also be taking part, joining in the industry sessions alongside the Curtis Brown and C&W teams, and reading the end of course submissions.

In the eight years since we’ve started Curtis Brown Creative, over 60 of our former students have gone on to get major publishing deals for their novels. We’ve had some fantastic success stories across all genres, including online course students  Jane Harper (The Dry) and Nicholas Searle (The Good Liar), both now international bestsellers whose novels are being adapted for the big screen. You can read more about our online course success stories here.

While we can’t guarantee publication or representation, we lavish our expertise on our students. The agents of Curtis Brown, C&W and ICM are hungry for new authors and will be actively looking for clients among our writers.

There is also a scholarship opportunity for a talented writer of limited financial means. Bestselling author Jane Fallon has generously provided funding for one writer to attend this online course or our 6-month novel-writing course in London. Find out more about the Jane Fallon Scholarship.

‘Having some really positive feedback and stirring up quite a lot of debate made me feel more confident that my characters were leaving the page and having an effect on people. It also took a while to find my protagonist’s voice – but with Lisa’s fabulous tutorials, we got there in the end!’
Rachel Marks, whose debut novel, Saturdays at Noon, will be published by Michael Joseph in February 2020.


Lisa O'Donnell, author

Lisa O'Donnell is the author of the Commonwealth Book Prize-winning novel The Death of Bees, published by Windmill. Her second novel, Closed Doors is published by William Heinemann. Lisa won the Orange Screenwriting Prize for her screenplay The Wedding Gift and was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters’ Award. She is currently working on her third novel.

Andrew Michael Hurley, Author

Andrew Michael Hurley has lived in Manchester and London, and is now based in Lancashire. His first novel, The Loney, was originally published by Tartarus Press, a tiny independent publisher based in Yorkshire, as a 300-copy limited-edition, before being republished by John Murray and going on to win the Costa Best First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards in 2016. His second novel, Devil’s Day, was published in 2017.


Teaching Videos & Tasks

Tips on a range of topics from our tutor team

Lisa will set weekly tasks for the group - writing exercises or topics to prepare for discussion. Across 14 teaching modules, videos and notes will be made available on our platform, covering a range of topics such as plotting, characterisation, point-of-view and rewriting. 

Editing Your Novel

Writing Workshops

Led by Lisa O'Donnell

You'll get three dedicated workshops centring on material from your novel-in-progress with your tutor and the group (Extracts of 3000 words, each time). These sessions offer in-depth written feedback and are also designed to help develop your self-editing skills.

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses - find your writing community

We have developed a bespoke learning platform exclusively for our students. Here you can give and receive feedback, and discuss the week’s topics with your fellow students and tutor.

One-to-One Tutorials

Extracts of your novel will be closely reviewed by your tutor

You'll get two 45 minute, one-to-one tutorials with your tutor Lisa O'Donnell, conducted over the phone or via Skype, based on 3,000 word sections of your novel-in-progress. Use these tutorials to address your specific concerns about your writing.

Charlotte Cray, editor

Pitch Workshop

Practise your elevator pitch with a publishing editor

We'll give you advice on how to pitch your novel effectively, and then bring in Charlotte Cray (editorial director at Borough Press) to give individual written feedback to all students.

First Page Workshop

Get feedback from a guest author

The opening of your novel is crucial to its success. We'll ask you to share your first page and get individual written feedback from special guest tutor Andrew Michael Hurley.

Synopsis Advice

Our tips on how to conquer the dreaded synopsis

We'll draw on our agenting expertise to give you the vital ingredients of a great synopsis - then you'll write one, and Lisa will give you individual written feedback.

Literary Agent Q&A

Get answers from our team of literary agents

In a special session, you'll put questions to members of the Curtis Brown, C&W and ICM agent teams in the discussion space, and gain their answers on how to navigate the choppy waters of the publishing industry.

Agent Letter Session

Expert feedback on the all-important pitch letter

We'll give you the vital do's and don'ts of agent pitch letters - you'll then write your own and the agents from Curtis Brown, C&W and ICM will give you written feedback, plus their tips on how to bypass the slush pile.

End of Course Submission

Share your opening with the Curtis Brown, C&W and ICM Agents

At the end of the course all students will be invited to submit the 3,000 word opening of their novel, plus a synopsis, to be shared with the agent teams at CB , C&W and ICM. This is not a formal submission to the agency but a chance to give the agents a taste of your work at this stage.


We pride ourselves on the tightly-knit writing communities that are established on our courses. As well as getting feedback on extracts from your own novel during the course, we’ll be asking you to read the work of your 14 fellow students week by week, and provide constructive written comments (both privately and in our online discussion space). We find this process helps students develop their own inner editor and has a hugely positive impact on their own writing. Each week three students will submit 3,000-word extracts from their novels-in-progress to be workshopped by the rest of the group and the tutor. It’ll be your turn to get the group’s dedicated workshop attention three times across the course.

New mentoring opportunity

At course end, you’ll be offered the opportunity to sign up for a brand new exclusive mentoring scheme, available only to the alumni of our selective courses. For a fee of £1,500 (including VAT), we’ll match you up with a mentor, who will be one of our team of expert tutors and editors. On three occasions across a period of 6-8 months, your mentor will read up to 10,000 words of your novel-in-progress and discuss the work with you in-depth one-to-one, for 1 hour each time – either in person (if you’re able to meet at a location designated by the mentor) or by skype – as well as giving you 500 words of editorial notes.

Guest Sessions

This course offers direct interaction with literary agents at Curtis Brown and C&W, published authors and Charlotte Cray, Editorial Director at Borough Press. Two agents from ICM in New York will also be taking part in the industry sessions. You’ll also get teaching videos from your tutor Lisa O’Donnell and from the author-tutors on our team:

Application Process

Our selective applications process means that you will be writing your novel in a peer group of 15 students working at a high level. Many of our former students have found their trusted readers with us – and form strong working friendships with class-mates which go on long after the course is over.

The course fee of £2,600 (inc VAT) per student is payable, in full, by bank transfer or cheque. Funds must reach our bank account before the course begins. If you are unable to pay the full fee upfront, let us know and we can discuss a payment plan. We regret that we are unable to refund fees, and would suggest students make their own insurance arrangements if required. Students opting to join the mentoring scheme will be asked to pay a further £1,500 (inc VAT) before their mentoring begins (you don’t need to make a decision about that at this stage).

Please upload your application via the form at the end of this page. If you encounter any problems during the application process, or have any more questions about the course, please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.

Course Schedule


Inspiration and Reading as Writers

Monday 9 September – Sunday 15 September

With videos from Anna Davis and Chris Wakling

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Monday 16 September – Sunday 29 September

With videos from Lisa O’Donnell

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Writing from Life

Monday 30 September – Sunday 13 October

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

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Story, Plotting & Planning

Monday 14 October – Sunday 3 November

With videos from Chris Wakling

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Voice and Narrative Point of View

Monday 4 November – Sunday 17 November

With videos from Nikita Lalwani

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Planning and Research

Monday 18 November – Sunday 24 November

With videos from Jake Arnott

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Monday 25 November – Sunday 8 December

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

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Description, Tone & Style

Monday 9 December – Sunday 15 December

With videos from Erin Kelly

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Monday 6 January – Sunday 19 January

With videos from Suzannah Dunn

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Building Suspense

Monday 20 January – Sunday 26 January

With videos from Erin Kelly

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Monday 27 January – Sunday 2 February

With videos from Lisa O’Donnell

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Editing and Rewriting

Monday 3 February – Sunday 8 February

With videos from Jake Arnott

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The Synopsis

Monday 10 February – Sunday 23 February

With videos from Anna Davis and a synopsis workshop with your tutor

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Final Questions

Monday 24 February – Monday 2 March

Farewell from tutor

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End of Course Submission

Monday 9 March

Students to submit 3,000 word opening and one-page synopsis to be read by the Curtis Brown and C&W literary agents

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