Jane Crittenden’s debut novel Worlds Apart comes out this month, published by Amazon. Here she talks about how taking the Creative Writing Programme helped to kickstart her dream of writing a novel.

As an interiors journalist I have always loved writing but when my kids began school I wasn’t sure where I wanted my career to head. Freelancing is a fabulous flexible way of working but can also be lonely! A friend suggested I join a local group to meet people with similar interests. A writing group was an obvious choice – leading me to the Creative Writing Programme.

I was drawn to the course for its robust content where classes are held weekly for two years. I liked that we were led through the whole book writing process. For example, learning how different points of view affect storytelling, building characters, thinking about the senses to make a scene come alive, and so on.

One of the most important elements was feedback. We did this through writing workshops where we shared work as a group. It was scary at first but we were all in the same boat. Discussions helped identify and resolve problems. Reading and critiquing others’ work was also helpful for improving my own writing. Another invaluable part of the course was the opportunity to submit longer pieces of work for in-depth feedback from one of the tutors.

A standout moment was on day one. Course director, Mark Slater asked us to introduce ourselves and say why we’d decided to join the CWP. My response? To see if I’m capable of writing a novel.

Well… nearly nine years on, I clearly am!!

For me, sticking to this personal goal made my writing experience enjoyable rather than pressurising as I wasn’t thinking about agents or publishers. I started the course in September 2014. I began playing around with short stories but reminded myself my aim was to try writing a novel. But it seemed like an enormous and impossible task to write thousands of words…

This is where Worlds Apart first hit the page. I wanted to write a story set in New Zealand as my husband and I had loved living there previously. Somewhere along the way, the book became a contemporary romance where events in the past change the couple’s future. I created a dual timeline and two points of view.

After completing the CWP, I went on to do the one-year Advanced Writing Workshop with the CWP. By the end of the three years, CWP had fulfilled everything I hoped it would. I had the tools I needed to carry on writing my novel – and I’d made new friends.

A group of us from the course set up our own writing group. For the next three years, my book carried on evolving and by 2018 I had a first draft – a proud moment! Then in March 2020 my book was finished. A couple of friends asked to read it. I was reluctant (embarrassed!) and then so surprised when they both told me how much they’d enjoyed it. Their enthusiasm fired me on to find an agent.

I didn’t know much about the process as I’d deliberately kept my eyes on the book rather than thinking about being published. I read what I could online. I attended (online) the Jericho Writers’s Festival of Writing and listened to industry talks. I bought a monthly membership to access their Agent Match. I used the Writers’ & Artists Yearbook in the library to find agents interested in romance, commercial and women’s fiction.

I had a request for my full manuscript a few months later. But after nudging for a response, it became clear seven months later they’d lost interest. I had a second request for my manuscript but this went nowhere as well. Then, a year later, I heard about The Two Piers Literary Agency in Hove – and Rufus Purdy told me he wanted to represent me.

Rufus helped me edit my book to the best it could be and then it went out on submission to publishers. Within four weeks I had an offer from Lake Union, the book club imprint of Amazon Publishing, for a two-book deal.

And here I am!

Without the CWP, my debut novel, Worlds Apart, would never have come to life and brought me to this point today.

My contemporary romance, Worlds Apart, was published on 1 May 2023.