Sarah Clutton never thought she had the staying power to write a novel – two published books later, she’s proven herself wrong, and says she’d couldn't have done it without the Australian Writers’ Centre.
Sarah’s debut novel, Good Little Liars, was published by Hachette UK imprint Bookouture in 2019; Bookouture also published her second novel, The Daughter’s Promise in 2020, and she’s now working on her third novel.
Before taking courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre, Sarah had worked as a commercial lawyer and then moved to a rural town and became a full-time mum. She wanted to become a writer, but didn’t know how to get started, and says the Australian Writers’ Centre’s courses helped her where a previous online writing course through a major university had been underwhelming.
“The Write Your Novel course was critical to me getting a book deal,” Sarah says. “I had written about 40,000 words of my first novel when I suddenly realised I had no idea how to write a novel! That course popped up on my feed on the Friday afternoon and by Monday I was enrolled and by Tuesday, I had started.
“All of the wonderful readings and resources in that course were brilliant. And I continue to follow resources online and to make sure that I give myself the best possible chance of writing well.”
The course offered plenty of detailed, usable help, Sarah says, and she valued the network it provided.
“To write a novel… It's a bit like raising a child. It can take a village,” she says. “You're sometimes too close to your own work and taking away the ego from your work and having it stripped down to all its flaws, and workshopped can make it so much better. So I've learned that workshopping is critical.”
The feedback and online friendship with other writers has continued to help Sarah in her writing career, she says.
“I’m still in touch with some of them, and my novel ‘partner’ in the course has been a beta reader for both my novels.”
“I've also learned that I respond really well to deadlines – without them, I do struggle. It was brilliant for getting the work done and finished.”
Beyond the novel
As well as Write Your Novel, Sarah has taken Freelance Writing Stage 1, Writing for the Web and Mobile, 2 Hours to Scrivener Power and Build Your Author Platform. She says all the courses helped get her to where she is today – a novelist and freelance writer.
“I have been happily impressed by how useful and practical the AWC courses are. They get down to the nitty gritty and offer real opportunities to workshop and network.”
Now, Sarah has a varied freelance career which works for her.
“I think the key to getting work as a writer is just to say ‘yes’ to any opportunity that comes along, then enrol in a course if you need to! As a freelance writer, everything I have learned has been useful. And fun!
“I’ve done everything from write a private memoir with antiquarian book doyen, Leo Berkelouw, to writing menus and signs for restaurants, to writing real estate copy, to writing websites for various kinds of businesses. It’s all a learning curve.”
You can go your own way
Before taking the Write Your Novel program, Sarah says she never thought of herself as the type of person who could do it – but she’s learned that there’s no one way to be a writer.
“I always imagined writing as part of my work, but I didn’t imagine I’d publish a novel (or two),” she says. “I always thought I wasn’t ‘the sort of person’ who could finish a novel, or even someone who could imagine a whole plot and story arc and then keep it in my head.
“What I realised was that it really is ‘bit by bit’. For me, it’s plodding along, just keeping at it. I don’t believe there is any right way, or any one type of person who can write a novel. I think it’s more about stickability. Just sitting down and doing it.
“The practical workshopping and all of the wonderful feedback we got from the other participants in the [Write Your Novel] course was really excellent. And what it helped me to do when I was giving feedback to them was to see the exact same problems in my own writing, I was quite formal in my writing. And I realised I needed to just loosen up. Just how to give feedback and how to receive feedback – that was really a revelation for me.
“I've learnt that writing is an ongoing process of learning. You can never learn enough and there's always something else to learn.”
If you’ve got a novel just bursting to get out but you need that extra helping hand, our Write Your Novel program will help you finish your first draft, improve your manuscript and explore your publishing options.