WEDNESDAYS, JAN. 6 – Feb. 3 | Aspiring novelists face a particularly daunting task: completing a full manuscript on their own—often before they can even approach agents about their work. The prospect can make novel-writing feel a bit like jumping from the top of a tall building and hoping someone will catch you. Except you have to keep jumping from the top of that building every single day for the next three months to ten years.
This five-part course is designed for writers looking to embark on their first novel. We will delve into the essential elements of storytelling (character, setting, plot, conflict and theme) and how these apply to your own work. We’ll begin by going over story structure and strategies for outlining your novel. Next, we’ll look at character arc, in particular how the internal journey(s) of your main character(s) map onto the rubric of your external plot. From there, our focus will shift to character development, examining the conflicts and motivations that drive your protagonist(s), antagonist(s), and supporting characters, and how point of view affects the reader’s experience. After reviewing these big picture elements, we’ll talk about how to craft individual scenes and chapters, with a particular focus on the role of narrative tension. Finally, we’ll discuss the importance of setting and theme in your novel. To illustrate these concepts, we will read and analyze excerpts from contemporary masters of the craft like Chang Rae-Lee, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, Julia Luisella, C. Pam Zhang, and N.K. Jemisin.
Through in-class discussions, targeted group work, and writing exercises, we dig deep into what makes a novel work, how to start writing and how to keep yourself writing. At the end of the course, you should have a stronger sense of the story you want to tell—and a plan for how to complete the first draft of your novel.
While there are no prerequisites for this course, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Beloved by Toni Morrison will be referenced to demonstrate structural elements, so some basic familiarity (even if only from, say, SparkNotes) with the plots and main characters of each may be helpful.
Emily Holleman is the author of Cleopatra’s Shadows and The Drowning King (both Little Brown & Company), the first of which was long-listed for the HWA Debut Crown. She is currently working on a speculative novel set in California of the not-so-distant future. Her nonfiction has appeared in Elle, LitHub, Salon, and BookPage, among others.
Number of sessions: 5
Dates: Wednesdays, January 6, 13, 20, 27; February 3
Time: 5:00 – 7:00pm Pacific Time
Course fee: $300