Fiction | Novel | Intensive

1-Day Novel Structuring Intensive

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So you're writing a novel. Maybe you've been working on it for a while, or even have hundreds of pages of material—but as any good writer knows, many pages do not, necessarily, a completed novel make. If your story feels unmanageable, you're at the perfect stage to step back, take a bird's-eye view, and reevaluate. This one-day novel-structuring intensive is for anyone who has a pretty good sense of—at least—their novel’s beginning, rising action, and climactic moments. (You needn’t have a clear idea of your ending. This class can help with that!)

We'll start by reviewing existing structural forms—e.g. the hero's journey, the love story (both comic and tragic), the bildungsroman. We'll talk about your work, figure out what archetypal narrative tropes you're working with, and use them to help build a strong foundation for your project. We'll discuss chronology: when and how to reveal essential information—and how to determine what information is essential in the first place! Finally, we'll spend some time coming up with our own detailed outlines, which will help us work our novels into manageable form.

Students can expect to walk away with a sense of the archetypal story tropes they're working with; concrete, detailed, workable outlines of their novels; and clarified, bird’s-eye views of her stories.

To apply, please send a five-page excerpt from your novel and a working plot synopsis.


- Clarity on your novel project

- A detailed, workable outline of your novel, which you can use to revise it or continue working on it, going forward

- A sense of the archetypal story tropes you're working with and how they might give your project direction 

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

Rachel Lyon

Rachel Lyon is author of Self-Portrait with Boy, which was long-listed for the DUBLIN International Literary Award and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Her short work has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, Longreads, Joyland, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. She is Editor-in-Chief of Epiphany and a cofounder of the reading series Ditmas Lit, in her native Brooklyn NY.


"A sparkling debut... wrestles with complex questions about art-making, integrity and the ethics of ambition."


“Striking… Think of the tough tone of something like Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers, or Olivia Laing’s atmospheric nonfiction book about New York, The Lonely City… Self-Portrait With Boy is a smart novel about the narcissistic ambition that’s needed to succeed, especially in the art world, especially in New York.”

Maureen Corrigan NPR

“The conflict is rich and thorny, raising questions about art and morality, love and betrayal, sacrifice and opportunism and the chance moments that can define a life. The novel wrestles with the nature of art but moves with the speed of a page-turner.”


"A confident first novel... The moral dilemma Lyon sets up is explored with intelligence and grace ... Best of all is Rile’s voice, snappish and self-aware and scared, taking on the world while being devoured by it, reaching out to touch the ghosts that float above the East River."


"Rachel made it clear that writing required passion but also discipline, and she was able to convey her vast knowledge throughout the course. She was crystal clear throughout, giving us excellent writing prompts for each class. We asked Rachel a lot of questions that often had no right answers, and she took the time to answer honestly and knowledgeably."

former student

"Rachel is phenomenal at encouraging her writers to dig deeper into the emotional genesis of a particular story. Her strength is slowing her students down, highlighting areas where things are touched on yet not fully developed, and encouraging the more fulfilling, but incredibly more difficult, process of exploring that. I found Rachel's ability to highlight certain things that I overlooked wonderful."

former student

"Though I have been writing on my own for years, Rachel's class completely opened up fiction writing for me. Through her guidance, tips, and suggestions, I was able to expand my writing in new and surprising ways."

former student