Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Fiction Writing Seminar: Back to the Basics

Just as a ballet dancer warms up for the most complicated of solos by doing some simple pliés, the writer can improve and deepen their work by revisiting the basic building blocks of fiction. In this course, we will look closely at four major craft elements: character, scene, pacing, and point of view. We will take the time to define and interrogate these terms, and we will discuss how each is used—and even subverted—in published fiction.

Each week in our class salon, there will be a slideshow lecture on the dedicated topic, as well as an in-depth discussion of a short story, novel except, or chapter from a craft book, from writers such as Jamel Brinkley, Lan Samantha Chang, and Dan Chaon. There will be writing exercises focusing on the weekly craft topic, and you will have a chance to share your work in-class for verbal feedback. You will also have the option to post your writing exercises online and comment on each other’s work as you go.

Because this course will cover "the basics" it is open to newer and more experienced writers alike; together, we will explore this tricky art form, and in the process, attempt to answer such questions as, "What makes a reader want to turn the page?" and "How do you create a nuanced character?" and "Why oh why did I ever want to become a writer?"

By the end of the class, you will have a strong grasp of the foundational elements of fiction writing as well as some new material to develop further. Students may opt to pay an additional $120 fee at the end of the class for instructor feedback (line edits and an email with feedback) on up to ten pages of their work.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features. The Zoom calls will have automated transcription enabled. Please let us know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns about accessibility. 

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Learning how to read closely to understand craft techniques in practice.

- A deeper appreciation for how each individual craft choice functions within a larger narrative, and how it affects and influences your reader.

- New material to develop and expand further.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will be expected to read either a novel excerpt or short story for three out of the four classes (there will be no reading for the first meeting) and be prepared to discuss it in depth. There may be two reading assignments one week, but the weekly page count will be more than 40 or so pages. Students can revise their in-class writing exercises to post online for feedback; if they post their own work online they're expected to comment on other classmates' writing as well.


Week 1: Characterization

Week 2: Scene (and Summary)

Week 3: Pacing

Week 4: Point of View

Edan Lepucki

Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels California and Woman No. 17., and the editor of Mothers Before: Stories and Portraits of Our Mothers as We Never Saw Them. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, the Los Angeles Times, Romper, and The Cut, among others, and she recently published her short story "People in Hell Want Ice Water" as an Audible Original. Edan also teaches creative writing at Caltech and at Ashland University's low-residency MFA program. (Photo credit: Adam Karsten)


"WOMAN NO. 17 tastes like a juice box of suburban satire laced with Alfred Hitchcock. Lepucki’s witty lines arrive as dependably as afternoon playtime, but her reflection on motherhood and women’s friendships is deadly serious."

Ron Charles Washington Post

"The book, for both characters and reader, is like a tense, hypnotic journey along a mountain road as abyss after abyss opens up beside and around you."

Sarah Stone San Francisco Chronicle (about CALIFORNIA)

“In her arresting debut novel, Edan Lepucki conjures a lush, intricate, deeply disturbing vision of the future, then masterfully exploits its dramatic possibilities.”

Jennifer Egan

"Edan’s enthusiasm in class for reading and writing fiction was inspiring. We had great discussions about what she calls the deeper subject, but she knows the answers to craft questions, too, and her notes on my work were insightful and useful."

former student

"Edan Lepucki isn’t only a remarkable writer—she’s an insightful editor of others’ writing. She enjoys teaching about various aspects of the craft and that passes to her students."

former student

"Edan is the most creative and inspiring writing instructor I have come across in many years of fiction workshops. I have studied both the short story and novel forms in Edan’s classes. I have found her writing prompts to be inventive and effective, opening me to new ideas for stories. I have also enjoyed reading a variety of published writing assigned by Edan, and have gotten great value from her insight. Her passion for fiction in general is infectious. She is one of the more intuitive readers I have met, and I treasure her feedback on any work in progress. I have seen my writing improve, and have come to understand myself better as a writer, thanks to Edan."

former student

"In the ten years I've been actively workshopping my fiction, Edan is easily one of the best teachers I've ever had. She has a true gift for seeing past what's on the page and picking up on what a piece wants to be, what it's trying to achieve, what the writer is trying to achieve, but her feedback is not overly prescriptive. She doesn't try to control what should come next, what a writer should do to "fix" the piece, instead her advice leaves the writer feeling inspired. It gives the courage it sometimes takes to keep going, to keep writing. Edan is smart and funny but most importantly she is supportive and approachable and I look forward to sitting at a workshop table again with her someday."

former student