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4-Week Online Novel Workshop: Creating an Immersive World

Whether the setting of our fiction is real or speculative, urban or rural, historical or futuristic, our aim is the same: to create a world so tangible and alive, the characters who inhabit it are, too. Although setting is sometimes understood as being secondary to plot or character, in fact it’s essential to both—and can become a wellspring as we write our novels.

Each week, we will read excerpts from a diverse selection of contemporary literary fiction and discuss how the settings deepen and complicate the characters and plot. We’ll also undertake writing prompts that help us apply these insights to our own work. There will be opportunities to share excerpts for group feedback.

This class is intended for writers who have already begun a novel, or who have thought concretely about the novel they wish to write. Those who have stalled on their novels-in-progress may also find this workshop of particular use, as the focus is on generating pages and writing toward a greater understanding of our fictional world and its potential.

This class will meet over our text-only chat platform. There will not be any video or audio component to class.


- A better understanding of setting as a craft element and how to use specificity to capture the vitality of a place

- Creative prompts that generate usable pages, including compelling scenes written with special attention to setting

- Characters complicated by their environment

- Forward momentum on a novel-in-progress

- Thoughtful feedback from instructor and peers

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


- Read weekly excerpts and be prepared to discuss

- Read and give feedback on classmate workshop submissions

- Be prepared to submit your own work for peer and instructor feedback


Week 1: Specificity in Description

Week 2: Characters and Their Contexts

Week 3: Place, Conflict, and Atmosphere

Week 4: Setting the Scene

Chia-Chia Lin

Chia-Chia Lin is the author of the novel The Unpassing (FSG 2019). Her short stories have been published in The Paris Review, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Zyzzyva, and other journals. Lin is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Henfield Prize. She lives in Northern California.


"Chia-Chia is one of the most insightful and incisive readers I have ever encountered. She takes each draft on its own terms. Often, Chia-Chia sees where my stories want to go more clearly than I can, and she suggests thoughtful, actionable next steps to help me take them there."

workshop member Iowa Writer's Workshop

"Chia-Chia's insights always feel fresh and surprising. Even after I’ve labored through several drafts, she somehow finds a new angle from which to approach the work, opening it up and sharpening it. "

workshop member Iowa Writer's Workshop

“Like the landscape it inhabits, this brilliant novel is composed of equal parts mystery, menace, and ravishment. It’s difficult to think of another recent book in which emotion mounts so steadily and inexorably, nearly imperceptibly, until the last pages arrive with almost unbearable force. Chia-Chia Lin is among the best new writers I’ve read in years.”

Garth Greenwell author of WHAT BELONGS TO YOU

“Chia-Chia Lin captures the strangeness and beauty of childhood better than any writer in recent memory, and she is a brilliant observer of physical and emotional landscapes … this debut novel, a true work of art, displays the kind of clear and uniquely angled vision that announces the beginning of a remarkable career.”

Jamel Brinkley author of A LUCKY MAN

"Stunning . . . With powerful and poetic prose, Lin captures the uncertainty and insight of childhood . . . Lin's majestic writing immerses the reader in the bodily experiences of her characters, who writhe, paw, dig, salivate, and draw readers into their world."

Maggie Taft Booklist (starred review)