Online | Fiction | Novel | Workshop

6-Week Fiction Workshop: Novel Openings

In this six-week workshop, we will explore what makes a novel's opening (roughly the first 50 pages) so critical, and why writers tend to invest so much time in the opening.

We will study titles, first lines, first paragraphs, first pages, first chapters. When do you introduce the main character? How do you introduce conflict? Where should a story begin?

For the first two weeks, we will look at successful examples from writers like Jonathan Evison, Rebecca Makkai, and Tayari Jones in order to explore the concepts together.

During the last four weeks, we will workshop your opening 10 pages! The goal of the class is to help your novels find the best possible openings.

The class works for both writers new to the workshop experience and for writers with experience. Students can come with their pages already written or can write new pages in the first few weeks. While this class will be using fiction novels as example texts, most of the techniques we explore have applicability to narrative in memoir (a story is a story!) so nonfiction writers are welcome too!

Our class platform works best on laptop or desktop computers. 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 Zoom 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.  


- Writers will understand why the opening pages of a novel are so critical, and how to craft effective openings.

- Writers will explore what makes the first fifty pages of a book grab and hold the reader.

- Writers will check (via workshop) their own novel openings to make sure they have crafted the best openings possible!

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Reading assignments each week.

Practice techniques in their own writing.

Workshop reading for the workshop portion.

Submit first ten pages of their projects for workshop. Students will be reading each other’s work and providing feedback.


Week 1: First Impressions: From title to first five pages.

Week 2: The Hook: How to grab, hold, and sustain the energy of the opening.

Week 3: Character: Who to care about and what do they care about? (Workshop 1)

Week 4: Time/Place: The importance of clocks and conditions (Workshop 2)

Week 5: Desire, Conflict, and Plot (workshop 3)

Week 6: Tension & Suspense (workshop 4)

Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in LitHub, CrimeReads, Air & Space Magazine, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere. His first novel, The Falling Woman, was published by Algonquin Books in 2020.


"As a published writer with several books out in the world, it's really motivating to find an editor as committed and responsive as Rich, with the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience that he brings to every edit. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Rich to anyone who's ready to take their craft seriously. Be prepared to put the work in, and enjoy the results."

Elizabeth St.John

"As someone who has written but never shared, I found Rich’s style inviting and insightful whether he was giving direct feedback or facilitating group discussions. He has a talent for being able to encourage a writer while making them want to be better. Rich was always available and really went above and beyond the expectations."

Josh Carpenter

"I feel extremely fortunate to have stumbled into his class at San Diego Writer’s Ink all those years ago. Rich became my mentor. It was he who encouraged me to pursue an MFA in creative writing. I have no doubt that I would not be at this point in my writing career were it not for Rich. I will add that though I had the privilege of being taught by some famous writers in my MFA, Rich is by far the best teacher of writing I have experienced. It is to my notes from his classes that I most often turn when I feel stuck. "

Jo-Anne Berelowitz

"Great writing, great plotting and a thoughtful plumbing of what makes us human...Highly recommended."

B.A. Shapiro

"A startling and suspenseful debut. Farrell's The Falling Woman creates an immediately compelling scenario...Subtle and profound."


"A mind-rattling debut mystery."

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