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6-Week Online Fiction Workshop: Nailing Your Novel’s First Chapter

Take a close look at your favorite novels’ first chapters, and in them you’ll likely find a complete distillation of the book to come. It’s where the writer’s voice snags you, the central character or characters begin to wrap their hands around your heart, where the seed of the novel’s conflict is buried. Those first pages are where you, as the writer, grab the reader — and also ideally grab editors, agents, reviewers. This class is geared toward students who have a firm idea of their novel’s story as a whole — and may have written all or most of a first draft (that’s helpful, though not required) — and now want to make sure that story is set up as compellingly as possible in those early pages. All members of the workshop will have their entire chapters workshopped once, and then have an excerpt from the chapter workshopped again after revision (the instructor will review and comment on the complete revised chapter). We’ll do exercises to open up the potential inside each first chapter, as well as pore over first chapters of published novels that really shine. 

Participants will leave the course with revised chapters, a clearer sense of how those chapters work, and a plan for using that knowledge to launch into the rest of their books as a whole.


- Extensive peer and instructor feedback on your chapter, including a one-on-one session with the instructor

- A clearer sense on the craft level of what makes a first chapter truly sing, and what will make your particular first chapter sing

- Renewed energy to tackle the rest of your novel — moving beyond the first chapter into the meat of the story


Week 0: Intros, scheduling, talk about the novel-writing process

Week 1: Who and where, workshop #1

Week 2: Revelation of information, workshop #2

Week 3: Tone and voice, workshop #3

Week 4: Clarity and first paragraphs; exercises, questions

Week 5: Revision workshop #1

Week 6: Revisions workshop #2, plans for moving forward 

*no class on February 14th

Allison Lynn

Allison Lynn is the author of two novels, The Exiles (Little A, 2013) and Now You See It (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, 2004). Her numerous articles, essays and book reviews have appeared in publications that range from The New York Times Book Review to People Magazine to the Believer online to Post Road. She's taught creative writing at New York University, Lehigh, and currently in the MFA program at Butler University, and has received fellowships from the Millay Colony for the Arts and the Wesleyan Writers Conference.


“Allison Lynn’s THE EXILES is a revelation, a suspenseful and indelible journey through fate, love, luck, and what it means to be a family. It’s the sort of book I feel lucky for having read, and can’t wait to read again.”


“THE EXILES is better about current-day New York — and the promise of the American world outside New York — than just about anything I can remember. If books teach you how to live, read THE EXILES to learn how to be a new parent, a spouse, a human being. Just read it.”


"What would happen to you if someone you love were to vanish, to steal away with nearly everything you take for granted? A tale about the mystery of appearances and disappearances, Allison Lynn's unusual debut is taut, realistic, and haunting."

Julia Glass

"Allison Lynn is incredibly thorough with her written feedback, a great reader, and always recommends great books, which are geared toward each student's style...She is hands down the best, most honest critic of writing I have ever met. I am honored that she was my professor, I really and truly am."

former student

"Allison breaks down a story like a boss."

former student