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The Novel Generator: Twelve Months to a Full Draft

Isn’t it time you transformed that idea or handful of chapters, or messy first draft into a finished novel?

At Catapult, we believe there’s a better—or at least less lonely—way to write a novel. Our competitive 12-month novel writing course is designed to help writers generate and refine a submission-ready draft in a supportive and motivating atmosphere. Alongside a group of talented peers and under the guidance of a published novelist and accomplished mentor, writers will spend a year thinking deeply about how to build their story from the ground up. In addition to rigorous craft lessons on structure, setting, character, POV, and other elements of the novel, this course will include thorough workshops that invite author participation and questions, and careful analysis of notable published work. Students will also be exposed to accessible, invaluable information about the world of publishing.

This class is open to writers of all genres and forms of the novel but is best suited to those with a clear idea of what they want to work on over the course of the year—whether that idea takes the form of a collection of notes or an entire draft. The program will be divided into three phases, each focusing on a different element of the writing process and building upon earlier lessons. Each phase will feature guest speakers—debut novelists, seasoned writers, acquiring agents, and literary fiction editors from big houses and small—with insights on how one can best write and publish their debut.

We believe the writing process is sacred and should be protected from industry concerns in the early stages. With that in mind, phase one will focus on helping writers find and define their story; phase two, on finishing and refining the draft. We also believe that the opaque barriers between the publishing industry and creative writing classes should be broken down, and that writers who hope to publish can be better served by writing education that treats publishing like a challenging, but achievable, goal. For that reason, phase three will center on navigating the literary marketplace.

Throughout the year, class will meet 40 times for three hours per session with several breaks for holidays and “between” phases. Writers will graduate the 12-month novel generator with a substantial number of new pages, a better understanding of the literary marketplace, valuable connections, and productive and strategic work habits that will transform their writing lives moving forward.

Phase 1: Finding the story (Sept. 17- Dec. 17, no  class Nov. 26; 13 meetings) 

In the first phase, weekly sessions will alternate between craft and workshop. Our in-class work will be geared toward helping each writer determine the best form for their novel, and how to best articulate that on the page. Whether you’re coming into class with an idea or an entire draft, we will look closely at the beginning of your book to consider the questions that you’re laying out, the world you’ve built and the characters you’ve introduced, and how you are teaching your reader to read the novel from the very first paragraph. We will study noteworthy first chapters, unpack the wants and fears of your main characters, and begin to tackle the specific way time will function in your novel. Craft classes will be geared towards generating new pages, drafting and outlining, and solidifying the novel’s structure, with specific attention paid to meeting each writer where they are. In this phase, students will have the opportunity to workshop once, up to 25-50 pages, and will meet with the instructor for an individual conference following their workshop.

Phase 2: Finishing and refining the draft (Jan. 21 - May 12, no class Apr. 14; 15 meetings)

The second phase will focus on helping writers get to the final page of their draft, with craft classes specifically focused on strategies for refining and revising. This will be the first meaty engagement with the full manuscript. We will establish and discuss the major tensions and relationships laid out in your novel, naming, unpacking, and ensuring that each part of your draft relates to the whole. Students will have the opportunity to workshop twice during phase two, up to 150 pages each time, and will meet with the instructor following these workshops to discuss strategies for revision and their progress.

Phase 3: Navigating the marketplace (Jul. 14 -Oct. 13; 12 meetings)

The third and final phase of the 12-month novel generator will help writers begin the process of thinking about how their novel might fit into the marketplace. Non-workshop classes will focus on writing the query letter, demystifying the literary publishing landscape, and building an author platform. Students will each have a final workshop, submitting their entire draft for peer review, and will also meet with a Catapult editor who will read the draft in full and meet with the writer to discuss. Guest speakers will include leading literary agents, editors, and book marketers. Graduation will be celebrated at a public capstone reading featuring each student, and excerpts from the novels will be featured on Catapult’s website.


- 120 hours of instruction, including four workshops per student

- Four 30 minute one-on-one meetings with the instructor

- 20% off all Catapult conferences, classes, and events for the duration of the program

- Free enrollment in Catapult’s Don’t Write Alone weekend, which includes a one-on-one meeting with an agent or editor

- 2nd Reader: in addition to the dedicated feedback from the writer/instructor as well as members of the class, each student will submit their manuscript to a Catapult editor for a close reading and a one-on-one meeting to discuss their work

- A passionate and talented community of peer readers

- A deeper understanding of the craft of novel writing and how to develop a narrative across the span of a novel

- A finished draft (No class can promise that you’ll finish your novel draft within the year. But we can promise that if you commit to showing up and doing the work, you will be given all the tools you need to get to that last page.)

- Greater fluency with the contemporary literary marketplace

- Access to regular guest speakers and networking events

- Showcase publication and graduation reading and ceremony


Why Catapult, and not an MFA program?

Catapult is an award-winning independent publisher of literary fiction and nonfiction. Novels are our business: every day we work to help the stories and writers we love find their audience. Our program is designed to unite the best things about an MFA program—community, mentorship, and intensive craft analysis—with specialized and practical publishing advice.

How much does this class cost? Are scholarships, financial aid, or payment plans available?

Full tuition for this year-long course is $6,250. Payment plans of varying installments are available upon acceptance to the course.  Applicants with demonstrated need will be considered for a limited number of financial aid awards. If you have questions about payment plans and/or financial aid, please email our Writing Programs Assistant, Stella Cabot Wilson ([email protected]). If you are interested in applying for financial aid, you must apply prior to September 1.

Why does this class cost so much?

The 12-month novel generator is an MFA level course, taught by a published novelist who is also an experienced educator with years of creative writing teaching experience at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Your tuition helps pay your instructor a living wage, and covers the cost of booking guest speakers, arranging second readers, scheduling events, and administering the program.

I finished the novel generator. When will I get published?

We can’t promise that every writer who leaves the 12-month novel generator will get published right away, or ever. Publishing is a tricky business, involving lots of luck and time—as students enrolled in this course will learn! That said, as publishers ourselves, we strongly believe that we can help prepare emerging novelists to better navigate the publishing industry, and that our program and the connections made here will increase your chances of success.

In the course description, there are mentions of meetings with guest speakers, agents, and invitations to special events. I want the details right now! Why can’t I have them?

People who work in publishing are busy and we confirm guest speakers on a rolling basis, as their schedules permit. Agencies represented in past guest speaker line-ups include WME, ICM, Trident Media Group, Sterling Lord, Janklow & Nesbit, Inkwell, Writers House, and many more. We’ve had editors and publishing professionals from Big Five imprints including Knopf, Henry Holt, Riverhead, Penguin Press, William Morrow, Scribner, Crown, and many others, as well as indie representation from SoHo Press, Grove Atlantic, Melville House, and New Directions.

I barely have an idea for a novel. Is this class too advanced?

Maybe. How serious are you about the idea? If you just have an inkling, but you’re committed to coming in and focusing on that idea over the course of the year, this class might be the right fit for you. The key thing is that on the first day, you come ready to write. No one will write the pages of your novel for you, but this course can help you apply structure to your idea, and motivate you to finish the draft.

I have written several drafts of a novel, and I can’t seem to find an agent or figure out the next steps. Should I take this class?

Absolutely. Sometimes taking a novel to the next level requires cracking it open and figuring out how it works, and that process can be helped along by the insight of new readers. This class will give you new perspective on your work and offer concrete next steps for you and your novel.

I’m still not sure if this class is for me. Could I talk to someone about it?

Yes! We would love to meet with you. Please email Julie Buntin ([email protected]), Director of Writing Programs, to set up an appointment.

Lynn Steger Strong

Lynn Steger Strong's first novel, Hold Still, was released by Liveright/WW Norton in March 2016. She received an MFA from Columbia University and her non-fiction has been published in Guernica, LARB,, Catapult, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. She teaches both fiction and non-fiction writing at Columbia University, Fairfield University, and the Pratt Institute. Lynn's second novel, Want, is forthcoming from Henry Holt in spring 2020.


“Lynn taught me the importance of keeping my characters on the ground, so the reader can follow their lives and struggles without getting lost in the clouds. She is also an excellent tuner of language, with a keen ear for both the clarity and music of a sentence. Her priority as the workshop leader was to pay close attention to what the author wants to accomplish with their story, and to help them discover the best way to achieve that, without imposing formulas or commandments.”

former student

“Lynn has an overtly powerful passion for fiction that gave way to inspiring workshop sessions. She possesses an expansive knowledge of the methodology of fiction writing, and provided us with techniques and tools that I will keep with me for all of my future work.”

former student

“The workshop was invaluable in showing me that a good first draft is a fraction of the battle, that people who take the time to consider what you're trying to achieve and critique you on that end-goal are far more valuable than people who are looking to cater your story to their taste. Lynn did a really great job of instructing, guiding, suggesting, and forced or wedged anything into a place- the conversations were organic, sometimes livelier than I had imagined workshops could get, and always with good intention. She's great. Take her workshops.”

former student

“HOLD STILL is an unblinking examination of family, the mother-child bond, and the storms it must withstand. Lynn Strong pulls no punches in considering not just how deep, but also how misguided a mother’s love can be.”

Elisa Albert author of AFTER BIRTH

“Who do we blame when a good kid makes one disastrous mistake? The parents? The child? The bad influences lingering at the margins? Lynn Strong's captivating novel explores questions of blame and guilt from many points of view, all of them rendered with tenderness, compassion, and surprising humor. A little bit Lionel Shriver, a little bit Virigina Woolf. HOLD STILL is a terrific debut.”

Victor La Valle author of THE DEVIL IN SILVER