Writing a novel is hard, but there are clear and practical steps a writer can take to demystify the process and get their story onto the page. In this twelve-week master class for writers at every stage of the novel-writing process—from the first couple of chapters to full draft—we will attempt to understand the mechanisms through which novels are made. Due to the intensive nature of our work together, this class is limited to six writers.
In the first weeks, we’ll set the parameters for our discussion both in terms of what you hope your projects to be as well as the lenses through which we will help you hone and develop them. You should already have your project in mind and at least a few pages of your work-in-progress, but the class will be built to facilitate the creation of new work as much as to shape that which has already been written. We welcome all genres of writing and all forms of novel. The goal of this class is to come to each project on its terms, and to learn from all the various forms of storytelling how to tell ours best. We will alternate weeks between craft discussions—character, structure, plot, POV and tense—and workshops in which we discuss the first 50-100 pages of two students’ manuscripts. Unlike other workshops you may have taken, in these early classes the writer will be an engaged member of the conversation while their submission is being discussed. We will work to help each writer figure out not only what they hope the project to be, but how they might make it that. We will set up clear goals for each writer and clear parameters for our conversations moving forward in order that we might all be equally invested in helping each writer to make the book they’ve always dreamed of writing.
The second half of the class will be single writer workshops. We will be reading up to 300 pages, either starting at the beginning again, or from the point of the previous submission. These discussions will occur in two parts: one, the more traditional conversation with the class, without the writer’s input, discussing the reader experience and analyzing both the ways in which the book succeeds as well as where it needs more work. We will then open the conversation to the writer to ask questions and clarify as needed, while working to establish a clear path moving forward toward a completed manuscript.
Students will meet with the instructor following each of their two workshops for specific, private feedback as well as an in-depth conversation about the workshop discussion, and also to set a plan in place for the work ahead, along with more practical querying/publishing concerns.
Writers will leave this class with a first (or eighth or fifty-seventh) full draft of a novel as well as the necessary tools to make the final draft the book they hope to make. To celebrate their graduation from the course, writers will be invited to a special agent roundtable/cocktail reception, where they will have the chance to pitch their work.
To apply, please submit the first chapter of your novel-in-progress (up to 25 pages). Writers should be prepared to workshop 25-100 pages of their novel drafts by the time the course begins.
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, Elle.com, 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”