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/wine 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.
Jennifer Close is the best-selling author of Girls in White Dresses, The Smart One, and The Hopefuls. Born and raised on the North Shore of Chicago, she is a graduate of Boston College and received her MFA in Fiction Writing from the New School in 2005. She worked in New York in magazines for many years and has taught creative writing at George Washington University for the past 8 years.