Online | Fiction | Novel | Workshop

The Online Novel Generator: 12 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 online 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 professionals—debut novelists, seasoned writers, acquiring agents, and literary fiction editors from big houses and small—whose visits serve to offer students a wealth of 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 for 120 hours (e.g., 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.

Each phase will additionally be supported by the presence of a teaching fellow who is also an emerging fiction writer. This individual will attend and observe many class sessions, assist Ingrid with class logistics, receive professional mentorship from the Catapult team, and occasionally supplement (not replace) Ingrid’s teaching.

To apply, please submit the first chapter of your novel-in-progress (up to 25 pages), or your strongest writing sample, with a short proposed project description attached.

Phase 1: Finding the story (Jun. 23 - Sept. 22, 2021)

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 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 over the phone or Zoom for an individual conference following their workshop.

Phase 2: Finishing and refining the draft (Oct. 20, 2021 - Feb. 23, 2022)

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 over the phone or Zoom following these workshops to discuss strategies for revision and their progress.

Phase 3: Navigating the marketplace (Apr. 6 - Jun. 22, 2022)*

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 book editor who will read the draft in full and meet with the writer to discuss via phone or video conference. Students will also have the chance to discuss their query letter and other professional concerns with an agent from a highly regarded agency in a brief individual consultation. Guest visitors will include agents, editors, and book marketers. Graduation will be celebrated with excerpts from the novels featured on Catapult’s website.

*Please note that some of the partnerships with Catapult in Phase 3 of your generator (for example, your graduation showcase publication and meeting with a 2nd reader) may extend beyond your final scheduled class session

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 desktop client so you have access to all platform features.

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

- 120 hours of instruction, including at least three workshops of substantial excerpts

- Four 30 minute one-on-one meetings over phone or video conference with the instructor

- 20% off all Catapult conferences, classes, and events, including any residential programs and writers’ retreats, for the duration of the program

- 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 after the conclusion of Phase 2 to a book editor or who conducts manuscript consultations professionally. Intended to offer a professional perspective from outside the workshop conversation, as well as practice for future conversations with editors, this editorial letter is followed by a one-on-one meeting over phone or video conference 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

- Professional and creative insights from regular guest visitors

- Showcase publication and graduation reading

FAQs:

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.

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 who enroll 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 guest visitors, 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 visitors 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 talk with you. Please email [email protected] to set up an appointment.

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

Full tuition for this year-long course is $6250. 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 [email protected].

Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Ingrid Rojas Contreras is the author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Doubleday, 2018) a silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor's choice. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Cut, The Believer, and elsewhere. A new work of nonfiction, a family memoir about her grandfather, a curandero from Colombia who it was said had the power to move clouds, is coming from Doubleday in 2022. 

Morgan Green

Morgan Nicole Green is an emerging writer with a BA in Creative Writing and Philosophy from Susquehanna University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Southern New Hampshire University where she won the Assignment Magazine student writing contest. She is also the first-place winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story writing contest. Her story "Habits" will be published in the fall 2021 issue. Follow her on Twitter @morgnicole. 

Testimonials

“Some of the most important things I learned was formatting your novel, breaking it down in to sections, chapters, to even one line summaries of what are main goal is for each chapter. Knowing what the driving engine and question was of our novel, how chapters are answering and moving the plot forward, and whether our conclusion echoes the beginning and if there is an answer, knowing how to structure my novel properly, the stages it will take to get there, the revisions that need to be done, identifying conflict and setting, I will forever be referring back to these notes in my literary career that I took from Ingrid in Fall of 2020. We were very lucky to have her.”

former student

“Ingrid was an incredible instructor and has made such a huge impact in all of our lives. During this year and all the uncertainty that has been harming so many people, a consistent highlight each week was Ingrid's class on Tuesday afternoon.”

former student

“When I got complete writer’s block I sat at my desk for hours. I thought about something Ingrid had said in class a few weeks earlier. “In order to truly capture the nuances of any scene, you just have to trace the emotions exactly as they happened.” I sat back and closed my eyes. I thought more about the moment I was trying to write. When I finally put my hands to the keys, I started to cry. I buried my face in my hands and continued to sob. The reason I hadn’t been able to write this scene is because it was raw. Ingrid didn’t just force me to think creatively about my novel. She forced me to think creatively about the writer I want to be. The class itself provided an unparalleled support system and source of inspiration that I am extremely thankful for.”

former student

“I remember feeling so unprepared and scared to start my novel, feeling very unconfident with my ability to write fiction. But I'd always leave class feeling a bit more confident, with a concrete plan on how to move forward. Ingrid was ever encouraging, ever-helpful, and ever-inspiring me to improve.”

former student

“Original, politically daring, and passionately written—FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE is the coming-of-age female empowerment story we need in 2018.”

VOGUE

“Simultaneously propulsive and poetic, reminiscent of Isabel Allende... FRUIT OF THE DRUNKEN TREE offers a wake-up call for many. An eye-opening story of survival in a place history books and crime sagas (see: 'Narcos') would have us think we know better than we do...Listen to this new author’s voice—she has something powerful to say.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

“A beautifully rendered novel of an Escobar-era Colombian childhood...You don’t need to have grown up in Bogota to be taken in by Contreras’s simple but memorable prose and absorbing storyline…I can’t help wondering what novels about Colombia 25 years from now will have to say about this current period. I can only hope they’ll be as sensitive and thoughtful as this one.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“One of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time.”

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE