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NVL 25 W — Beginning Your Novel: The Importance of Shape

Quarter: Spring
Date(s): Mar 28—Jun 3
Duration: 10 weeks
Drop By
Drop Deadline: Mar 31
Unit(s): 3 Units
Tuition: $805
Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Limit: Limit 17
Status: Closed
The most underrated process of beginning a novel is determining its shape. You might ask yourself: How can we know what the novel will look like if we haven’t written a word? But the more appropriate question is this: How can we write a word without knowing what the novel will look like? Each novelist—indeed, each novel—requires a unique shape to harness its ideas, characters, and energy. This course is designed to help you find that shape and begin your novel in a dynamic and sustainable way.

In this course, we will read and analyze three short novels, each highlighting a different approach to shape. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and sometimes reinterpreted or subverted. Weekly writing exercises will give students a chance to create a stream of new material. Students will also workshop two short chapters or one long chapter of their novels-in-progress. These workshops will look rigorously and constructively at your writing, examining how you might best achieve what you’ve set out to do in your novel. In addition, we will pay particular attention to the writing process and the continued search for the richest narrative possibilities inherent in your work.

This is an online course. For more information about the Online Writing Program, visit our FAQs.

Molly Antopol, Lecturer in Fiction and Nonfiction; Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Molly Antopol’s debut story collection, The UnAmericans, received the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award and a “5 Under 35” award from the National Book Foundation. The collection was also longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, the National Jewish Book Award, and the California Book Award. Antopol received an MFA in creative writing from Columbia and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship from Harvard.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Stephen Kock, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop (ISBN 0375755586)
(Required) Paula Fox, Desperate Characters (ISBN 0393351106)
(Required) Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones (ISBN 1608196267)
(Required) Stuart O'Nan, Last Night at the Lobster (ISBN 0143114425)