University of Iowa

Decisions, Decisions: Your Novel’s First Chapters

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

Think of your favorite contemporary novel: Cloud Atlas, Dept. of Speculation, The Tiger’s Wife, The Truth About Celia, Vanishing Point, The Orchardist. Think of how that novel might have started: a dream, a memory, an image, a crisis, a letter, an obsession, a scrap of gossip. No doubt the novelist did a lot of pacing or smoking or eating or praying or crying or laughing or planning or cutting and pasting. But the words got on the page; they added up to a narrative that made sense and carried the reader into a new world. The novelist started out, got lost, found a way out, doubled back, asked for directions, moved onand somehow arrived at THE END. This workshop will concentrate on the first words, sentences, pages and chapters of your novel. We will discuss a number of first pages from successful novels. Each workshop participant will be expected to bring the first chapter(s) (fifteen pages is plenty) of a (however humble) novel-in-progress. We’ll revise and discover. Our discussion will focus on the beginnings of things: character, voice and action, when and where to revise, how and what to plan, how to get inside of the story and live the life of the novel. This workshop is about diving into the deep water of a novel and is open to fiction writers at all levels of experience.