University of Iowa

Novel Manuscript Workshop

Two-Weeklong July 14 to July 26 2019

Admission to this workshop is by application only. Enrollment is limited to ten. To apply, submit twenty pages of your novel, a two-page synopsis, and a brief personal statement detailing your hopes and goals for the workshop. All of these items—your novel excerpt, synopsis and personal statement—must be double-spaced and in 12-point type.

The deadline to apply is April 9. See Registration Information for further details specific to Two-Week Intensive Workshops.


Writing a novel is an extraordinary and demanding pursuit—one that requires artistic urgency, writerly intuition, thoughtful planning, risk-taking, stamina and support. Even with all of these elements in place, it’s still possible for the most motivated writer to stall out after 100 pages of a manuscript. Some writers push through to complete a first draft only to feel that some necessary piece is missing: an arresting moment of grace and discovery for both the reader and the writer.


In this intensive session, we will workshop novel manuscripts between 30,000-75,000 words (120-300 pages). Your manuscript need not be a completed draft of a novel, but rather a “working” manuscript with enough of a narrative, a sense of place, character, and conflict to warrant discussion and constructive criticism. Our emphasis will be on the literary novel.


This workshop will be an opportunity for those of you at work on your initial draft to share your pages with a group of readers who can help push you deeper into the world of your novel. This workshop will also be an opportunity for those of you who have completed an entire draft and are eager to address concerns over how your manuscript might be polished, refined, edited for pacing, or expanded upon for clarity and dramatic impact. We will consider how additional research might enhance your novel’s narrative authority and we will look to other literary novels as models for our own.


We will approach each manuscript on its own terms. In advance of meeting in Iowa City, members of this class will read one another’s manuscripts and provide meaningful feedback. By workshopping your classmates’ manuscripts, you will gain clarity and insight into your own process of revision and composition. We will consider various strategies for redrafting, paying close attention to structure, narrative voice, point of view, and world creation. We will also discuss aspects of publishing including query letters, finding an agent, working with editors, commercial presses versus small presses, and how best to prepare your novel for submission. Together we will strive through our words and stories to reveal something complex and true about the human condition.


In this workshop we will provide feedback on writing you bring from home.