The University of Iowa

The Novella Workshop

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020

Why write a novella? And why write one before embarking on a novel? Because the novella is the intermediate step: more expansive than a short story but trimmer than a novel. Later, we’ll sort out the specifics. For now, let’s say the novella is an extended work of fiction: long enough for the reader to get lost in but short enough to be consumed in a single sitting. It doesn’t take up much space. Stow it in your purse or slip it in your back pocket. Read it as you wait in line for coffee.


Novellas used to be considered awkward—too long to fit comfortably in the pages of most literary magazines and too short to be published alone. But in our current culture, the novella is, as Debra Sparks has said, “Goldilocks form, not too much this and not too much that but just right.”


This weeklong class is designed for fiction writers who’ve completed at least a handful of short stories and are now contemplating a larger project, something that requires a sturdy narrative arc. Our class will be a safe space for getting your novella underway. Rather than working with structural units like chapters, we will focus on writing key scenes. (Like stories, scenes have beginnings, middles, and ends and therefore lend themselves to discussion and evaluation.) Before we meet, you’ll write a scenario or short précis of the projected work. (I’ll send instructions.) During our week together, we’ll explore the novella form and its history. You’ll draft three key scenes or plot points, two of which we’ll discuss in workshop. While you won’t leave with a finished novella in your suitcase, you may well have the makings of one.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.