University of Iowa

Plotting the Novel

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

W. Somerset Maugham has said that there are three rules to writing a novel but that, unfortunately, no one knows what they are. We might safely assume though, that one of these rules might have something to do with plot: Maybe we should have one in our novels? Maybe it would be helpful to plan the plot out ahead of time?


In this workshop, we’ll do various exercises to help us develop and deepen our plots. We’ll work on ways in which our plots might arise out of character, and we’ll discuss issues such as how to create more intensity and how (possibly) to juggle and integrate more than one plot at a time. We’ll spend additional time sharing our ideas and plots with one another. By the time the week is over, everyone will have a general outline for a novel plot, and many writers will have a more detailed, annotated outline as well; such tools will make it practicable for all to go home and write their novels.


This workshop is for writers of all levels. Our primary focus will be on generating new material. Writers are welcome to come to the workshop already “in” a novel, or with absolutely no start on a novel idea at all, or somewhere between these two extremes.