University of Iowa

Starting (And Finishing) Your Novel

Weeklong July 14 to July 19 2019

In this workshop, we will look at first chapters of published novels, discussing strategies for engaging readers, setting tone, planting seeds of future plot points, developing characters, and generally writing captivating opening pages. We will also workshop student first chapters, analyzing them in the context of what we’ve learned from successfully published work. But an opening is just a start—we’ll also discuss what comes next. While all writing should be a process of discovery, for many writers a novel needs a bit more planning. So we will look at the relationships between present action and flashback, scene and exposition, plot and sub-plot, primary and secondary characters. We will practice outlining “structures” for our novels, and we’ll look at and discuss one another’s plans so that we can get an understanding of what the books will really look like in their finished forms. Finally, we’ll discuss strategies for creating a daily writing practice and ways to combat procrastination so that you can actually finish your novel. My goal is that you will come out of this week with a solid idea of how your novel will begin and an equally confident attitude toward the project as a whole.


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