The Popular Novel (In Any Genre)


No matter what type of novel you’re interested in—literary, science fiction, paranormal, young adult, rom-com, mystery, etc.—you’d probably think it ideal if it had many readers. If it attracted buzz. If it were, in other words, popular. In this weeklong workshop, we’ll discuss the elements that make popular novels (across genres) so popular (according to bestseller lists and computer algorithms), and we’ll look at participants’ submissions with these elements in mind, to increase the odds that your own novels will become widely read. Our goal in this workshop is to help you plan or strengthen your ideas for novels so that they become works you’re not only proud of—but also works that just might enable you to buy that nice little château you have your eye on….

This weeklong class is best-suited for writers with some experience. (We define “experience” broadly. If you’ve taken workshops in fiction or narrative nonfiction, or you’ve established a writing practice on your own, or you’re familiar with the elements of narrative craft via some other means, you’re experienced!)

The class welcomes those with a novel already underway and those interested in generating new work.

While the class is focused on the novel, if writers writing memoirs or connected short story collections feel they would benefit from the class, they are welcome.

How the course will work:

During our first session, we’ll discuss where you are in your novel (anywhere is fine, by the way, from “I don’t have the faintest idea about what I want to write about,” to “I’m on my two-hundred-eighty-second draft—but who’s counting?”), and we’ll also discuss the elements of the novel we’ll be focusing on in the coming days.

During the next days, we’ll hold lectures, discussions, and workshops based on some of the most important elements that make a popular novel in any genre—theme, plot, style, and character. We’ll workshop submissions the next day based on the previous day’s lecture. Writers are welcome to bring work from home or write new work; in other words, participants are welcome to generate new work based on our discussion and assignments or bring work they’ve already produced, or some combination of the two (that is, revise work they’ve already written given the previous day’s lecture and discussion). Writers are welcome to print out and bring copies to class or just read aloud what they’ve written. The submissions will be very short (just a page or two a day) so that we have time to offer feedback to everyone on each element we’ll be discussing. There will be no reading homework required at night, so that participants will have plenty of time to spend the week writing.

Course Objectives:

  • To learn, study, and discuss four of the most important elements that make a popular novel (according to bestseller lists of the last fifty years and computer algorithms): theme, plot, style, and character.
  • To apply these elements to our own novels (or memoirs or story collections), while still staying true to our visions.
  • To provide and receive valuable feedback, from fellow writers and the instructor, which we can use to help us improve our novels and to help us brainstorm as needed.
  • To engage in a stimulating and supportive community of writers.

This will be a fun and rewarding class in which you are sure to receive valuable feedback on your writing and feel like you are a valued part of a writing community. Château is not guaranteed.

In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; you are free to bring work from home that you might revise given the assignments if you like, or, you’re free to create entirely new work from scratch (or some combination of the two). We will provide (verbal) feedback on the writing you produce during our week.

Middle Grade
Science Fiction
Short Story
Speculative Fiction
Young Adult
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