A Novel First Draft in 70 Days (10
This is an advanced workshop in actually writing your novel. No exercises, no lectures, no homework, nothing but writing, writing, writing until you have finished a full first draft of your novel. For most writers this is the hump. If you can get over this, the rest is relatively easy. It is the impetus generated by finishing a first draft that propels the average novelist through the subsequent drafts and revisions with far greater momentum and confidence than he had writing the first draft.
This course's only goal is to get you writing, keep you writing and help you get that first draft out of your head and onto paper in seventy days.
For those of you in need of a structured schedule, someone keeping you writing, milestones, due dates and someone you can turn to advise you, coach you and bug you or be there at the very moment you encounter a problem -- this is your course. It is strong in work, light in theory or technique except where it directly applies to problems, obstacles or needs specific to a scene or character unique to your novel.
You will not be uploading any of your manuscript for review or critique. Instead, the classroom will be the writer's lounge for help, guidance and advice. See it as a room full of writer's all working on a first draft with an instructor in the work moving from writer to writer to nudge, push, motivate you but also to help you. The online classroom will be where we check progress, raise questions, address problems encountered and share successes as well as seek support from the entire group when things are not going well.
See the course as a cross between a writer's retreat and Boot Camp. Like a writer's retreat the objective is to get writing done. Unlike a writer's retreat the instructor will set the pace for you and hold you to due dates for the completion of your novel's draft.
This course is ten weeks long. You can expect to be pushed very hard to write a lot and write fast. There will be no time allotted to revisions, editing, rewriting, backing up, restarting, waffling, second guessing, writer's block, days off or indecision. You will be expected to turn out seven pages (1500 words) of new manuscript every day, seven days a week for ten weeks. And you must be able to check in to the class site four times a week to submit progress reports and help one another keep on track and provide mutual moral support. This means you must be able to devote a minimum of four hours a day to your writing. If you can't commit to that, this is not your course.
Plotting and Outlining for the Novelist (6 weeks)
Almost no one who wants to write fiction has trouble writing. But too often that writing wanders, unguided, unfocused and doesn't give the writer confidence in what's getting to the page. Some writers might consider using an outline but many go screaming into the night in panic at the sound of the word "Outline." They defensively come up with excuses why they shouldn't outline. That's because they've never mastered outlining for novels and their memories of outlining from grade school are not pleasant ones.
If you don't find a story planning system that works for you, you won't outline. Given options and techniques you can capture in outline form the product of your imagination. From the outline you can plan and organize your writing, be sure you have incorporated all your intentions for your fiction into your manuscript, shape your story dramatically, and audition ideas and elements of plot and character.
Each week there will be a lecture and demonstrations from the instructor. Students will choose and fine tune their outlining methods and will get recommendations from classmates and the instructor on how to adjust their outlining technique to make their outlines functional.
Most new novelists who find themselves having difficulty completing their novel failed to put together a solid plan before jumping into the writing. Without a good plot a novel loses steam and comes to a halt after the first hundred pages, which is more often backstory and character history than story.
This part of the course is focused on helping the aspiring novelist prepare a workable plot that produces a compelling story. This is done by defining the essential elements of the novel and the critical scenes which must be written. Students will walk through the process of identifying these components for their novels and organizing them into a functional plot outline.
This is not a critiquing course or workshop. Students will not be uploading portions from their manuscripts, plots or outlines. Rather, this class will lead students through the steps necessary to adopt working outlining techniques to aid in developing a solid plot -- the foundation for a novel. This two-part course is oriented on offering tools to outline and then begin the process of plotting a novel.
Mastering the Scene: For Fiction Writers (10 weeks)
If you want to be a good baseball player you need to practice batting. If you want to play piano you need to practice scales. Writing fiction is similar -- it takes practice. And, as in every other field of endeavor, there is a basic skill at the heart of success: the ability to write compelling scenes.
The scene is the basic component of the short story and the novel. Failure to master the minimum requirements of design, composition, intensity, causal linkage and construction will ultimately cause a story to fail. No great idea, no wonderful story concept, no terrific plot, no unique angle will overcome a writer's lack of adequate skills in writing scenes.
This course is primarily a workshop. Students will be assigned scenes to draft, and classmates and the instructor will offer feedback and recommendations regarding the scenes' effectiveness, construction, and impact on the reader.
Dennis will also offer lecture material designed to improve scene writing skills.
There are no prerequisites for this course.
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