In this course, we’ll explore the top ten questions that writers need to consider when writing a novel. These questions include “Is my novel idea-based or character-based?” “What details and action will make my characters seem real and genuine on the page?” “How can I best create tension and suspense?” Discovering the answers to them can help writers understand more about their plot points, character development, narrative structure, and beginnings and endings. Designed for both literary and genre writers, this course walks writers through novel preparation and planning with guided exercises, interviews, and discussions. We’ll also compare different opening chapters by writers Jesmyn Ward, Hilary Mantel, and Neil Gaiman to see how talented authors address these same questions and use the answers to write successful narratives. This course is appropriate for novel writers in any stage of their novel drafts. Students will leave with a fresh perspective on their novel project and pages of new material. If you have the first five pages of your book, you may turn it in before the first class for instructor feedback. At the end of the course, each student will receive an email with ideas for moving forward.
Maria Hummel is the author of three novels—Still Lives, Motherland and Wilderness Run—and the poetry collection House and Fire, winner of the 2013 APR/Honickman First Book Prize. She is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow, Bread Loaf Fellow, and the winner of a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared numerous magazines, including Poetry, New England Review, Narrative, The Sun, and The Believer. She has taught at Stanford University and Colorado College, and is currently at the University of Vermont.