Janet Zupan earned her M.F.A. from the University of Montana in 1996. Her work appears in the collection, MONTANA WOMEN WRITERS: A GEOGRAPHY OF THE HEART (Far Country) ... [more]
As a kid, A.L. Torres fell in love with fantastic stories of worlds beyond our own such as "Animal Farm," "On the Beach" and "Metamorphosis." More recently, he's added "The Giver," "The Road" and "Hunger Games" as some of his favorites, ... [more]
Robert Steedman is a proud native New Yorker, receiving his B.A. in Art History from State University of New York at Geneseo and an M.S. Ed. in Art Education from Nazareth College. His first YA manuscript, FALLING, took First Place ... [more]
Brittany Hughes graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing, and subsequently earned a Masters in Teaching. She recently spent two years living in the Midwest, a landscape that inspired the setting of her novel, "Breaking Clay." ... [more]
I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.
- Flannery O'Connor
The "Model and Context" Approach For Writing Competitive Commercial Novels
If you work in this business for a suitable time, you realize that each writer's success or failure at getting a commercial novel published depends ultimately on their own tenacity and smarts. In keeping with this reality, our novel writing program encourages the former, and successfully creates and nurtures the latter, in part by placing appropriate emphasis on developing a breakout novel for a paying commercial market. We study and reference works by commercial authors in various genres (literary/upmarket, thriller, women's fiction, SF, fantasy, etc.), thereby initiating what we refer to as the "model-and-context method" pioneered successfully by Algonkian Writer Conferences. The method requires you to examine specific elements of advanced technique and craft, learned from authors studied, and apply them as appropriate to your own novel-in-progress.
As you and your novel proceed through the course modules, the lessons learned and applied complement each other (see "Cross-Module" below) and build, methodically leading you towards the creation and evolution of your story premise, plot line(s), dramatic tension sources, major characters, setting, viewpoint, narrative cinema effects, theme, and more. As we note on the home page, the ultimate objectives of this program are to enable you, as the aspiring author, to effectively:
Learn and practice foundational as well as advanced storytelling technique.
Learn and practice foundational as well as advanced narrative craft.
Learn and apply said technique, narrative craft, and knowledge to your own work-in-progress.
Come to a firm understanding of the role today's market plays in getting your novel published (keep in mind, the "market" is your reader).
You approach the planning and writing of your novel in such a manner as to not only enable you to make your novel realistically competitive for a commercial market, but also prevent years of time wasting rewrites.
The "Cross-Module" Approach to Novel Development
As you progress through the modules and their respective readings and assignments, you will be cajoled into a continuous act of creation regarding all the major elements of your project, and as such, your thoughts and decisions will naturally remain in flux because you are growing as a skilled and knowledgeable writer. In other words, as you learn more, you rewrite and rethink your novel-in-progress, as well as your narrative and scenes. For a detailed break down of the parts and 16 modules, please visit the syllabus page. Courses are conducted inside private members-only forums online. Here is the landing page for the various program forums, just so you can get an idea.
This program is not like a college extension cyber-class or a typical online workshop wherein you complete a different assignment each week and move on to the next week's section in linear fashion. It's more like working towards completion of a doctoral dissertation. You take the knowledge gained as you progress at your own pace (because each writer's skill set and manuscript are different) and actively apply it to your ever-evolving novel, both in terms of the current module you are working on and past modules you have already approached. So rather than simply move forward, you engage also in the act of reversing and looping. For example, upon completion of the seventh module, you might well return to revise what you have written regarding your "conflict statement" or "synopsis pitch" in the first module. As such, this becomes an example of "Cross-Module Method" work. All modules are therefore in potential flux, the amount and quality dependent on each writer's needs and stage.
You will utilize our readings, written guidance, and examples as you move forward. Faculty are naturally available during this process in case snags are encountered, but the point is to learn everything you need to learn, and to apply this to your novel manuscript without your pace being adversely affected by writers who are less advanced, or more advanced than you are. Once you're done, as with a doctoral dissertation, you present your work for formal professional review (see more below).
Scorebox, Reviews, Edits, Graduation and Future Program Involvement
Keep in mind, that the goal of program faculty is to not only assist you with editorial advice on the facets of your novel, but also to carefully examine it for possible representation to commercial publishers.
Once you've prodded your novel through the helpful obstacles in our program, your next hurdle before editorial review is the Self-Coverage Novel Scorebox where you'll critique your novel based on specific scorebox criteria. You will next complete your four book reviews in the appropriate forum, and finally, you will work towards completing an extensive project profile that will be reviewed by program faculty. This profile focuses on all major aspects of your novel as defined by the program syllabus.
Once done, a member of the agent-author program faculty will begin the mentorship process by conducting reviews of your novel, referencing prior program module work as appropriate and necessary, as well as your first 100 pages. Faculty will then advise you, in writing, or by phone, on the commercial nature of your story premise and plot, the quality of your prose narrative, and on whatever further improvements and edits are necessary with regards to all the major structural and narrative elements of the novel. The goal of this detailed faculty review is the same as when you began the program: to transform your novel-in-progress into a manuscript that will be realistically competitive in the commercial marketplace.
We both wish to know: will the project sell or not? If not, what specifically needs to be done to change that circumstance?
Following the first review, writers proceed to make all edits and changes necessary based on faculty recommendations. Upon completion, writers contact the faculty reviewers for a second review. Once the second review is complete, as well as any other subsequent reviews as necessary, the faculty and writer agree on an individual publication plan going forward. Keep in mind, that the goal of program faculty is to not only assist you with editorial advice on the facets of your novel, but also to carefully examine it for possible representation to commercial publishers. Recommendations to literary agents are also a potential, depending on the nature of the project, and assisting our writers with the creation of query letters and pitches will take place if the writer and faculty editors agree this is the right course. If we get you published, we succeed in our mission; however, we naturally cannot offer guarantees. If only we could!
NOTE: program graduates can continue to be active members of the novel writing program forum and thereby continue to communicate with faculty professionals, sharing stories, and asking advice on further steps. Graduation does not mean complete separation from the program.