Novel Writing (Part One)  Fall 2017

 

Current Session

updated 9-24-17

 

 

"Writing should always be exploratory. There shouldn't be the assumption that you know ahead of time what you want to express. When you enter into the dance with language, you'll begin to find that there's something before, or behind, or more absolute than the thing you thought you wanted to express. And as you work, other kinds of meaning emerge than what you might have expected. It's like wrestling with the angel: On the one hand you feel the constraints of what can be said, but on the other hand you feel the infinite potential."

 

– Marilynne Robinson, "Toward Essentials," The New York Times Book Review, September 24, 2017: p. 13.

 

 

While we wait for class to start, here's a blog post to consider, an article on the future of the "social" novel, and some resources you might be able to use.

 

A Handful of Living Novelists


Helen Wan                                                 Pat Barker                                                Junot Diaz                                                 Toni Morrison

 

Authors of the so-called Great Tradition in English Literature


Jane Austen                                                George Eliot                           Henry James                         Joseph Conrad      
 

Some Excllent Living Genre Novelists


George R.R. Martin (fantasy )     Walter Mosley (crime )     Emshwiller and LeGuin (sci. fiction)     Robin Hobb (fantasy)

 

Receive the help you need to get started and to get structured, whether your goal is to write a novel or to mold a series of short stories into a longer work. In this course, delve into writing exercises that practice establishing tone, exploring character, tightening and deepening dialogue, and adding interior monologue. Topics covered include sustaining interest as a writer and a reader, understanding if you need an agent, and excerpting from a lengthy work for publication in magazines. The course is appropriate for anyone who has done some writing or who has taken an introductory writing course.

 
NYU WRIT1-CE9355
Continuing Education Units (CEU) 2.5
New York University, School of Professional Studies,
Center for Applied Liberal Arts
Monday 6:30 PM - 8:50 PM
9/25/17 - 12/4/17
Manhattan Village Academy Room:229A
43 W. 22nd St., NYC


Instructor: Meredith Sue Willis
Email: MeredithSueWillis@gmail.com
Meredith Sue Willis home page

For information about MSW's novels, go to commentary. To read some short fiction online by Meredith Sue Willis, try  "Rescue" or "Tara White."  For more of her writing online, click here.

 

Current Week    Presenter List     NYU Policies etc.

 

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Schedule of Topics and Assignments

Please communicate with the teacher by email at meredithsuewillis@gmail.com. Changes, updates, and links to readings will be found here on this website. Please check it at least weekly. The text for the course will be primarily the assignments and presentation pieces of the other students plus some of these online readings and occasional hard copy hand-outs.

Note to returning students and others with a novel-in-progress: The fall section of this class follows a series of assignments aimed at getting a novel started. For those with a novel already in process, use the assignments-- or substitute passages from your project--to move your book forward in whatever way works for you.

Students are expected to attend all classes, as the course is planned around discussion. Please let the instructor know if you must be absent. Turn in all assignments in hard copy, double-spaced with one inch margins on all sides and a font comparable to Times New Roman 12 point. Homework assignments should be about 2 pages (up to 600 words). Homework assignments go only to the instructor. Presentation pieces go to all members of the workshop.

Most sessions will include in-class writing. Students who attend and complete all of the assignments should finish the course with an outline and twenty five or more pages of a novel.

Check below for various official NYU policiies. It should be noted that all NYU policies on academic integrity (i.e., plagiarism) are fully in effect in this course. See below.

 

 

1.  9-25-17  Introduction. In class topics: Process and product; story, plot, and architectonics. What fiction does that movies don't. Fiction as the art of doing many things at once. Centrality of the concrete in fiction.
Assignment due: Come prepared to say a few words about a novel and/or a novelist you like, respect, adore, admire, or emulate.

2. 10-2  Assignments due:    Write: The first time a character visits a place in your novel– describe the place using all five senses if possible. Read: Selections of place descriptions here.

In class topics
: Uses of concrete sense description. Approaches to critiquing.
 

 

 

No Class October 9, 2017

3. 10-16  Assignments due:  Write: The first appearance of a character who is not the main character. Emphasize physical description using concrete details based in the senses, as you did with the place. Feel free to include dialogue, action–whatever you'd like. In addition, please provide a short interior monologue or spoken speech by the character revealing some of his or her inner life.
Read: These character descriptions , including Anthony Trollope's wonderfully sleazy Mr. Slope from Barchester Towers and other characters--all described from the outside, focusing on sense details.  Also read the characteristics list .
( Left, the late Alan Rickman in the role of Mr. Slope from Barchester Towers.)
In class topic:  Essential value of Point-of-View .  Be sure you've taken a at proof reader's marks , and at the standard formatting for fiction.

 

4.10-23 Assignment due:   Write:   Another appearance of the same character as in the previous assignment but from the middle of your novel. Have this scene reveal more about the character through dialogue and action.   Read:    Examples of scene versus summary (showing versus telling) ; the material on dialogue tags, logistics; material on scene; and a sample demonstrating how to punctuate thoughts in third person writing.
Optional: MSW's article on dialogue  "Dialogue: The Spine of Fiction".    Also, take a look at this Writers' Digest article on dialect in dialogue.
In class topics:Centrality of Point-of-View continued. Also,  If you haven't yet, take a look at proof reader's marksand at the standard formatting for fiction.
Physical Action as part of Description.

Presentations by class members. (See schedule below).  During the rest of the course, class members will present passages from their novels for critique. Please bring enough copies of up to ten pages for each member of the class and the teacher one week before your presentation. Sign notes you write to the other students. Consider using  proofreaders' marks.

 

>5. 10-30. Assignments due:  Write: a scene with dialogue and conflict. Conflict can, of course, be overt, subtle, interior, etc.
Optional-- Read  a short story , "The Two Lindas," by MSW that, after the set up, is almost all dialogue--and conflict.
In class topic:  Centrality of Dialogue to Novels

 

Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)

 

 

 

 

 

6.11-6  Assignments due: Write: a passage inside a character's head while the action is underway. This can be internal monologue, stream of consciousness, internal third person (also called "the reflector"), or other. The character may also be simply thinking, or the thoughts may be happening while the character is in motion.
Read: From Sevastopol Sketches for an early example of stream of consciousness by Tolstoy.  Also read http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/materials.html#dwight for an example of a character thinking. Also look at  free indirect speech, and long-shot & close-up, logistics and an interesting example of flashback.

                       (Image of Lev Tolstoy)
Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)

7. 11-13  Assignments due: Write: A complete scene from your novel.   If you haven't read it yet, read this material on scene.
Read:   Grammar for Fiction Writers.  Also look at  the summary of an article on using  present tense in fiction.

In class topics: Outlining
In class topics:  How we make time and space for writing.
Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)

 

 

8. 11-20  Assignments due: Write: An outline of your novel. The outline might be chapter titles, scene treatment, flow chart, webbing, etc.
Read  "The Business of Books, by André Schiffrin"  by the instructor. Send questions re: marketing in advance!   In class topic: The Writing Life and Publishing.For information, go to the resources page, and in particular to the links in the left hand column for: Agents, Articles of interest to writers, Book Doctors & Private Editors, Book Publishers (small), Copyright , Literary Agents, Markets for Literary Fiction, Printers: Recommended book producers (not publishers), Publicizing Your Book , and more online resources for writers. Sample query letters online at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/samplequeryletters.html .
In class topics:
Short Presentation on the Business of Fiction
Pacing, modulating time. The Hero's Journey and other novel structures.
Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)

 

 

(Image of Walter Mosely)
9 . 11-27  Assignments due: Write:   A revision of any scene or passage in response to suggestions. Please turn in the original version with notes for comparison. You may also, of course, turn in a substitute selection for feedback.
In class topics: Pacing continued. Logistics (see physical action )
Optional: Here's an interesting article about fiction writing by Walter Mosley and some quotations by famous writers about writing.   Two more good articles: MFA Programs versus the NYC Publishing World from Slate and a New York Times article about a Pulitzer Prize winning novel from a small press that they (the Times) failed to review): Tinkers.

 
Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)
 
10.   12/4  Final Session--  Farewells!
Presentations by class members.(See schedule below)

 

All assignments should be PART OF YOUR NOVEL. If you already have a substantial number of pages drafted, you may substitute any short section for regular assignments.

 

 

Resources

 

Current Week of Syllabus    
Presenters List (will be set up later)
 
Resources   
 MSW Home     

 

 

 

 

 

Presenters (schedule to come)

10-23-17

 

10-30

 

11- 6

 

11-13

 

11-20

 

11-27

 

12-4

 

 

Some Things to Think About

 

Lewis Hyde writes about art and the market economy: ".....there are categories of human enterprise that are not well organized or supported by market forces. Family life, religious life, public service, pure science, and of course much artistic practice: none of these operates very well when framed simply in terms of exchange value. The second assumption follows: any community that values these things will find nonmarket ways to organize them. It will develop gift-exchange institutions dedicated to their support.

Lewis Hyde, “On Being Good Ancestors,” The Gift (New York: Vintage, 1979-2007) pp 379-379.

 

 

Grace Paley once said in an interview, "I'm an ear believer--I think the ear is smarter than the eye. The experience of reading your work aloud in a class carries you back to that original impulse, 'I want to tell you something.' 'What did you want to tell me? Tell me.' When you tell a story, it's your voice telling a story. You really can hear what's wrong with it. People think you can just sort of smear over it, but that's not true. What I'm trying to do is to remind students they have two ears. One is the ear that listens to their own ordinary life, their family and the street they live on, and the other is the tradition of English literature."

 

 

Michael Chabon believes that three things are required for success as a novelist: talent, luck, and discipline. He says, “Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.”

 

 

For me there is no such thing as fiction without poetry and politics. If you excise either one, you have taken the heart of us all. You won't get rich following my advice, but you may come up with something close to true..

                                                        -- Walter Mosley

 

 

 

Titles are important; I have them before I have books that belong to them. I have last chapters in my mind before I see first chapters, too. I usually begin with endings, with a sense of aftermath, of dust settling, of epilogue. I love plot, and how can you plot a novel if you don't know the ending first? How do you know how to introduce a character if you don't know how he ends up? You might say I back into a novel. All the important discoveries—at the end of a book—those are the things I have to know before I know where to begin.

                        -- John Irving

 

 

You can be pretty polemical in a novel. What you have to be careful of is appearing, as author, to intrude upon your narrative. When readers sense a writer pulling strings, then they start thinking of the characters as puppets, not really people. I never want to pull readers out of the dream.

                             --Richard Russo

 

 

More resources:

Resources for writers: Resources.
Books about writing: Bibliography.  
Some quotations about writing.
Typical novel lengths: click here.
Article about fiction writing by Walter Mosley.
A few novels recommended for reading/study by students
Notes on Point of View  
Proof reader's marks
Marketing notes

 

A Selection of Articles and other materials:

Article on MFA world versus NYC publishing world.
Blog entry by Tayari Jones on the importance of Names.
MSW's article "Apply Film Techniques to Fiction Writing" is in the April 2010 print issue of The Writer magazine. A sample from the article is free online here. You may have to register for the site, but there is no charge.
"The Business of Books, by André Schiffrin"  (review by Meredith Sue Willis of a book on the status of publishing)
A literary agent's advice: Should You Hire a Book Doctor?
From The Guardian online: Elmore Leonard’s funny rules of writing, plus those of Margaret Atwood and others:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one
Some model novels (and a few memoirs) recommended by members of Advanced Novel Workshop

 

 

 

 
Some Literary Agents' Blogs (thanks to Jessica Word)
"Pub Rants" (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/)
Nathan Bransford (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/)
Janet Reid (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/)
Jessica Faust (http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/)
 
 

   Some Recommended Novels and Novelists from my Classes

Jane Austen               Pride and Prejudice

Muriel Bertenz           The Elegance of the Hedgehod

Charles Bukowski    Pulp

 

Orson Scott Card      Worthing Saga

Paolo Coehlo            Eleven Minutes  

                                     The Witch from Portobello

Daniel Defoe              Robinson Crusoe

Junot Diaz                  The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao   

Ken Follett                  The Pillars of the Earth

                                     World Without End

Ernest Hemingway  The Sun Also Rises

Khalid Hoseini          The Kite Runner

Siri Hustvedt             What I Loved

Doris Lessing           The Golden Notebook

C.S. Lewis                 Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Haruki Murakama    The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

James Patterson     Along Came a Spider

Thomas Pynchon     Inherent Vice

Tom Robbins           Still Life With Woodpecker

 

Philip Roth                Portnoy's Complaint

Sapphire                   Push

Budd Schulberg       Swan Watch

Seth Graham-Smith Pride and Prejudice Zombies

Elizabeth Strout        Olive Kitteridge

Abigail Thomas        Safekeeping

Tolstoy                       War and Peace

                                     Anna Karenina

Edith Wharton           The House of Mirth

 

Meredith Sue Willis  Oradell at Sea

Tom Wolfe                I Am Charlotte Simmons

                                    Man in Full

Carlos Ruiz Zafron Shadow of the Wind

Richard Yates          Revolutionary Road

Zafron                       The Angels Game

                                   Shadow of the Wind

 

Recommended authors included: Orson Scott Card; Barbara Kingsolver; Hemingway; Richard Morgan; Alice Munro; Robert Gay

 

 

Also, take a look at National Novel Writing Month!

 
 
 


 

Official NYU syllabus with policies etc.

Novel Writing I: Beginning Novel Writing Fall 2016 NYU WRIT1-CE9355 New York University, School of Professional Studies, Center for Applied Liberal Arts 838 Broadway, 6th floor New York, NY 10003

 

Monday 6:30 PM - 8:50 PM 9/26/16 - 12/12/16

Location: Manhattan Village Academy, Room 219

Instructor: Meredith Sue Willis Email: MeredithSueWillis@gmail.com Meredith Sue Willis home page is http://www.meredithsuewillis.com Class webpage is http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/nyunovelone.html

 

Course Description: Course Description: Receive help getting started and getting structured, whether your goal is writing a novel or molding a series of short stories into a longer piece of fiction. Writing exercises include establishing tone, exploring character, making dialogue tighter and deeper, and using interior monologue. Topics include sustaining interest as a writer and a reader, understanding the value of an agent, and excerpting from a lengthy work for publication in magazines.

 

Course Prerequisites: This course is appropriate for you if you have done some writing or have taken an introductory writing course.

 

Course Structure/Method:

This course is in person and meets weekly. Attendance is expected, as students support and critique one another's work. There will be weekly assignments and occasional presentations to the class.

 

Course Learning Outcomes: By the end of this workshop course, students will, if they do all assignments in class and out, have up to thirty pages drafted of a new novel. Students will also have a first go at a plan for a novel, and they will have improved their ability to critique their own work and the work of others.. .

 

Communication Policy: Communication is by email, and the professor will attempt to answer email inquiries within forty eight hours.

 

Course Expectations: Students are expected to look at the class webpage at least weekly for changes, updates, and links to readings. These will be found at http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/nyunovelone.html Homework assignments should be in hard copy, double-spaced with one inch margins on all sides and a font similar to Times New Roman 12 point, @ 2 pages long (up to 600 words). The homework assignments are for the professor only. She will respond holistically. You will also be expected to present your work to the whole class at least one. You are expected to attend all classes, as the course is planned around class discussion. Most sessions will include in-class writing.

 

Required and Recommended Material: The text for this course is the work of the other students plus occasional readings available by link from http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/nyunovelone.html or in hard copy handouts.

 

Assessment Strategy: This is a non graded class. Assessment is by the teacher's holistic responses to student work as well as by class response to work presented for critique to the class.

 

"NYUSPS policies regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Academic Integrity and Plagiarism, Students with Disabilities Statement, and Standards of Classroom Behavior among others can be found on the NYU Classes Academic Policies tab for all course sites as well as on the University and NYUSPS websites. Every student is responsible for reading, understanding, and complying with all of these policies."

 

The full list of policies can be found at the web links below: · University: http://www.nyu.edu/about/policies-guidelines- compliance.html · compliance.html · NYUSPS: http://sps.nyu.edu/academics/academic-policies-and- procedures.html

 

 

 

School Grading Policies:

 

NYUSPS Career Advancement (non-degree) http://sps.nyu.edu/content/scps/academics/noncredit-offerings/academic-noncredit- policies-and-procedures.html

NYUSPS Diploma (non-degree) http://sps.nyu.edu/academics/academic-policies-and-procedures/diploma-academic- policies-and-procedures.html#Good_Academic_Standing

 

Course Outline:

 

Session 1. 9-25-17 Introduction. In class topics: Process and product; story, plot, and architectonics. What fiction does that movies can't. Fiction as the art of doing many things at once. Centrality of the concrete in fiction.

 

Session 2. 10-2 Assignments due: Write: The first time a character visits a place in your novel– describe the place using all five senses if possible. Read: Selections of place descriptions linked online. In class topics: Importance of concrete sense description. Approaches to critiquing. Be prepared to talk briefly about one favorite novel of yours-- what you admire, enjoy, about it.

 

No Class October 9, 2017

 

Session 3. 10-16 Assignments due: Write: The first appearance of a character who is not the main character. Emphasize physical description using concrete details based in the senses, as you did with the place. Feel free to include dialogue, action–whatever you'd like. In addition, please provide a short interior monologue or spoken speech by the character revealing some of his or her inner life. Read: Character descriptions online , including Anthony Trollope's wonderfully sleazy Mr. Slope from Barchester Towers and other characters--all described from the outside, focusing on sense details. Also read the characteristics list . In class topic: Centrality of Point-of-View . Also, If you haven't yet, take a look at proof reader's marks , and at the standard formatting for fiction.

 

Session 4.10-23 Assignment due: Write: Another appearance of the same character as in the previous assignment but from the middle of your novel. Have this scene reveal more about the character through dialogue and action. Read: Examples of scene versus summary (showing versus telling) ; the material on dialogue tags, logistics; material on scene; and a sample demonstrating how to punctuate thoughts in third person writing. Optional: Read the instructor's article on dialogue "Dialogue: The Spine of Fiction". Also, take a look at this Writers' Digest article on dialect in dialogue. In class topics: Centrality of Point-of-View continued. Also, If you haven't yet, take a look at proof reader's marks , and at the standard formatting for fiction. Physical Action as part of Description. Presentations by class members. (See schedule on website). During the rest of the course, class members will present passages from their novels for critique. Please bring enough copies of up to ten pages for each member of the class and the teacher one week before your presentation. Sign notes you write to the other students. Consider using proofreaders' marks.

 

Session 5: 10-30. Assignments due: Write: a passage with dialogue and conflict. Conflict can, of course, be overt, subtle, interior, etc. Read: Review of "The Business of Books, by André Schiffrin" by the instructor. This article is about a book published nearly fifteen years ago that predicted a lot of what would happen to commercial publishing. What it didn't predict was the burgeoning of online writing and self-publishing. Optional-- Read a short story , "The Two Lindas," by MSW that, after the set up, is almost all dialogue--and conflict.In class topic: Centrality of Dialogue to Novels Presentations by class members. Session

 

6.11-6 Assignments due: Write: a passage inside a character's head while the action is underway. This can be internal monologue, stream of consciousness, internal third person (also called "the reflector"), or other. The character may also be simply thinking, or the thoughts may be happening while the character is in motion. Read: From Sevastopol Sketches for an early example of stream of consciousness by Tolstoy. Also read http://www.meredithsuewillis.com/materials.html#dwight for an example of a character thinking. Also look at free indirect speech, and long-shot & close-up, logistics and an interesting example of flashback. Presentations by class members.

 

Session 7. 11-13 Assignments due: Write: A complete scene from your novel. If you haven't read it yet, read this material on scene. Read: Grammar for Fiction Writers. Also look at the summary of an article on using present tense in fiction . In class topic: In class topics: Outlining & Marketing and Business of Fiction. Presentations by class members. (See schedule below)

 

Session 8. 11-20 Assignments due: Write: An outline of your novel. The outline might be chapter titles, scene treatment, flow chart, webbing, etc . In class topic: Pacing, modulating time. The Hero's Journey and other novel structures. Presentations by class members.

 

Session 9 . 11-27 Assignments due: Write: A revision of any scene or passage in response to suggestions. Please turn in the original version with notes for comparison. You may also, of course, turn in a substitute selection for feedback. In class topics: Pacing continued. Logistics (see physical action ). Optional: Here's an interesting article about fiction writing by Walter Mosley and some quotations by famous writers about writing. Two more good articles: MFA Programs versus the NYC Publishing World from Slate and a New York Times article about a Pulitzer Prize winning novel from a small press that they (the Times) failed to review): Tinkers. Presentations by class members.

 

Session 10. 12-4 Final Session-- Farewells! Presentations by class members.

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