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Winter Registration Opens Nov 29
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OWC 303 A — Novel I: The Powerful Beginning

Quarter: Winter
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 10—Mar 18
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Units: 3
Tuition: $1120
Instructor(s): Martha Conway
Limit: 18
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jan 10—Mar 18
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 13
3 Units
Martha Conway
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
This course is not open to the public, but rather by admission only. For more information on the Online Writing Certificate Program and its application process, please click here.

The beginning of a novel is crucial: establishing a contract with the reader, raising narrative questions, setting the tone and mood of the book, and, of course, introducing the main characters. We will begin by making sure that your novel starts in the right place, with a conflict compelling enough to reveal who these people are, and to ensure that they are making meaningful choices that lead to dramatic action. The challenges that our characters face up front help us to know who they are at the beginning of a book, and also set up expectations for how they might change by the end. Students will spend time thinking about the trajectory they envision not only for their protagonists but also for the secondary characters, and discussing issues related to characterization, such as point of view, dialogue, and voice. In this course, everyone will write and workshop an opening section of up to 5000 words.


Martha Conway’s latest novel, The Underground River, was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. Her first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her short fiction has appeared in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, The Quarterly, and other journals.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Marie Arana, The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work, 1st ed. (ISBN 978-1586481490)
(Required) Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, reprint ed. 2015 (ISBN 978-0544611610)
(Recommended) Donald Maass, The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface, illustrated ed. 2016 (ISBN 978-1440348372)