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NVL 32 W — Novel Workshop: Writing a Great Debut

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 1—Jun 7
Refund Deadline: Apr 4
Units: 3
Tuition: $1000
Instructor(s): Samina Ali
Limit: 19
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Apr 1—Jun 7
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 4
3 Units
Samina Ali
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Writing a first novel is exciting but daunting. Writers must figure out not only the best story to tell, but also how best to tell it. In this course, we will learn the elements of good novel writing, hone our writer's voice, and gain an understanding of plot, structure, and character development. Assigned readings from NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, We Need New Names, short online pieces, and Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell will give us many of the essential tools of novel writing. Students will submit original work and provide meaningful and rigorous critiques to classmates' manuscripts. The instructor will also offer written comments and hold a 30-minute Zoom workshop focused on each student's work. Weekly writing exercises, assigned readings, and lectures on craft will help students better recognize strengths and areas for improvement in both their own work and that of others. No matter your novel's genre—romance, historical, magical realism, fantasy, literary, or even autobiographical fiction—you will complete the course with a solid outline of your novel (or a solid through line that charts the arc of the novel) and a first chapter that springs the action and plot forward in the right direction. The tools you acquire in this course will help inspire and motivate you to do what we all hope to do: write a great debut novel.


Samina Ali's novel Madras on Rainy Days received France's Prix du Premier Roman Étranger award, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction, and was named a best debut novel by Poets & Writers. Among other places, her work has been featured in The Economist, The Guardian, and Vogue and on NPR. Ali was also a featured presenter at the Nobel Women's Initiative 2017 international conference. Her memoir, The Second Shelf, will be released in spring 2025.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names (ISBN 978-0316230841)
(Recommended) James Scott Bell, Elements of Fiction Writing: Conflict and Suspense (ISBN 978-1599632735)