fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Fall Quarter

Fall Registration Now Open
Most Classes Begin Sep 25
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Creative Writing

NVL 01 W — Planning Your Novel: Starting from Scratch

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Sep 25—Oct 27
Drop Deadline: Sep 28
Unit: 1
Tuition: $330
Instructor(s): Malena Watrous, Scott Hutchins
Limit: 125
Status: Open
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/28 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 10/3 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Sep 25—Oct 27
5 weeks
Drop By
Sep 28
1 Unit
Malena Watrous, Scott Hutchins
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is 9/28 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is 10/3 at 5:00 pm (PT).
"Hey, that would make a great novel!” Have you had this thought before, perhaps when reflecting on an experience from your life, a vivid dream, or a scenario that arose in your imagination? Many of us believe that we have at least one great novel in us, but we’re not sure how to get it out. Before they sit down to start writing, most successful novelists have a plan, mapping the book from start to finish, with an understanding of the major plot points that will need to happen along the way. This course will help you to make such a map. In week one, you will turn your idea into a premise, which you can use as a blueprint to guide you as you continue to plan and eventually write the book. In week two, you’ll make character worksheets for your protagonist and at least one antagonist, figuring out what they both want and how they will change over the course of the novel. In week three, you’ll draft the inciting incident that will launch your novel’s plot, and use this incident to pinpoint what the climax might be, which you’ll sketch more fully in week four. In the final week, you’ll outline a structure for your novel, using it to draft a complete story synopsis that you can use to guide you throughout the writing of your novel.

This is not a traditional writing course; you will not be generating pages of your actual novel. But once you do sit down to write, this critical planning work will allow you to make that writing purposeful and meaningful.

Because of the high-enrollment capacity of the course, the instructors will provide models for feedback and answer general questions about the novel planning and writing processes. They will respond to one short assignment per student, per week. Students will offer and receive feedback in small groups. Students looking for a full-term online course with instructor-led workshop components should consider “Discovering Your Novel’s Secret Center” (NVL 18 W).

Grade restriction: No letter grade.

Students may take NVL 01 W: “Planning Your Novel: Starting from Scratch” and NVL 02 W: “Write a Novel in a Month: No Critics, No Fear” as a two-part series, using the first part to plan the book that they will then draft in the second part; or they can enroll in either course independently. NVL 01 W is not a prerequisite for NVL 02 W.

Malena Watrous, Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford; Online Writing Lead Instructor, Stanford Continuing Studies

Malena Watrous is the author of the novel If You Follow Me, which received a Michener-Copernicus award. She frequently reviews books for such publications as The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow.

Scott Hutchins, Online Writing and Certificate Program Curriculum Coordinator; Former Stegner Fellow; Jones and Draper Lecturer in Creative Writing, Stanford

Scott Hutchins’s debut novel, A Working Theory of Love, was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. His work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Five Chapters, The Rumpus, The New York Times, San Francisco Magazine, and Esquire. He received two Hopwood awards and the Andrea Beauchamp Prize in short fiction. Hutchins teaches fiction, nonfiction, graphic novel, arts writing, and “Twitter Fiction/Future Forms” in Stanford’s Creative Writing Program.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Lisa Cron, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) (ISBN 978-1607748892)
(Recommended) John Green, The Fault in Our Stars (ISBN 978-0142424179)
(Recommended) Martha Conway, The Underground River (ISBN 978-1501160202)
(Recommended) J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (ISBN 978-0140296402)