Writing the Novel



January 23 M
Scrambled text
Layered text from "The Pardoner"
Hills Like White Elephants


Study the proofreading symbols in the following link (memorize them and use them to mark up your work):

Here is an example of an associative outline for a story. Note how the associative connections lead back inward in a torroidal pattern. The story itself is a very "constrained" story (i.e., it has many compulsory requirements of it due to its genre), but its deep structure was created by the natural associations.

The story that comes from this diagram can be read HERE if you are curious. (You don't have to read it, but if you do, note how its "apparent" story works.)

1. Find 3-4 first sentences and first pages of novels you think are great. Be ready to explain one of them to the class on Monday.
2. Do a diagram of your novel following the example above.
3. Write a ONE PAGE description of your novel (this will be called your "short synopsis").
4. Write the FIRST PAGE of your novel.
(The DropBox link will work as soon as you have permission. In the meantime, simply email your assignments to me.)

January 30 M
Introduction to close reading; Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic approaches; the "Ice Berg" Theory; "Hills Like White Elephants" (read for Thursday)
25 Greatest First Paragraphs
What do these openings have in common with the ones you picked (which overlap quite a bit)?
The Perfect First Line
How to Write the Perfect 1st Page

February 2 R
For today, upload your PLOT OUTLINE and your one-sentence LOG LINE.

To Outline or Not to Outline
8 Ways To Outline a Novel
Why You Shouldn't Outline a Novel
The Snowflake Method

The opening page of Christopher Isherwood's "The Berlin Stories" collection. Pay special attention to parallelism as a trope.

February 6 M
Upload your log line and linear plot outline.
Very basic instructions on How to Write the Perfect Logline
The Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" flyer is in DropBox for your reference.
Pay special attention to how the write-ups are structured for each genre.

February 9 R
For today, read all of the first pages by your fellow students in DropBox. Since the diagrams and descriptions are also posted, browse some of them to see if/how they correspond.
We will be discussing the issue of structure (but also how a first page creates expectations for both what should and should not follow in the book). Be sure you've reviewed the opening of the "The Berlin Stories."
Start reading SULA, paying special attention to how the novel is structured. You will be especially interested in how Morrison deals with the issue of time.

February 13 M
Continue reading SULA up to the chapter titled "1923."
Read the "Unconscious Mind" section in Madison Bell's NARRATIVE DESIGN

February 16 R
Make-up for SNOW DAY
Begin 500 words a day

February 20 M NO CLASS
February 23 R

February 27 M

Finish your 500-word passage and upload it into the folder.

March 2 R
Reader's Reports:
Inkling - All About Reader's Reports
Literature's Invisible Arbeiters
Not Your 4th Grade Book Report
Sample Student Reader's Report
What We Look For: A Sample Reader's Report

March 6 M
More on structure.

March 9 R
Memory & Imagination

E.L. James interview

March 13 M
Read the intro to Zuckerman.
In-class writing exercise.
Reader's report due via email.

7 Things that Will Doom Your Novel
20 Writing Tips

March 16 R
Begin reading Follett to get a sense of his approach in the opening chapter.
Reader's report/B & N write-up due via email.

March 27 M
Alternative structures.

March 30 R
Follett Foreword, more on structure, file management.

April 3 M
Catch up on writing/revision of opening 20 pages.

April 6 R
Applying Zuckerman's "Blockbuster" principles to other novels.
A helpful and detailed SUMMARY of Zuckerman's book in two parts (click at the bottom of the first page to get to part 2).

April 10 M
Read the summary of Zuckerman from the links above. There's a folder in DropBox now where you can deposit your diagrams for Follett's novel. We will continue with the application of Zuckerman's method to a literary novel and also look at the plot, characterization, and the more literary qualities.

Get your workshop dates to me ASAP.

April 13 R
General applications of the Zuckerman method
Intro to MISS SNARK and

April 17 M
Review of basic query features. Some useful pages to review:
Query Shark's prologue
Mess to Success in one revision
How to Submit
A reminder on closings
Five revisions
Some other useful queries are: #287, #285, #279, #278, #277-FTW.
You can get to them easily by using the search function on the upper left of the webpage. Enter the # and the numeral.

April 20 R
For today, look through Query Shark for queries related to yours and set up the basic parameters of your query. Follow Query Shark's instructions and finish the opening paragraph and the closing of your query. Put it in the appropriate DropBox folder for review in class. (Remember, the ones marked FTW are "For The Win."

April 24 M

April 27 R
Eric Abramson
Ariel Barter
Noah Haar

May 1 M
Max Geiger
Norma Alcaide
Joe Olijnyk

May 4 R
Colleen Mincewicz
Alida Falkena
Mike Trimpert

Noelle Grassel

FINAL EXAM - May 18 10:15-12:15

Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, is the basic style guide of publishing. You should know all of the rules in that book by now (if not, you should take some time and memorize them for future use). Be familiar with the proofreading and copy editing symbols and be able to use them appropriately on a manuscript.

Read the original and revision of Melissa Rose's story and determine the underlying principle behind the cuts and revisions (highlighted sections are to be cut or changed). Read the final version first:
"Blue" - Final version
"Lady Blue" - Original version (cuts and other changes highlighted)
Compare the two versions and consider the logic behind the cuts:
1)What was cut, and how does it affect the story as a whole?
2) Are there particular categories that apply to the material that was cut?
How do the cuts correspond to the idea of "writing by omission"?

"The Two Raymond Carvers" - on the relationship between Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordon Lish
Study the following text and use it as a role model for your own final edits per our class discussion.
"Beginners"/"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" - a sample of the original Carver text with Lish edits
(The three texts are in the "Other Readings" folder: the edited and original versions of "Beginnings" and the final version published as "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love."

Poets & Writers Agents Database
Proofreading text


Read "Hills Like White Elephants" in the link above and come to class Friday prepared to discuss the story in detail. Pay special attention to prominent words and images.

1. read once at your natural speed (do not mark it up at this point)
2. take a few moments to remember the story and note its emotional effect on you
3. read again, this time marking things that caused you to have the responses you remember
4. read again, and at each marking, find an explanation of how and why that particular trope was used.
5. note questions
Since the story is short, it shouldn't take long to do the multiple readings, but it will take you a while to investigate the use of tropes. Identifying the central trope(s) will be the key to having a coherent explanation for all of the tropes you find.

Write a short layered passage like the excerpt from "The Pardoner."
The passage only needs to be a couple of paragraphs. You may begin the exercise by simply writing a passage and then discovering what's already intuitively layered in it before you "amplify" that layering. You might also approach it by consciously deciding to have a "surface" narrative that carries the thematic or emotional content of what is layered in it. User-test your passage on a friend or classmate (and don't be surprised if they don't "get" it). Remember, if the layering is immediately recognizable, it is not working. Email the exercise to me by Thursday evening (and be sure your name is on the document).

We wrap up Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" and examine the approach of "Writing by Ommission" or, more commonly, THE ICEBERG THEORY and begin discussion of Bell's approaches to structure.
After the "Iceberg Theory" link, read this more light-hearted explanation by a writer of genre fiction as well as "A Clean, Well Lighted Place".
Also have a look at THIS discussion of the differences between literary and commercial fiction.#4 is our main consideration in writing short fiction.
Here is a British novelist's rumination on the same topic.
Consider the relationship between "depth" and "layering."

7 WRITING TIPS from Hemingway.

READ in Narrative Design: pages 3-32.
If you don't have the book yet, you can read these pages via the Google preview HERE.

Watch this music video for "Hero" and consider its economy. It has the entire content of a typical Hollywood movie condensed into its use of subtext. Take some notes and identify some of those subtexts (ranging from entire genres to specific films).

Nomen est omen
The physiognomy of names in "real" life

Reality as Fiction
Storytelling and Healing

WATCH (for additional review):

You can get a whole semester's worth of University of Potsdam MOOCs HERE.

Also browse through the various versions of the New Yorker copy edits of "An Anonymous Island" to get a sense of how exacting this process can be. (Remember, the story was a translation and the editors did not know Korean!)

A typical typed manuscript page with edits
"Balloon"-style edits
More proofreader's marks
Some more proofreader's marks

New explication - for extra credit

Also look at this passage from Toni Morrison's SULA and see if you can find the primary tropes that contribute to the layered themes. (What are they?)