Novel Critique — Syllabus

These courses give craft information and focus on the critiquing of student novels.

New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. But many of the topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.

Online classes
Gotham has two separate programs for Novel Critique. They complement each other, and many students take both programs, but it makes no difference which one is taken first. If you take one program, then enroll again for Novel Critique, Gotham will make sure you are placed in the other program.

The topics covered in one program (X):

Getting a Handle: A novel's “bigness"—length, scope, endurance. Types of novels—literary, mainstream, genre, straddlers. Sources of allure—plot, character, world, narrator.

POV Strategy: The spectrum of “one mind" points of view. The spectrum of “multiple mind" points of view. When and how to “switch" point of view. Finding the right point of view strategy.

Protagonist: Creating a “round" personality. Finding the desire. Developing the character arc.

Architecture: Thinking architecturally. Three-part structure. Two part-structure. Parallel stories. Structural innovations. Chapters. Finding the design.

World: Finding the “vibe" of the world. Importance of details. People, professions, research. Effective description.

Bending Time: Finding the time-frame. Flashbacks and flash forwards. Techniques for manipulating time. Using multiple tracks of time. Fluidity with time.

External/Internal: Effective use of the external. Effective use of the internal. Weaving the external and internal.

Climax: Requirements of a climax. The cataclysmic climax. The quiet climax. Climax variations. Tips for finding the climax.

The Big Why: Novels need big themes. Types of theme—societal, philosophical, human nature. Theme as a touchstone for the novel. Thematic symbols and motifs. Hints for discovering theme.

Publishing a Novel: What makes publishers “bite"? Publishing houses. Agents. Who to solicit? Guidelines for sending out work. Query letter. Synopsis. Response. Greasing the wheels. Self-publishing.

And the topics covered in the other program (Y):

Openings: The need for an enticing opening. First paragraphs. First chapters. Analysis of several first chapters.

Significant Events: Review of plot guidelines. Significant events as positive or negative charges. Significant events illustrated in a “classic" plot and a “subtle" plot. Exceptions. Mapping out a plot.

Character Complexity: Levels of desire. Contrasting personality traits. Layers of presentation. Progressions of change. Complex and changing relationships.

The Narrator: The value of an engaging narrator. The narrative voice. Techniques for effective narrators in first and third person points of view. Direct address. Narrator and audience.

POV Distance: Point of view review. Psychic distance in point of view. Manipulating the point of view “camera." Using the distance of time. Using present tense. Handling thoughts.

Making Scenes: Choosing scenes. Connecting scenes. Scene dynamics—conflict, dialogue, cinematic direction.

Subplots, etc.: How to create subplots that enhance the main plot. Working with a “plot chain." Working with multiple plots with multiple protagonists.

Suspense/Surprise: Using macro and micro suspense. Foreshadowing. Using macro and micro surprises.

Exposition: Guidelines for exposition. Use of gradual revelation. Exposition methods-external, internal, expositional, flashback. Devices.

The Process: Wisdom from masters on habits and writing craft.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.