Novel First Draft — Syllabus

Gotham has two separate programs for Novel First Draft—Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 should be taken first. If, after Part 1, you wish to continue working on your First Draft, then take Part 2.

The topics covered in Part 1:

Each lecture contains two sections: craft information and inspirational advice. The course does not include critiquing of student novels.

Fuel/Sticking To It: Finding the white-hot idea that will keep you fueled. Techniques for staying the course.

Protagonist/Psychological Barriers: Creating a protagonist’s desire and dimension. Ways to “show” the protagonist. How to break through your psychological barriers.

Beginning/Don’t Look Back: Structure. Outlines. Sketching your Beginning. How to keep moving forward no matter what.

POV & Voice/Reading: Finding the right point of view. Reasons to read while writing. Types of things to read.

Middle/Brainstorming: Strategies for creating a rising action. Sketching your Middle. The art of brainstorming.

Cast & Subplots/The World Around You: Figuring out your cast. Subplots. Drawing ideas and inspiration from the world around you.

World/Love of Language: Creating the specific world of your novel. Relishing and enlivening your language.

Scenes/Patience & Surprise: Elements of a good scene. Allowing the patience for letting things unfold. Finding the surprises of discovery.

Protagonist II/The World Inside You: Finding and revealing the protagonist’s past. Discovering the protagonist’s evolution. Drawing ideas and inspiration from what is inside you.

End/What’s Next?: Climax and resolution. Sketching your End. Finishing the first draft. Revision. Friends and feedback.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.


The topics covered in Part 2:

Each lecture offers advice from an acclaimed novelist, revealing craft, process, and inspirational insight. The course does not include critiquing of student novels.

Haruki Murakami: You Can Do This – Murakami reveals “signs” that assured him he should write a novel.

Stephen King: Connecting To Characters – King reveals ways to find personal connections to characters.

Jennifer Egan: Seeking the Hidden – Egan reveals how she taps into “hidden” ideas and energy.

Walter Mosley: Insight on Plot – Mosley reveals interesting approaches to looking at plot.

Zadie Smith: Confidence – Smith reveals techniques for bolstering confidence while writing.

Celeste Ng: Questions to Answer – Ng reveals how to turn up crucial questions during the first draft.

Neil Gaiman: Toward the Mountain – Gaiman reveals tips for always moving toward your writing goal.

Ernest J. Gaines: Hearing Voices – Gaines reveals how he channels voices and chooses point of view.

Ursula K. Le Guin: No Recipe – Le Guin reveals how she finds the unique path of each novel.

Lisa Reardon: Idea to Publication – Reardon reveals the journey of a novel from first idea to landing in the bookstore.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.