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352532: Novel Writing I: Introduction to Novel Writing ENGL-X 462.71

  • Spring 2017
  • Section 1
  • 3 Credits
  • 04/12/2017 to 06/21/2017
  • Modified 03/29/2017


That novel is inside you waiting to emerge, but knowing how and where to start can be daunting. This course provides you with weekly assignments, group interaction, and instructor feedback to help you explore various methods of writing your first novel while learning the key craft points of plot, structure, characterization, point-of-view, sense of place, and voice. The goal is to complete the first chapter of your novel by establishing an intimacy with your characters as you artfully shape their journey, and to develop an overall concept to guide you through your story. Required for students considering the long-fiction sequence.


No textbooks are required for this course. All readings and other resources are online.


Assignments & Grading

For those receiving grades, here's how I break things down:

Assignment Breakdown:

Assignment Type


Percentage of Final

Workshop Submission and Feedback





Final Revision










100 Points


To receive full marks for participation, you must post all required critiques and contribute at least four comments to each week's discussions. Comments posted regarding your own work do not count towards your participation grade.

Grading Scheme

Grade Percentage

Letter Grade















Course Policies

Workshop Guidelines

Early in the class, I will establish a schedule for submissions to the workshop. You will have an opportunity to review that schedule. If possible, I will accommodate requests to change submission dates, but I can't promise I will be able to accommodate everyone.

What should you submit to the workshop? The answer is simple: the first chapter of your novel. If you are already working on a novel, then I ask you to put that novel aside for the purposes of this class and start afresh with a new idea or be willing to revise the first chapter of your current project.

What if your novel opens with a brief prologue, or your first chapter is only five pages? In that case, if you choose to do so, you may submit more, up to the class limit. What is that limit? Glad you asked!

Submissions should be no longer than 3,750 words (roughly 15 double-spaced pages). This is a general rather than an exact guideline. But if your submission runs much longer than this, it’s difficult for the class to give each piece of writing adequate attention. I ask all students to abide by this limit. But whether you do or not, I will not, and students need not, read beyond the first 3,500 words of any submission.

But don't feel you must submit 3,750 words! Submit anything up to that amount. And don’t feel that your work isn’t polished enough to submit! It’s understood that everyone here is learning and that these are works-in-progress. If your writing were already perfect, you wouldn't be taking this class, and I'd be out of a job.

All students are expected to critique the work of their fellow students. Not only will you be giving them the quality of feedback that you want them to give you, but you will learn a great deal through the act of critiquing. Your skill at spotting strengths and weaknesses will sharpen through practice, and eventually you’ll be able to use these newfound critical skills on your own work. 

The workshop is a safe and supportive environment. So please bear in mind when critiquing your classmates' submissions that we aren’t able to communicate online the same way we do in person (through voice intonation, facial expression, and gestures). While a friendly sense of humor is a nice touch, things like sarcasm don't translate well to online comments and can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

Disparaging comments about a classmate’s race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., will not be tolerated. Nor will mean-spirited critiques. I expect that even when you disagree with one another, you will be polite in your discourse. Any posts that violate these guidelines will be deleted by me immediately.

Instructions for Submitting Work

Submit your project on time. That means by the Tuesday before your work is scheduled to be workshopped. When students wake up on Wednesday morning, your submission should be available to them. If your work is posted late, and you have not cleared that with me beforehand, I will not critique it.

I also will not critique the work of anyone who does not critique the work of others.

Make sure you proofread. Typos and errors are distractions to your readers.

Once you post your submission to the workshop, you will enter a metaphorical glass booth. From within that booth, you can read your classmates' critiques, but you cannot respond to them – not even if you are asked a direct question about your submission.

When you are sitting there in your metaphorical glass booth, do not take anything you read personally. Nobody is attacking you. Nobody is attacking your story. We are all trying to help each other improve as writers. If you feel attacked, and I haven't independently removed the post in question, then by all means shoot me an e-mail. But don't respond to the post in question! That's my job.

I will be the last person to post a critique to every submission. That will usually happen at the end of the week. At that point, and only at that point, the author leaves the glass booth and can address the class.

That doesn't mean you get to explain or defend your work. Your work must speak for itself, and it has already had that chance. Instead, this is your opportunity to ask for clarification on points you didn't understand or bring up issues that weren't raised.

You may, therefore, pose questions to your classmates at this point. Only questions are allowed. If you don't have any questions, simply thank the class for their time and their comments.

Try to pay attention to every comment. You may not agree with some comments, but at least let yourself “hear” them all. You might want to save the comments to review at a later date. Comments that don't seem particularly illuminating now may appear more significant over the course of time.

One rule of thumb: if a number of critiques agree on a particular point, you should pay close attention. In fact, you should assume that your classmates have indeed identified a problem with your submission. Even if—in fact, especially if—you disagree, you should not be quick to dismiss the collective wisdom of smart readers.

However, just because your readers have identified a problem area doesn't mean that they have the solution to that problem. It's up to you to find the solution. It may be that you agree with some of your classmates' suggestions. Great! But it may be that you do not. That's also fine. But in dismissing specific suggestions, don't dismiss the underlying issue.

Here are some suggestions for how to structure your workshop critiques.

One Positive/One Constructive, in that order. Start with a positive comment, then move on to something that you felt needs improvement. Offer at least one of each. At the same time, don't just present a laundry list of either! To avoid that:

Be Specific. Your comments should be specific, backed up by tangible examples. Do not be general or vague! If someone says, “I thought this scene was funny,” that may be nice for the author to hear, but it's not especially useful. Tell us why the scene is funny. And back it up with specific details drawn from the text. That goes for constructive comments too. 

Repetition. Try not to repeat another student's comments. That's why it's important to thoroughly read and prepare your critiques. Because unless you post first, I guarantee that someone will get to your points before you do. So prepare a number of points to cover. And don't be greedy! Leave some points for others to bring up. You can always come back later and add to the discussion.

This doesn't mean, by the way, that you can't say anything about setting if someone else has already mentioned it. Just try to say something new and different about the setting.

Objectivity. Do not be personal in your comments! Do not attack the writer (or other students) in any way! But at the same time, do not feel inhibited about pointing out things that didn't work for you. Do not be afraid of suggesting where and how the writer might improve the work. That is what we are all here to learn! Be honest, but also considerate.

Instructor Interjections. I may or may not jump in at any point in this process. I might ask you to expand on or clarify something. But otherwise I will wait until last to offer my comments.

Discussions. Some thoughtful back-and-forth among critiquers can be helpful. So I do allow students (other than the student being workshopped) to reply to other critiques in a respectful way, especially in the case of a request for clarification. But I won't let a discussion among critiquers take over a workshop session or escalate into anything personal. It's probably best to wait until later in the week to begin a discussion.

Underage Students

As UCLA's principal provider of continuing education, the majority of UCLA Extension courses are designed for the post-baccalaureate professional-level student. Enrollment is therefore normally reserved for adult students 18 years of age and older. The Writers’ Program may consent to enroll younger students based on special academic competence and approval of the instructor. Minors who enroll in a Writers’ Program course without first receiving permission from both the department and the instructor are subject to withdrawal.  To request approval, please contact the Writers’ Program at 310/825-9415.

Institutional Policies

All Grades are Final

No change of grade may be made by anyone other than the instructor, and then, only to correct clerical errors. No term grade except Incomplete may be revised by re-examination. The correction of a clerical error may be authorized only by the instructor of record communicating directly with personnel of Student and Alumni Services.


Your instructor may post the interim grade Incomplete/I if at the end of the class your overall work is of passing quality but a portion could not be submitted for understandable reasons (e.g. illness). It is your responsibility to petition your instructor for permission to submit work late and to provide an explanation, and it is his or her sole decision whether to accept the explanation. If permitted, the Incomplete/I grade will be posted and a time frame defined for you to submit the missing work, ranging from one to twelve weeks. Incomplete/I grades that remain unchanged after twelve weeks will lapse to F, NP or U. Receiving an I grade entitles you to submit only the missing work your instructor has agreed to accept late, and does not allow other work to be retaken or oblige UCLA Extension to provide continuing access to course materials via Canvas. The Incomplete/I grade is not an option for courses that do not bear credit, such as 700, 800, or 900-level courses. For complete information, see:

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others or violation of others' copyrights. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with policy provisions which proscribe these and other forms of misconduct at:

Sexual Harassment

The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence, and that such behavior violates both law and University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates our policy.

All Extension students and instructors who believe they have been sexually harassed are encouraged to contact the Department of Student and Alumni Services for complaint resolution: UCLA Extension, Suite 113, 10995 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Voice/TTY: (310) 825-7031. View the University’s full Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence at

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Office for Students with Disabilities at (310) 825-0183 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:

Additional Items

About Your Online Course Materials

Please note the following about online course components at UCLA Extension:

  • Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use internet browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the technical requirements of Canvas and familiarizing themselves with the Canvas Learning Management System.
  • Students are responsible for keeping a copy of all assignments and work submitted, and to be aware of all assignments, due dates, and course guidelines.
  • Students are encouraged to keep and/or download a local copy of their assignment files, as access to the online environment of a specific course is limited to 30 days after the final course date, as listed in the course catalog.

    If you need assistance downloading student materials from your course, please contact Canvas Support or the Office of Instructional Enhancement.

UCLA Extension Enhanced Support

Email: [email protected]
Phone: Toll-free at (866) 269-7289 (US only) or (310) 206-4563.
Monday - Friday, 7am to 6pm (Pacific Time).
The UCLA Extension course management team assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general administrative questions.

For additional support on using Canvas or addressing a technical issue:
Click on the ''Help'' button on the lower left corner of the screen from within the Canvas system, where you can chat live with a technical support agent or submit a ticket for assistance.


Course calendar and related activities
When Topic Notes
Week 1

Introductions, lecture, readings, discussion, exercise.

Week 2

Lecture, discussion, readings, exercises.

Week 3

Lectures, discussion, readings, exercises.

Week 4
Scenes and Plot

Lecture, readings, discussion, exercises.

Week 5
Point of View

Lecture, readings, workshop feedback, workshop submission.

Week 6
Workshop A

Lecture, readings, workshop  feedback, workshop submission

Week 7
Workshop B

Lecture, readings, workshop feedback.

Week 8
Workshop C

Lecture, readings, workshop feedback.

Week 9

Lecture, discussion, revision plan due.

Week 10
What next?

Lecture, discussion, readings, revised chapter due