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373703: Novel III

  • Summer 2020
  • Section 1
  • 3 Credits
  • 07/01/2020 to 09/08/2020
  • Modified 06/19/2020


For those with a minimum of 50 pages of a novel-in-progress, this workshop guides you to generate at least 50 new pages, as well as learn essential self-editing techniques with the instructor and peers reviewing each participant's project in detail. Refinements of character, structure, emotional content, and the development of the writer's voice are also explored. The goal is to produce a substantial portion of your novel.


Participants will:

  • Complete fifty consecutive pages of your work in progress.
  • Workshop those pages with the class.
  • Write and revise a query letter.


After finishing this course, you should have at least fifty additional pages of a first-draft of your novel completed, and a solid foundation in the craft of novel-writing that will help you to bring that draft to completion.


There is no assigned text in this course. 

There will be assigned online resources most weeks.



Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Workshop (Submissions & Feedback) 63%

63 Points

Discussions 21%

21 Points

Query Letter, including Revision 9%

9 Points

Exercises 6%

6 Points

Quiz 1%

1 Point


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.

Grade Percentage

Letter Grade














Course Policies

Workshop Guidelines

In Week 1, I will establish a schedule for submissions to the workshop. Workshops will begin in Week 2!

You will have an opportunity to review this schedule. If possible, I will accommodate requests to change submission dates, but I can't promise I will be able to accommodate everyone.

Every student will have an opportunity to submit to three workshops. In each, you should submit up to but no more than 4,200 words. That's about 16-17 double-spaced pages, using Times New Roman 12-point.

Submissions should follow the above guidelines. If your submissions run much longer than this, it will be difficult for the class and for me to give each piece of writing adequate attention. Thus, I ask all students to abide by these limits. But whether you do or not, I will not, and students need not, read beyond the maximum stipulated length of any submission.

But don't feel you must submit that maximum length! 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. That said, respect your fellow students and turn in work that is not full of spelling and grammar errors! Such annoyances make it difficult to focus on the writing and the story.

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 Wednesday your work is scheduled to be workshopped. Your submission should be available by the end of that day. If your work is posted late, and you have not cleared that with me beforehand, I will not critique it, nor will I require your classmates to critique it.

I will open all workshops for submission on the day before the workshop begins. Workshops begin on Wednesdays; they will be open for submission on Tuesdays.

Your critique deadline is the last day of each workshop. Your submission deadline is the first. 

Just to be clear, let me repeat this. Post your scheduled workshop submissions by the end of the Wednesday that begins your workshop week. Workshop submissions are due at the BEGINNING of each workshop week. Workshop feedback is due by the END of each workshop week.

If you submit late, and have not cleared it with me--which means secured my permission, not simply notified me of your intent--then I will not critique it.

This goes for the final week's workshop as well, when revisions are due.

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. I don't expect perfection--these are drafts, after all!--but I do expect everyone to be considerate of the time and effort your peers will be expending. 

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 near 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.

Do not copyedit the manuscript! If there are recurring issues of grammar, you are free to point them out. But try to read past all surface distractions. Rest assured that I will point this kind of stuff out in my feedback if I feel it necessary.

Repeated because important: if you feel that anyone, including me, has crossed a line in feedback, email me about it: do not engage publically in the workshop space!

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.

The Writers’ Workshop

Instruction in the Writers’ Program follows the guidelines established by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) guidelines for the teaching of creative writing, which include a “challenging writers’ workshop” as a hallmark. They define this as

…a seminar in which students critique one another’s work under the mentorship of an accomplished writer-teacher. The workshop is writing intensive, offering each student multiple opportunities for submission and revision of creative work. (AWP)

This method of instruction is considered the gold standard for developing writers at all levels of expertise, and workshopping is a key learning tool in nearly every course offered by the Writers’ Program. Workshopping teaches you to read and respond to written work from a variety of perspectives, and hearing critique of your own writing will help you understand how successfully your work achieves your goals. Every student is expected to participate fully in workshopping activities as defined by and guided by Writers’ Program instructors.

Scope of Work for Instructors

Each Writers’ Program instructor has signed an agreement to teach the curriculum in their course, following a syllabus of their own design with approval by the Writers’ Program director. Instructors are never obligated to read, review, critique, respond to, or otherwise address student work that has not been developed for their course or in response to specific assignments in their course. Individualized instruction like this falls into the category of a consultation, which is a separate service your instructor can provide through special arrangement with the Writers’ Program.

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

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:

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 Service for Students with Disabilities Office at (310) 825-7851 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:


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:

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.

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

Additional Items

Course and Instructor Evaluation

UCLA Extension values your feedback on course and instructor evaluations. We ask all students to take a few minutes to complete an end-of-course evaluation survey. Updates to the course and instruction are influenced by your feedback. Understanding your student experience is essential to ensure continuing excellence in the online classroom and is appreciated by your instructor and the UCLA Extension academic leadership.

Your participation in a survey is voluntary, and your responses are confidential. After instructors submit grades, they will be given an evaluation report, but this report will not contain your name.

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 UCLA Extension Learning Support Team.

UCLA Extension Canvas and Learning Support

For immediate 24/7 Canvas technical support, including holidays, click on Help (located on the menu to the left) where you can call or chat live with a Canvas Support representative.

UCLA Extension Instructional Design and Learning Support
The UCLA Extension Learning Support staff assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general and administrative questions.

Learning Support staff is available Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM (Pacific Time), except holidays:


Course calendar and related activities
When Lesson Notes
Week 1
Introduction to the Course and The Importance of Revision

Students will introduce themselves and their novels in a discussion and pick workshop slots. Other items:

Workshopping guidelines

Lecture: "The Importance of Revision." The first time is NOT the charm.


"A Guide to Revision," Rick Moody

Exercise: Sharpen your knives--you are going to do some textual surgery.


Week 2
What Do You Owe Your Characters? What Do You Owe Your Readers?

Students will discuss the obligations writers owe to their characters and to their readers. Students will also begin submitting work for workshopping. There are no additional resources or exercises this week.

Workshop 1, Group A

Lecture: "Characters and Readers." 


Week 3

Students will go deeper into the subject of world-building. There will be a reading and an exercise, along with continued workshopping. 

Workshop 1, Group B

Lecture: "World-Building." A stratigraphic approach.


N K. Jemisin, "Growing Your Own Iceberg." 

Exercise: You will apply the stratigraphic approach to your own novel-in-progress.

Week 4

Students will discuss the importance of research in writing fiction. There will be two readings, and a practical exercise. Workshopping continues.

Workshop 1, Group C

Lecture: "Research." What to put in? What to leave out? 

Resources: Two readings:

Sara Gruen, "Blending Fact With Fiction: The Author of the Delightful Bestseller Water for Elephants Describes Her Research Into Depression-Era Circus Life."

Poul Anderson, "On Thud and Blunder."

Exercise: You will incorporate historical facts and details smoothly and unobtrusively into a short scene.

Week 5
Withholding and Revealing Information

Students will discuss the dos and don'ts of information delivery. Workshopping will continue! There are no readings or exercises this week.

Workshop 2, Group A

Lecture: "Information in Fiction." All fiction is built around the giving and withholding of information. What does that mean, and how is it done?


Week 6
Diversity in Our Books and Out of Them

Students will discuss what diversity means in fiction and why it matters. There will be readings but no exercises. Workshopping continues!

Workshop 2, Group B

Lecture: "Diversity."

Resources: Three readings:

1. Nisi Shawl, "Transracial Writing for the Sincere."

2. Lionel Shriver, "On Cultural Appropriation."

3. Yassmin Abdel-Magied, "Why I Walked Out on Lionel Shriver."


Week 7
The Bones of Story

Students will discuss how understanding story shapes and structures can help with plot and character arc. Workshopping continues. There is a resource but no exercise this week. 

Workshop 2, Group C

Lecture: "The Bones of Story." Let's do some story dissection!


Chuck Wendig, "Shot Through the Heart: Your Story's Throughline."


Week 8
Publishing 101: The Query Letter

Students will learn about the query letter--what it is and how to write one. There are resources and an exercise. Workshopping continues!

Workshop 3, Group A

Lecture: "The Query Letter"


1. Jane Friedman, "The Complete Guide to Query Letters."

2. Query Shark

3. Suzannah Windsor Freeman, "25 Reasons Your Query Letter Sucks."

Exercise: In which you will write a query letter for your novel-in-progress.

Week 9
Publishing 102: Agents

Students will learn about agents--what they do, how to get one. Are they really necessary? There will be an exercise, and workshopping will continue. 

Workshop 3, Group B

Lecture: "Agents."

Exercise: The query letter you wrote last will be workshopped by your peers in class.

Week 10
Publishing 103: Publishers

Continuing our exploration of the publishing ecosystem, we move on from agents to publishers. All you ever wanted to know but were (maybe) afraid to ask! The final week of workshopping! 

Workshop 3, Group C

Lecture: "Publishers."