You are about to embark on an exciting, rewarding and challenging adventure. Everyone says that they want to write a novel, but only a tiny fraction of folks have the drive, talent and discipline to accomplish it. You’ll take an important step in that direction by enrolling in this sequence of novel writing classes, which will teach you essential fiction writing skills as well as helping you get your book finished.

In this novel writing class, you’ll learn the forms of realistic fiction and how to adapt them to a novel. You’ll explore techniques like dramatic scene, character sketches, dialogue and scene by scene construction–the building blocks of all novels. The goal of the novel writing class is to introduce these techniques and get you started on your novel in the process. The great adventure is about to begin!

In addition to focusing on these techniques, we will discuss larger, structural issues, how to put all of these elements together into a dramatic and compelling chapter. It’s a bit like building a cathedral; you don’t start by piling up bricks. First you learn to fashion stone. You learn how it fit it together. You study the principles of constructing arches, whether Gothic, Romanesque or another. You choose the arch that best suits your design. You integrate all of these elements into the final edifice. Only after you have learned to do all of these things will you be able to proceed further.

In the same way, it makes little sense to start writing a novel without first mastering the underlying forms of fiction. Start with the simple ones first, then move to the longer and more complex. By proceeding in this way, the novel writing class will help you envision the larger arc of your story. Structure usually proves the most difficult aspect of novel writing for most students. Fitting these individual elements into the grand architecture of a novel is the primary focus of this sequence of novel writing classes.

Finally, we’ll talk about publishing, and how you can get your finished novel into the hands of an appropriate editor. I’ll also give you some suggestions about where to go after you’ve finished the novel writing class.


Whether you’re just embarking on the great adventure of writing a novel or are midway through the journey, this novel writing class will help you find your way to completing the book. Assignments include a 500-word outline, a 500-word scene, a 250-word character sketch, a 1,500- to 3,000-word chapter, and a pitch letter. Text: The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. $500.


This course builds on the previous one, helping you shape major characters like the protagonist and the antagonist as well as the other minor characters in your book. In addition, you will flesh out your plot, identifying important turning points and writing the crucial scenes. Text: The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. $500.


Six assignments chosen with the help of the instructor to bring your novel closer to completion. Note: This Advanced Novel writing class may be repeated, adding further assignments as a student progresses through the writing and completing an entire manuscript. Text: The Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. $500.

Jana HarrisJana Harris teaches the novel writing sequence for The Writer’s Workshop. She is a novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist. Her award-winning books include the novel Alaska, a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection. Born in San Francisco and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she worked for six years as director of Writers in Performance at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York. She now lives with her husband in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where they raise horses. Ms. Harris teaches the novel writing sequence for The Writer’s Workshop and at the University of Washington where she is editor and founder of Switched-on Gutenberg (, one of the first electronic poetry journals of the English-speaking world. Her second novel, The Pearl of Ruby City was released from St. Martin’s Press. In 2001 she won a Pushcart Prize for poetry. Jana is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN, Poetry Society of America, and AWP. Recently she has been writer-in-residence at the University of Wyoming, St. Catherine’s College (St. Paul, MN), and Washington State University.

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