Novel II CritiqueGUIDE TO FICTION COURSES
Novel II Critique is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures and the critiquing of student projects. The focus is on writing novels. The prerequisite is Fiction I, or the equivalent; Level II courses work best when students know the fundamentals and have experience with the workshop process. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.
The Novel Critique classes are workshops, where students (and the teacher) read and critique the work of their fellow students. If you prefer to work on powering through a first draft, then take Novel First Draft.
A novel is a world into which a reader disappears for hours or days at a time, navigating through time and space and human psychology. We live with the characters, be they a glamorous bootlegger living the high life, or a mixed-up teenager on hiatus from prep school, or a pair of runaway twins who branch into separate lives over the decades.
Writing a novel is a long haul—a steep climb over hundreds of pages that must work as a unified and engrossing whole. Here you’ll learn the specialized techniques of novel writing and how to market your work.
As Toni Morrison says: If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
I learned several specifics about writing a novel, such as story drivers and presenting character attitude when writing description. I also feel far more confident on how to approach the writing of a novel—what essential elements I need to map out before getting to work on writing it.
Fiction I encompasses short stories and novels. After Level I, students have a choice of Short Fiction Writing II (focusing on short stories), or Novel II Critique or Novel II First Draft (focusing on novels).
If you’re working on “genre” fiction, you may take either a Fiction/Novel course or one of our genre courses: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance, Mystery.
If you’re working on a YA novel, you may take a Fiction/Novel or “genre” course, or you may take a Children’s Book course, where the full spectrum of children’s books will be covered.
More Covid details
Registration fee $25, paid once per termSee Payment Options
Tuition: $419 (returning students: $389)
Anytime, week-long sessions
Tuition: $419 (returning students: $389)
This course helps you sharpen your skills at novel writing and work toward completion (or revision) of a novel. Sections of your novel will be critiqued by the teacher and fellow students. Writers often repeat Novel II to continue their projects. Course components:
Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work three times)
New York City/Zoom classes
The syllabus varies from teacher to teacher, term to term. Many topics will be similar to those covered in the Online classes.
Gotham has two separate tracks for Novel Critique. They complement each other, and many students take both tracks, but it makes no difference which one is taken first. If you take one track, then enroll again for Novel Critique, Gotham will make sure you are placed in the other program.
The topics covered in one track (X):
Getting a Handle: A novel's “bigness"—length, scope, endurance. Types of novels—literary, commercial, upmarket, genre. 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 track (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.
Katherine Taylor is the author of the novels Valley Fever and Rules For Saying Goodbye (both Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Her essays and short stories have appeared in Elle, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Ploughshares, ZYZZYVA, Southwest Review, Town and Country, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah. She holds a BA from USC and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.Read more
Scott Alexander Hess
Scott Alexander Hess is the author of five novels, including Skyscraper, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, The Butcher's Sons, named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015 (both Lethe Press), and a pair of novellas The Root of Everything & Lightning (Rebel Satori Press). His work has appeared in HuffPost, Genre Magazine, The Fix, and Thema Literary Review. He co-wrote “Tom in America,” an award-winning short film, and curates Hot Lit, an LGBTQ+ themed monthly newsletter. He holds a BJ from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MFA in Fiction from The New School.Read more
is the author of the novels Valley Fever and Rules For Saying Goodbye (both Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Her essays and short stories have appeared in Elle, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Ploughshares, ZYZZYVA, Southwest Review, Town and Country, Prairie Schooner, and Shenandoah. She holds a BA from USC and an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University.
is the author of five novels, including Skyscraper, a Lambda Literary Award Finalist, The Butcher's Sons, named a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2015 (both Lethe Press), and a pair of novellas The Root of Everything & Lightning (Rebel Satori Press). His work has appeared in HuffPost, Genre Magazine, The Fix, and Thema Literary Review. He co-wrote “Tom in America,” an award-winning short film, and curates Hot Lit, an LGBTQ+ themed monthly newsletter. He holds a BJ from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MFA in Fiction from The New School.