See also:
Fiction Writing Intensive
Up next:
Zoetrope Short Fiction Writing II
Zoetrope Fiction Writing I

Fiction Writing I is a 10-week workshop, which includes lectures, exercises, and the critiquing of student projects. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

The premium Zoetrope fiction classes are done in collaboration with Zoetrope: All-Story, one of the world’s most prominent literary magazines. Founded in 1997 by Francis Ford Coppola, Zoetrope: All-Story has received every major story award, including the National Magazine Award for Fiction, while publishing today’s most promising and significant writers.

The premium Zoetrope Fiction classes are Gotham online classes with a few bonus features:

  • A one-year subscription to Zoetrope: All-Story, a value of $50 for the U.S., $65 for Canada/Mexico, and $99 for everywhere else.
  • A chance to submit a short story to Zoetrope: All-Story that skips the slush pile and gets careful consideration for publication in the magazine. (Yes, students have been published in Zoetrope. There is, however, no guarantee that any student story will be accepted, and the magazine is extremely selective.)
  • A weeklong question-and-answer session at the end of the course with Zoetrope: All-Story’s editor, Michael Ray

You might also consider Gotham’s regular Fiction Writing classes.

Fiction is a wonderful conjuring act. With only words and the reader’s imagination, a work of fiction can sail across the world in pursuit of a whale, or time-travel to another dimension, or zero in on a few minutes in line at the local bank, enveloping the reader in a made-up story that feels real.

To pull off this feat requires a balance of craftsmanship, daring, and insight into human nature. Here you’ll learn the time-tested elements of fiction craft and how to market your work.

Whether you seek to write short stories or novels; mainstream, literary, or genre; comic or tragic, we’ll show you how to spin your thoughts into believable and spellbinding tales.

About Fiction Writing
Zoetrope Fiction Writing I

All of the tools you need to make a story shine are taught in this course.

Rochelle Campbell

administrative scheduler


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.

Upcoming Classes

Masks are not required, but we’ll provide masks for those who want them. We are no longer requesting proof of vaccination.

More Covid details


Registration fee $25, paid once per term

See Payment Options

To register for a 10-Week course, you need to pay in full to guarantee your place in class. Or you can pay a $95 deposit plus a $25 registration fee (total $120) to temporarily hold your place, but tuition must be paid in full 10 business days before your class starts or you risk losing your spot.



This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of fiction craft and gets you writing a short story (or two) or a novel. Course components:
     Writing exercises
     Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

Week 1
Introduction to Fiction: The different types and forms of fiction. Where to find inspiration and ideas. The importance of craft.

Week 2
Character: Where to find characters. Making characters dimensional through desire and contrasts. Creating character profiles. Showing vs. Telling. Methods for showing characters. 

Week 3
Plot: Finding a major dramatic question. Shaping a beginning, middle, and end. The difference between short story and novel plots. Pros and cons of outlining. 

Week 4
Point of View: POV defined. Exploration of the many types of POV. 

Week 5
Description: Using the senses. Specificity. Techniques for creativity. Finding the right words. Merging description with point of view. 

Week 6
Dialogue: The importance of scene. Dialogue's illusion of reality. Quotation marks and tags. Stage directions. Summarized dialogue. Characterization through dialogue. Subtext. Dialect. 

Week 7
Setting/Pacing: Time. Place. Weather. Description of setting. Merging character and setting. How to manipulate time through pacing. Flashbacks. 

Week 8
Voice: Voice defined. Exploration of the various types of voice. Tips for finding your voice. Understanding style—syntax, diction, and paragraph length.

Week 9
Theme/Revision: Theme defined. Types of theme. Weaving theme into a story. Exploration of the various stages of revision. 

Week 10
The Business: Proper format for manuscripts. How to target publishing houses, literary magazines, and agents. Query letters. 

Week 11
Zoetrope Editor: A visit with Michael Ray, editor of Zoetrope: All-Story

Note: Content may vary among individual classes. 


Michael Backus
Michael Backus

Michael Backus is the author of the novels The Vanishing Point (Cactus Moon Books) and the chapbook Coney on the Moon (Redbird Chapbooks). His short stories and nonfiction have appeared in One Story, Okey Panky, Channel, Parhelion Literary Review, Jellyfish Review, Cleaver, Digging Through the Fat, Oyster River Pages, Prime Number, and Exquisite Corpse. He has taught at Columbia College and Marymount Manhattan College. He holds a BA from Purdue University and an MFA from Columbia College.

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