Basic Info
  • Fiction
  • Novel

You’ve been working on this thing for . . . how long? Months? Years? It’s supposed to look like a novel, but now that you’ve got it in front of you, it looks more like a six-legged cow or a bus with wings. You’ve begun to wonder what, exactly, a “novel” is. Maybe you’re not writing one. You might be writing a cycle-of-stories-as-novel, or a faux memoir, or a “modular” novel with some unifying structural element. In this class, we’ll look at ways of structuring novel-length narratives to create a variety of fully-engaging, satisfying works. We’ll examine traditional plot structures, as well as a host of others, using examples from contemporary literature. We’ll address pacing, psychic distance, aspects of “voice,” and more. Participants will not bring novels to class; rather, they will bring an opening chapter, or a middle chapter, or even notes or notions. We’ll consider the possibilities. Always, the structural solution for the most compelling rendering of the story will be novel to the writer, will fit his or her narrative impulses.

Wayne Johnson


Wayne Johnson (M.F.A., Iowa Writer’s Workshop) is the author of nine books: five novels, a collection of stories, a memoir, and two nonfiction works. Three of his books have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, two have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year, one a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers Series and finalist for Book of the Year, and another a Kansas City Star Book of the Year. His awards include a Stegner Fellowship from Stanford, a Yaddo residency, and a Chesterfield Writers’ Film Project Fellowship. Wayne has worked in Hollywood, where two of his screenplays were optioned. Two of his most recent screenplays were selected as Sundance Best Picture finalists. Wayne has new books forthcoming and in development. Visit him online at