Advanced Fiction Writing

An advanced workshop in the craft of writing fiction. May be repeated for credit with a different instructor.

Spring application due by noon on December 6.

After completing the online APPLICATION FORM, upload one Word or Adobe PDF document that contains your name, the course number (e.g., ENGL 245), instructor’s name, a statement of purpose, a writing sample of approximately 5-10 pages or up to 4500 words of poetry, double-spaced. For the statement of purpose, please write a paragraph about why you wish to take this specific writing course. The file should be named with the course number and your name (Sample: ENGL 245_Sayers-Erica.pdf).

Special application instructions: In your Statement of Purpose, please describe your interest in fiction-writing and in this course in particular.

Welcome to English 465! This class is an intensive fiction workshop. While there are no official prerequisites for this class, participants are expected to be avid readers of fiction with prior experience in the writing of fiction and basic familiarity with the workshop format. Each student will submit three pieces for workshop, the third being a revision of one of the first two. Students will also provide each other with written editorial feedback, and will maintain a daily ‘notebook.’ Below are these requirements and general guidelines in greater detail.


Your regular attendance is crucial for the success of the workshop as a whole. In this course you’re equally an author and a critic, and fulfilling your critical responsibilities to your fellow writers is as important here as producing your own work. If you have more than one unexcused absence, each additional unexcused absence will lower your grade 1/3 of a letter.


You’ll sign up to submit work to our workshop three times this semester. Your third submission must be a revision of either of the first two submissions.

We’ll divide the semester into three ‘cycles’ (Round One, Round Two, Revision) and I’ll ask you to sign up for a workshop date within each of the three cycles.  Once you commit to your workshop dates, you will be expected to stick with them if at all possible. If it is absolutely necessary for you to reschedule, please discuss with me first.

Submission length:  There is no set length for workshop submissions, but consider the ballpark as between 5 and 15 pages.

Format:  Double-space, number your pages, and include your name. If you can, please print double-sided as well, to avoid waste.

Distribution:  Writers must bring to class hard copies of their submissions one week in advance of their workshop, to be distributed to classmates and to me. *Exceptions will be made for our first workshop and our post-recess workshop. In those cases, writers will distribute their work to the class via email on a date to be determined and readers are responsible for printing out the stories under discussion.  All discussion of work in class will be from hard copies.


As a member of the workshop, I’ll expect your regular participation in classroom discussions of the writing ‘up’ for workshop any given week. In addition, I expect you to treat each workshop submission in the following way:

1)   read each submission first for pleasure; put your feet up, and don’t hold a pen.

2)   a bit later, read the submission again, as a critic. This time, hold a pen, and make what marginal comments occur to you on the page.

3)   last, summarize your critical response to the submission in a typed paragraph. When doing this, think of the sort of feedback you, as a writer, would appreciate. Be specific, yet constructive. Also, be concise. Print and bring to workshop two copies of your critical response, one for the author of the piece, and one for me.


Given the volume of reading and writing the workshop alone will require, I will not assign additional reading, or specific exercises. I will, however, ask you to make a commitment to that part of your attention dedicated to fiction-writing by keeping a ‘notebook’ in which you make a daily ‘entry’ of about 100 words. 100 words happens to be the exact length of the three numbered instructions, taken together, which appear immediately above this paragraph. As you can see, it’s not a lot of words. This entry can be anything at all: an idea for a story;  a quick sketch of a character or a setting; a few lines of overheard diagloue; a rumination; an account of a dream; a memory. The object here is to keep in touch with the fiction-writing impulse, and to ‘bank’ ideas and sentences, throughout a busy semester. To help you maintain this habit, your notebook entries will take the form of daily emails to meI will not read your entries but I’ll make sure you’re making them, and prod you if you aren’t. To help me organize my inbox, please use the same subject heading for all entries:  465 daily notebook. If you are emailing me for another reason, please be sure to change the subject heading.

Every year, the Yale Creative Writing Program brings outstanding writers to campus. You are not required, but you are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this resource.

Your final grade will be based upon your attendance, participation in discussions, critical responses to your peers, and timely completion of all reading and writing assignments, including the daily ‘notebook.’

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T 3:30pm-5:20pm