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Special Topics in the Novel

Making Novels Shorter

Friday, September 11th, 10:30am-1:30pm
Remote (Live Zoom Meetings)
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Level: For Everyone
Adult (18+)
12 seats max

Whether your manuscript is one page or three hundred pages, making your writing more concise is both an important and an elusive skill. The ability to edit a manuscript into a compact, vivid, and effective piece without sacrificing either clarity or an individual voice is something that writers struggle to gain throughout their career. The task is particularly daunting for novel writers: it can be extraordinarily difficult to summon the force of will and the careful attention needed to cut a book-length manuscript effectively—and it can also be an emotional challenge: writers often throw up their hands at the thought of “killing their darlings.”

In this seminar we will discuss the importance of editing novel manuscripts at different levels: the sentence, the paragraph, the scene, the chapter. We will explore ways to identify the main themes of the novel and then to ensure that those themes are retained and strengthened through careful cutting. Using their own work, attendees will learn how to determine when to cut on the micro level and when to eliminate whole pages. During the course of the seminar we will also examine “before and after” drafts from published authors. By the end of the seminar, attendees will have improved their skills as both writers and self-editors—and learned about the crucial connection between those two roles.

Attendees should bring one passage of five to eight pages from the novel they are working on—either the opening or a scene that they feel ought to be shortened.

Part of GrubStreet's Special Topics in the Novel, a group of classes dedicated to exploring different craft elements of novel-writing. For more class offerings, click here.


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Ursula DeYoung
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