Novel Incubator

In a Nutshell

A competitive and affordable MFA-level course, spanning 12 months, for ten fiction writers interested in deep revision of their novel drafts, a comprehensive craft-based study of the novel form, and a thoughtful introduction to the publishing world. The Novel Incubator application period is closed for the 2017-18 cycle. Applications for the 2018-19 cycle will be accepted later this year. To hear from authors who graduated from program, check out Our Diploma is Your Published Novel: The Books of the Novel Incubator on the blog.

Date of Course: May 2018 - May 2019

Free Open House & Info Session

Thinking of applying? GrubStreet offers informal Q&A sessions each fall with alumni and instructor Michelle Hoover to answer any questions you have about the Incubator, including the workload, the application process, what the program does and doesn’t entail, the schedule, the philosophy behind our approach, and anything else on your mind. The next Open House will be on December 6th, 6:00pm - 7:30pm. Visit here for more information. 


The Novel Incubator year is divided into three distinct phases, each with its own requirements and structure. In the first phase (May - August), students receive full critiques of their entire novels in a workshop setting and craft lectures directly applicable to the novel form. In the second phase (September - December), students focus on discrete chapters and study the mechanics of chapter-writing as well as micro-editing. The final phase (January - April) will follow the same format as the first, except that students receive full critiques of their entire revised novels. During this phase, students also submit their revised novels to an outside reader, an established author who will offer comprehensive macro feedback and suggestions for revision. Throughout the year, students are guaranteed a certain number of one-on-one meetings with the instructor and the outside consultant to discuss the specifics of their projects as well as novels read outside of class. Toward the end of the final phase, prominent local authors, editors and/or agents will visit as guest speakers. At the end of the program, students will have a chance to meet with an agent and/or editor as part of the Manuscript Mart at the 2019 Muse and the Marketplace conference; this agent or editor will read an excerpt of the student's novel with an eye toward representation.

Why We Started This Program

For years, the aspiring novelists taking workshops at GrubStreet told us they needed more time and more focused instruction to work on their books. They asked for consistent support over the long journey of revision, for a reliable group of fellow students who knew and understood the narratives they were constructing. These important needs simply cannot be met in one ten-week workshop or even a semester-long program.

Academic programs, MFAs in particular, teach the craft of fiction using the short story as a template. These programs are useful for learning the craft of short fiction, and a full course of study at the MFA level is a rich and worthy endeavor, but there is no evidence that learning to write a successful short story teaches you how to write a successful novel. In fact, it may even be counterproductive, given that the processes, aesthetics, requirements and skills of novel-writing can seem as different from story-writing as poetry is from prose. More importantly, we believe it takes at least a year to effectively revise a novel, to explore its possibilities and maximize its potential, to truly know “what it wants to be.” Along the way, students need consistent fellow readers – emerging writers and also trained eyes – who understand the world they are trying to build, who can discuss big-picture issues of character development, plots and subplots and structure alongside sentence rhythm and figurative language.

In the Novel Incubator, unfettered by the academic/semester schedule, GrubStreet has developed a program from the point of view not of the institution but of the aspiring novelist. Unique in shape, the curriculum gives students a rich, authentic and artistically valuable experience directly applicable to the specific art of novel-writing. Ours is one of the only programs where a student’s entire novel will be thoughtfully critiqued at least twice by the instructor, an objective outside reader, and classmates, and where all craft discussions and readings will be novel-centered. We want to emphasize that we are not offering a formula or advocating a particular novel aesthetic; we aim simply to investigate the various forms successful novels and apply what we learn to our own books.

Also unique to GrubStreet, the Incubator embraces the challenge of teaching a novelist strategies for navigating the marketplace to find a home for their novel once it’s ready for publication. We do not promise publication or agent representation, and we do not see either as the primary or ultimate goal of the course. However, over the years we have learned from GrubStreet students in novel workshops that most do want their books to be read as widely as possible, and so we included "marketplace education" in the curriculum. Some examples of marketplace education, which is limited to the fourth quarter of the year, include: the role of agents, how to write effective query letters, the myths and realities of self-publishing and building a platform. 

"The Novel Incubator has been the most intense educational experience of my life, pushing me to a productivity I didn’t think possible."

–-Liz Moore

"The whole Novel Incubator experience has been absolutely fabulous for me. It is without a doubt the best thing I’ve done to help my writing career. Working with the phenomenal Michelle, and my terrific fellow students, helped push and guide me to create a much better version of my novel than the one I started with."

--Robert Fernandes


If you have specific questions about the Novel Incubator program, email or call the office anytime at 617.695.0075.