Chao WRI 125 Creative Writing (Click link to download)

WRI 125 Creative Writing, Fiction: Novel Writing

30337 Fall 2013

MW 4pm-5:50pm

Classroom: COB 270

Yu-Han Chao


Office Hours: MW 1:45-4:00pm

Office: AOA 152

You are encouraged to visit office hours with any questions you have about assignments, to get feedback on your writing, or to discuss your novel. Please feel free to visit office hours as frequently as you would like and to email the instructor with any questions.

Required Texts & Supplies

How to Write a Damn Good Novel, by James N. Frey

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Your favorite novel (something you’ve read already and would like to use as a model, analyze, and present on, especially one in the genre you want to write, whether it’s literary, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, romance, etc..)

Notebook or laptop for notes & classroom writing exercises

A folder for the instructor to collect your written work so we can discuss it in individual conferences

Other Resources (Excerpts or links will be provided on WordPress)

Plot & Structure, James Scott Bell

The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman

Query Shark

Course Description

From the catalogue: “[This course] provides the opportunity to pursue advanced work in creative writing by focusing on one genre: poetry, fiction, drama, or creative nonfiction. The course will follow a workshop format. With permission of the instructor, this course can be repeated for credit as topics change. Prerequisite: WRI 025 and WRI 090 Normal Letter Grade only. Course may be repeated 2 times for credit.

WRI 125 Course Goals:

1. Provide opportunities to explore contemporary literary creative expression

2. Refine understanding of writing conventions within literary genres through the comparison and application of aesthetic principles

3. Support aesthetic understanding and creativity in written and oral discourse

4. Provide opportunities to develop and revise a cumulative writing project


WRI 125 Course & Student Learning Outcomes: Students will practice and refine their capacity to…

1. Understand affective and formal qualities of different modes within a genre

2. Integrate elements of craft and genre conventions into own writing

3. Assess peer writing and provide constructive feedback, and modify own work by integrating relevant feedback

4. Demonstrate familiarity with contemporary issues within a genre

5. Understand the relationship between current writing projects and future creative writing goals

Welcome Note from the Instructor:

Welcome to Writing 125. This semester we will be focusing on the craft and business of novels.

That said, it should take longer than a semester to write a novel, especially a good one, so much of our time will be spent developing ideas, plot, character, setting, etc. through exercises and specific prompts, with your typed, printed results due in hard copy each Monday. I will collect these results in a folder for each of you so we can discuss them in individual conferences.

By the end of the semester, your portfolio (submitted to me via email) should include your polished first 5 pages, a synopsis, query, and cover letters for all three. If you like, you can work on a short story, too, and incorporate what you do in class into your story, but think big—if you write a story, write it with an eye towards expanding it into a longer work. It will be a far richer and better story if you do.

We will also be reading & analyzing Never Let Me Go and your favorite novel (please pick one by 9/9) while reflecting on advice from craft books such as How to Write a Damn Good Novel and other resources posted on WordPress. To be a good writer, one must first read. Read authors you want to emulate, and read widely in the genre (literary, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, chick lit, mystery, historical, etc.) that you are writing in.

Writer’s block is just an excuse. See chapter 9 of How to Write a Damn Good Novel. Usually 1) there is something wrong with/missing from your plot, idea, character, or 2) you are being plain lazy.

1) Make changes that excite you—if you’re not enthusiastic about writing a scene/character/plot, why would a reader be excited about reading it?

2) Just tell yourself to sit down and write for five minutes. Get words on paper/screen. Start writing already!

By the time National Novel Writing Month comes around in November, you should have a solid outline, well-rounded characters, and a fleshed-out setting. If you want to do NaNoWriMo, that’s extra credit. Most of us probably won’t have time. But if you want to give it a good try, even if you don’t get to 50k words, I will still encourage you with extra credit. And of course there’s the personal reward of getting down a quick and dirty first draft. Please, however, do not rush to query for/send out/self-publish this draft. Make it better before showing it to anyone, including me.


Weekly Assignments: 10%

Attendance & Participation: 20%

Workshop Peer Review: 10%

Presentations (Query Shark, your favorite novel): 20%

Midterm Quiz (Open book): 10%

Final Quiz (Open book): 10%

Final Portfolio (First 5 pages, Synopsis, Query): 20%

A note about grade inflation: completing assignments on time and having perfect attendance does not guarantee an A or even a B. Be aware that the standards of college level writing classes are higher than those of high school English classes. Typos and grammatical issues reflect especially badly on creative writers—an agent or editor (or regular reader) won’t give you the time of day if you can’t spell/form a correct sentence/proofread.


Incomplete Policy

An “I” grade is assigned in cases where a student’s work is a C or above and constitutes a substantial amount of the requirements for the final cause, but is incomplete for a legitimate reason. An incomplete grade contract must be submitted to the Students First Desk BEFORE the final examination period. If a student does not complete the assignments within the time frame outlined on the contract, the grade will become an F, NP or a U. The form for requesting an “I” can be found at: For more information on UCM’s policy on incomplete grades, click on:


Attendance, Participation & Assignments

1) Attendance & participation are mandatory.

Since this class is modeled after the creative workshop format, it’s impossible to complete the requirements unless you attend regularly and on time. Participation is a vital component of this class. Frequent absences will have a negative impact on the workshop dynamic. You are allowed three absences, excused or unexcused, during the semester. After your third absence, you should discuss with me either before or after class whether you need to drop the course. Three absences will lower your grade, regardless of the quality of your work. Four absences will impact your final grade by a full letter grade (a B becomes a C).

If you have six unexcused absences, you will have missed 20% of the course which will leave you with only two choices: Withdrawal or an F. Please note that you are responsible for all assignments – in-class assignments as well as assignments due on a given date, regardless of whether you’re absent or not. It is your responsibility to make arrangements to turn in any assignments due either before or on the day of your absence.

Please make sure you come to class on time. I will make note of late arrivals and early departures since they are often disruptive. If you are late to class, it is your responsibility to come see me after class, so I can correct my attendance. Otherwise you will be marked as absent. Three late arrivals or three early departures will be marked as an absence and will negatively impact your grade.

Midterm & Final Quizzes

Questions will be on texts read in class and your Novel-In-Progress. Don’t worry–these are open book and just to make sure you’re reading and thinking.

 Peer Review

For the day you are scheduled for a peer-workshop, you will bring in 12 (10 for classmates, 1 for you, 1 for instructor) hard copies of your outline or pages A WEEK BEFORE it is your turn to be reviewed.

Please note that you cannot e-mail electronic copies (i.e. attachments) of your poem to your classmates. It is not their responsibility to print your work.

Make sure you read and make comments on your classmates’ outline/pages BEFORE our next meeting. This ensures adequate time for you to thoroughly read and prepare comments on your classmates’ work so our class discussion can be productive and engaging. You must come to class with written feedback for peer workshop.

Since the content of the peer workshop classes consists primarily of feedback, it is IMPERATIVE that you read and comment on your assigned essay PRIOR to class.

 A Note on Peer Review Etiquette

Please remember the value of constructive feedback. Specificity in your comments is far more useful to the writer than vague praise or scorn. This will also train you to become a better reader.

 Faculty Feedback

Please keep all copies of your written work with faculty and student feedback, so that you can revise your work for the end of the semester and when you return to your novel in the future.

Final Portfolio

1) All students are expected to submit a portfolio of coursework which will be collected and graded

at the end of the semester.

2) Final portfolios will consist of your polished first 5 pages (about 1500 words), a synopsis, your query, and a cover letter for each of the three items discussing how they have evolved and what you have revised them based on feedback from peers and the instructor.


All assignments should include your name and date. 12 point Times New Roman is strongly preferred. Check your work for spelling and grammatical errors. Poor grammar and multiple spelling errors will significantly affect readability and lower your grade. For all critical writing assignments, please stick to the MLA guidelines.

 Late Work

Late work will be dropped by a letter grade per class session. Please note that all assignments must be submitted in person, in hard copy during class. Electronic submissions will not be accepted other than for end-of-semester portfolios.

 Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Please note that serious violations such as passing others’ work as your own means that in addition to failing the assignment and receiving a final course grade of F, you will be also be recommended for dismissal from UC Merced.


Disability Services: UCM Disability Services is located on the first floor of the Kolligian Library 109, and for more information please visit:   Students with disabilities, who may need accommodation, please see me the first day of class. You may also e-mail me or visit me during office hours.

 Weekly Schedule (This is a tentative and subject to change):

 Week 1

No Class Meeting

Week 2

M 9/2 Labor Day

W 9/4 The novel, the industry, traditional publishing, agents, queries. Select your favorite novel.

Week 3

M 9/9 Ideas! Types of plot. Discuss favorite novels & why.

W 9/11 Queryshark presentation. Ideas! Develop your plot.

Week 4

M 9/16 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapters 1-3. Characterization: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 1.

W 9/18 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapters 4-5. How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 1. Develop your characters

Week 5

M 9/23 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapters 6-7. Conflict: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter2.

W 9/25 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapter 8-9. How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 2. Develop your conflict.

Week 6

M 9/30 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapters 10-12. Premise: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter3.

W 10/2 Queryshark presentation. Never Let Me Go chapters 13-14. Plot & Structure.

Week 7

M 10/7 Outline workshop (Erika, Ryan, Edward, & Charles). Plot & Structure.

W 10/9 Outline workshop (Rennai, Mike, JJ & Alyson). Story & pitch.

Week 8

M 10/14 Outline workshop (Frank, Jacob, Shon, Natalie). Setting.

W 10/16 Outline workshop (Kenzie & Vanessa) Never Let Me Go chapters 15-17. Develop your setting.

Week 9

M 10/21 Midterm Quiz

W 10/23 Never Let Me Go chapters 18-20. Climax & plot. How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter5.

Week 10

M 10/28 Never Let Me Go chapters 21-23. SDT (Show, Don’t Tell).

W 10/30 NaNoWriMo Special. Writer’s Block. Increase Your Word Count. How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 9.

Week 11

M 11/4 Present your favorite novel. Dialogue.

W 11/6 Present your favorite novel. Writer’s Groups: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 8.

Week 12

M 11/11 Veterans Day

W 11/13 First 5 pages workshop

Week 13

M 11/18 First 5 pages workshop. The First Five Pages. Dialogue: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 7.

W 11/20 First 5 pages workshop

Week 14

M 11/25 First 5 pages workshop. Point of View: How to Write a Damn Good Novel chapter 6.

W 11/27 Not meeting–Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 15

M 12/2 Final Quiz (Query).

W 12/4 First 5 pages workshop. Editing & revision.

Week 16

M 12/9 Small group query and workshop. Editing & revision.

W 12/11 Querying Agents, PW Weekly, book exchange. Portfolios due via email.


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