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November 2020 online: Addictive Openings: Refining and Electrifying Your Novel’s First Pages

November 14 and 15,2020
November 21 and 22, 2020
Saturdays and Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to noon (4 sessions)
online via Zoom

In this class, we will spend four sessions together diving deep into what makes those sometimes tricky opening pages of your novel really sing. Most of us can bring to mind our favorite novels, and how they seemed to reach out and grab us right away. There is nothing more exhilarating than feeling that sense of immediate capture. But writing them can be tricky—should you use a prologue, how much context or backstory is really needed, and then of course, which voice and POV will you employ to create the most intriguing first impression of your story? If we consider an average-length novel (around 80,000 words), it’s around page 30, the point of no return, where a reader will choose to keep reading—or not. The reader should arrive at this moment and think, “I have to find out what’s going to happen.”

By examining your opening image and voice, the world of your novel, plot structure, and considering what questions your novel is asking, we will begin to demystify what makes some novels so instantly compelling and work to refine your own pages to uncover the ultimate truth of your project. Zadie Smith says she spends 80 percent of her efforts on the first 50 or 60 pages of a book — and the rest comes “pretty quickly.” She says she does that to get the tone — the perspective — the way she wants it. In writing my own novel, I felt similarly obsessed with the opening pages, and found that eventually getting them down just right allowed me to unlock and understand the rest of the story as a whole.

This workshop is for anyone who has about 30 pages of a novel in progress and perhaps an outline or idea of the story. Each session we will look at excerpts of various novel openings as well as your own. I will provide in class writing prompts as well as exercises to do outside of class to continue your process. We will also spend some time considering our own emotional blocks around our art in order to create a sense of freedom and clarity around your goals for your project.

Once you register you will be invited to email 15-30 pages of your novel’s beginning, to be distributed to the class before it the first session on November 14.

Chelsea Bieker

Chelsea Bieker is from California’s Central Valley. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Foundation Award and her fiction and essays have been published in GrantaMcSweeney’sCatapult magazine, Electric Literature, and Joyland, among others. She has been awarded a MacDowell Colony fellowship, and holds an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University. Godshot is her first novel.

Purchase Godshot from Broadway Books, one of our Portland-based, independent bookstore partners HERE.

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