The Writer's Path at SMU

Novel Path to New York Seminar: Required Courses

(The path for NY '17 students.)

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A STORY BURNS INSIDE YOU. But what do you do? How do you get it out? The Novel Track takes you from the first quivering of an idea through every step of the writing process – from the initial sketch to the final project.



Taught by authors with distinctive voices, this is the first part of the journey. Answer the questions: What is my story? Why are character and plot inseparable? How do my characters relate to each other? What is pacing? What is my story arc? Why is it important for my hero to have her/his own arc? What's my theme, my genre, my style? Answer these and other fundamental questions as you create an outline and draft key scenes in this class. Prerequisite: Creative Writing Foundation.



Strengthen your understanding of story components, learn how the advanced elements of structure can expand your manuscript while transforming an overwhelming concept into a manageable project. Practice your craft while acquiring skills in creating tension bonds, developing dramatic scenes and deepening character and plot. Prerequisites: Creative Writing Foundation, Novel: The Story.



You crafted your story skeleton in Story class, you built your plot in Plot class. Using the structure you've created, you'll execute the key scenes of your story, and make sure this IS the story you want to tell, told the way you want to tell it. Each week you'll write a step in your Hero's Journey, and participate in class instruction and discussion to make sure it's effective and belongs in your story. This nine-week, two instructor class is where you'll learn to use the roadmap you've built, to decide what belongs in your story and what doesn't, and where it really begins and ends. This class will guide you through the transition from planning to producing.


You're actually writing, with word counts and chapter breaks -- join this class for weekly deadlines, accountability, direction and encouragement. Writing requires allies, and this class is full of them. From any point of the writing experience, in any genre, this class can help you get closer to your goals. Prerequisites: Foundation, Story, Plot, Heroic Chapters and/or instructor approval. Required once, but take as many times as you'd like.



You've completed a first draft. Where do you go from here? Revision offers hard-core analysis of structure, character and pacing while preparing you to write a stronger, cleaner draft, no matter which draft it is. This final story class helps you deepen what you've already created while giving insight to what still needs to be done. Prerequisite for New York Seminar: all classes and manuscript approval.

NOVEL: REWRITE Give yourself time and space to implement changes and improve your next draft, per Revision.

NOVEL: REWRITE/Rest A key factor in writing, is time and space. The longer we work on something, the harder it is to actually see what is on the page instead of what we think is there. For this six week period, students turn in their mss in their stage of progress, for a REST. (Takes place over winter break, so is a welcome opportunity!)

NOVEL: REWRITE/Grammar Based on your own work, this grammar class helps you learn your own grammar errors and helps perfect your prose.

NOVEL: REWRITE/Synopsis The synopsis is one of the most feared "business" writing assignments in all of fiction writing. Learn how to master your synopsis in four weeks, and be prepared for all the different versions the publishing world will want to see. POLISH is a following one-week workshop taught by an editor covering the minutiae, details, trimming and edits that will help you perfect the words on the page -- the difference between "done" and "finished.



Gain a chance before going to NY to hear a professional editor's review. Manuscript pages will be sent to NY to be read by a select editor. You will have a twenty-minute phone call with this editor to hear her view on your work, before joining ReWrite, where you will have an opportunity to improve your draft before applying for the NY Seminar in August.


For twelve weeks, surrounded by your cohort and nurtured in an SMU classroom, apply all the story, language, grammar and writing insights you have learned. The last week will be a workshop, led by an instructor, to perfect your first five pages.


After completing the prerequisites and perfecting your book, you must be selected by our panel in a double-blind judging, first. They -- a published author, an editor, and an avid reader -- read the first fifteen pages + synopsis and rate them based on this rubric. Scores rank from 1-4. We calculate the final numbers, take the highest and invite those writers to participate in the NY Seminar.


SMU Writer's Seminar in New York
For four days, in the extraordinary setting of an Upper East-side mansion, students have the opportunity to live the literary life. Hear an honest and
complete critique of your manuscript from publishing professionals, enjoy meals and lectures with those in the business and learn firsthand the intricacies of the publishing world.


*Formula For Success

The New York Seminar serves as a culmination of the The Writer's Path at SMU, and as such, carries several prerequisites: required courses, a complete original novel, and succeeding through our selection process. These requirements help our students move from course to course within the program along pre-determined paths that contribute to their success and help to ensure they gain specific skills and reach certain benchmarks before moving on to the next level. Following these prerequisites ensures the highest quality and the greatest readiness for the New York Seminar applicants.