Sharon Oard Warner

Sharon Oard Warner

Upcoming Opportunities

Iowa Sum­mer Writ­ing Fes­ti­val (Fall 2023 to Win­ter 2024)
Course: The Novel­la Work­shop (a six-week online work­shop)
Pre­sen­ter: Sharon Oard Warn­er
Ses­sions, Mon­days, Jan­u­ary 15 to Feb­ru­ary 19, 2024, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm CT

Vis­it the UI Learn web­site for details: fee and registration.

Course Descrip­tion

Why write a novel­la? And why write one before embark­ing on a nov­el? Because the novel­la is the inter­me­di­ate step: more expan­sive than a short sto­ry, but trim­mer than a novel.

This work­shop focus­es on the novel­la as an extend­ed work of fic­tion: long enough for the read­er to get lost in, but short enough to be con­sumed in a sin­gle, longish sit­ting. Novel­las used to be con­sid­ered awkward—too long to fit com­fort­ably in the pages of most lit­er­ary mag­a­zines and too short to be pub­lished alone. But, in our cur­rent cul­ture, the novel­la is, to quote Debra Sparks, a “Goldilocks form, not too much this and not too much that but just right.” For the con­ve­nience of pub­lish­ers, novel­las are often mar­ket­ed as nov­els. Novel­las don’t take up much space. Stow one in your purse or slip it in your back pock­et. Read as you wait in line for coffee.

Rather than work­ing with struc­tur­al units like chap­ters (novel­las don’t usu­al­ly have them), we will focus on the nar­ra­tive arc and the key scenes. In the last four weeks of class, we will spend half of each ses­sion work­shop­ping your scenes. Expect to work­shop one scene per week or four scenes in total. Why work with scenes? Scenes are the build­ing blocks of all nar­ra­tives, regard­less of form. They have begin­nings, mid­dles, and ends, which means they lend them­selves to dis­cus­sion and eval­u­a­tion. But they’re not as lengthy as a chap­ter or a story.

Expect to spend sev­er­al hours a week read­ing and writ­ing in prepa­ra­tion for our Mon­day morn­ing ses­sions. If you are already per­co­lat­ing a plot, you can get a head start on the class. We will be using my craft book, Writ­ing the Novel­la (2021), which pro­vides writ­ing prompts, a sto­ry map, and lots of advice for mov­ing for­ward. 

If you’re any­thing like me, some of your favorite books are novel­las, clas­sics like Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, Break­fast at Tiffany’s by Tru­man Capote, The Mem­ber of the Wed­ding by Car­son McCullers, Of Mice and Men by John Stein­beck or To the Light­house by Vir­ginia Woolf. And you’re prob­a­bly par­tial to con­tem­po­rary novel­las as well: On Chesil Beach by Ian McE­wan, The Curi­ous Inci­dent of the Dog in the Night­time by Mark Had­don, Red at the Bone by Jacque­lyn Wood­son, A House on Man­go Street by San­dra Cis­neros. And I’m just get­ting start­ed. 

Browse any of the dozens of novel­la lis­ti­cles online to see what I mean: 

The class is appro­pri­ate for fic­tion writ­ers who have com­plet­ed at least a hand­ful of short sto­ries and are now con­tem­plat­ing a larg­er project, some­thing that requires a stur­dy nar­ra­tive arc. Ours will be a safe space for try­ing on ideas, intro­duc­ing char­ac­ters, and ask­ing lots of ques­tions. 


In our six weeks togeth­er, par­tic­i­pants will: 

  • Explore the novel­la form and its his­to­ry. 
  • Iden­ti­fy a touch­stone novel­la. 
  • Cre­ate a sto­ry map. 
  • Draft four key scenes or plot points.  

Each par­tic­i­pant will meet with me for a 30-minute conference—either ear­ly in the course or short­ly before it ends.

Iowa Summer Writing Festival

Iowa Sum­mer Writ­ing Festival

Magid Cen­ter for Writ­ing
Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa
24 Phillips Hall
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Novella Workshop
Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa Sum­mer Novel­la Work­shop 2021