Novel Beginnings: Building Strong Foundations for Your Novel and Your Career 2019

About This Event


Get feedback on your novel AND guidance about your writing career from two experienced authors with great teaching and editing experience.

Nothing is more important than laying strong foundations for both your novel and your writing career. Just as the choices you make at the start of your novel will have ripple effects throughout the entire book, the time you invest in establishing what’s important to you as an author will resonate throughout your entire writing journey. Our faculty will help you on your road to discovery as you lay down the cornerstones of your novel and your career.

What You’ll Learn

Get answers to questions like these:

Is your idea strong enough to sustain a whole novel?

Are the pages you’ve written thus far compelling?

How can you tell if you’re on the right track or wasting your precious time?

Are there choices you could be making now that might better set your book up for success?

How do agents and editors decide which books get returned with a rejection letter and which submissions translate into a sale?


You will be able to submit up to 50 pages of your manuscript, and faculty will give you both line comments and an editorial letter.

You will have a one-on-one critique with a faculty member.

There will be sessions with a guest editor.

There will be faculty and guest presentations on plot, character, conflict, the publishing process, and how to avoid common mistakes.

Who Should Attend

This course is open to beginning, intermediate and advanced novelists.

Beginning novelists who would like to make sure they are getting the best start.

Writers at any level with a novel-in-progress, or finished novel, who would benefit from expert feedback.

Anyone who would like to know more about the publishing process. Both K.L. Going and Clara Gillow Clark have writing, teaching and publishing experience, and K.L. worked for an agent. Also, we are thrilled that Simon & Schuster editor Liz Kossnar will be a special guest!

Alums of these courses may find this of special interest: Capturing Character, The Hero’s Journey, Everything You Need to Know About Children’s Book Publishing, The Journey, Writing for ALL Young Readers, The Joke’s on You, Connecting Source to Story, Responsible Representation, Elements of Plot.


Day 1


Arrival and check in


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: Introductions

Show and Tell: Demystifying the Publishing Process, K.L. and Clara

Day 2



Getting to the Heart of Your Character, Clara

Creating the Strongest Plot Possible, K.L.



Using the Market to Your Benefit: Looking at how elevator pitches and comp titles help build the picture of your project, Liz Kossnar

One-to-one critiques, K.L. & Clara

One-to-one critiques, Liz Kossnar


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: s’mores, weather permitting

Deconstructing a First Chapter

Day 3



Most Common Writing Mistakes & How to Fix Them, K.L. and Clara

Supporting Characters: Creating a set of images that define your secondary cast, Clara



What to Know NOW to Build a Strong Career, K.L.

One-to-one critiques or free writing time

Revision Q&A time or free writing time. K.L. and Clara will be available to answer questions about revisions.


Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: Agent Q&A with Jennie Dunham, Dunham Literary

Day 4



First Page Readings & Group Critique, K.L., Clara & Jennie Dunham

Wrap-up. Q & A.


Lunch and farewells


Writing Regrets? Avoid These Oops, Oh Nos, & Uh Ohs

Clara and K.L.Share their Writing Regrets So that YOU Can Avoid Them! Read more.

Is Your Novel Opening as Strong as It Can Be?

You might have as few as five pages to impress readers of your novel. Here are 5 tips to make your opening a strong one! Read more.

2 Writing Teachers Talk About Giving Your Novel a Great Start

Recognize right from the start that the opening of your novel is going to take multiple revisions in order to get it right. It’s going to take work. Editing. Taking the time to think through those fundamental decisions about what makes your character and plot tick will make your book so much stronger later on. Read more.

Use Research, Imagination & Emotion to Build Your Novel

There’s something mysterious about the way the passion you feel in your mind and heart gets transferred onto the page. It doesn’t seem like a reader should be able to tell how I feel as I write, but over and over again, I’ve seen the results. When I am deeply emotional about a scene, it works. Read more.

Shrink Your Manuscript, by Darcy Pattison

Writing a great scene is easy. A novel, however, adds layer after layer of complexity until it’s hard to keep everything straight. What novelists need is a simple way to take the abstract and make it visual. Writing teacher Darcy Pattison uses the “shrunken manuscript” technique to visualize a novel’s narrative arc, the emotional journey and much more. Read more.

Who, What, Where, and Usually Why: Revising Scenes, by Sage Blackwood

When I draft and revise my novels, I divide them into scenes. A scene is a capsule of story. It’s usually one sequence of action, in one setting, in one moment of time. When time and place have changed, that’s a new scene. Here are some things I look for when revising a scene. Read more.

Blogs about developing character

Blogs about finding and refining your writing voice

Blogs about writing dialogue


“Kelly and Clara provided an excellent balance of enthusiasm for whatever stage we were at in our writing and the encouragement to improve.”

“Kelly and Clara provided both professional and emotional support for the author embarking on a strenuous journey: writing a novel. They were honest about the ups and downs of the life of a writer, they discussed both the art and the industry, and they listened with true interest to our questions and concerns.”

“Of all the workshops I have attended in the U.S., this one has been the most meaningful. Authors Kelly and Clara know what it’s like to be at the beginning stage of authorship. They have a tender and warm style of instruction that invites beginners to overcome manuscript challenges. Personally, I had a sense of belonging at Highlights because of the two instructors and the Highlights setting. Further, Clara’s review of my first manuscript with its challenges was so thoughtful and caring that it helps me focus on what I have to do to succeed without stress. Kelly’s comments, too, were positive and encouraging. Thank you so much. I appreciate the willingness of these two author instructors to share their own personal experiences and also their honesty about the publishing world. ”

“Clara and Kelly were amazing! They are both accomplished writers, wonderful teachers and lovely people. Both were willing to spend as much time with me as I needed to talk about my project. I loved being able to bounce my ideas off both of them.”

“Kelly and Clara were honest about the ups and downs of the life of a writer, they discussed both the art and the industry, and they listened with true interest to our questions and concerns. I would take another workshop with them in a second.”

Cancellation Policy

100% deposit refund for cancellation 30+ days before event.
50% deposit refund for cancellation 15-29 days before event.
0% deposit refund for cancellation 0-14 days before event.
The remaining balance (total price minus deposit) is due upon arrival.
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