Writing Your Novel

Course title on blue background with Johns Hopkins shield

Brought to you by Odyssey
October 4, 2021 - December 6, 2021
Mondays, 6:30 PM - 8:15 PM ET (21 course hours)

Write that novel you've been dreaming about, with support and guidance. This registration is for the first part of a two-semester course. The course is designed for students to have the option to take either semester or both. Students will receive feedback from each other and the instructor on outlines and excerpts of their work in progress. The course will also address next steps for revising and publishing novels. Students may follow course goals to finish half of a novel in each semester or find their own pace. National Novel Writing Month participants and memoirists are welcome to join. 


Session 1 10/04/21 


To NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWrimo? 

What makes a good novel/memoir concept?  

Discussion of genre and age category 

Overview of plotting resources, plotting vs. planning 

Objectives: Students will begin to plan which novel/memoir idea they will work on this semester and explore the processes they may use to write the novel. Students will identify which genre/age category fits their idea. Students will explore different mechanisms of planning and drafting a novel.  

Session 2 10/11/21 

Writing goals: One short concept & decision on what plotting resource you will be using 

Discussion of what makes a good critique 

Each student’s concept will be critiqued in class 

Discussion of plotting resources 

Objectives: Students will give and receive feedback on their novel concepts and assess what may need to be changed before outlining. Students will expand their writing toolboxes by learning about each other’s plotting processes. Students will become more skilled at giving and receiving critiques.  

Session 3 10/18/21 

Due: 2-10 page outline of your novel, if you’re interested in outlining 

Workshop for 4 students’ outlines 

Discussion of drafting and revision processes 

Objectives: Students will learn about what makes a good outline and get ideas for what they may need to revise about their outlines. Students will learn about practical ways to write book-length stories.  

Session 4 10/25/21 

Writing goal: 5,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

What makes a good beginning?  

Objectives: Students will learn strategies for writing a compelling novel beginning. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 5 11/1/21 

Writing goal: 10,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

What makes a good scene/chapter? 

Objective: Students will explore strategies for writing propulsive scenes and chapters. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 6 11/8/21 

Writing Goal: 15,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

Character arc and agency 

Objective: Students will analyze what makes an active character who grows and changes and strategize about how to make their own protagonists compelling. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 7 11/15/21 

Writing Goal: 20,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

Fulfilling the promise of the premise  

Objectives: Students will analyze how to keep the implicit promise they made to readers with the concept of their book in its execution. Students will brainstorm ideas for how to do this specifically in their books. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 8 11/22/21 

Writing Goal: 25,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

Writing the murky middle 

Objectives: Students will analyze typical plot structure for the middle of the novels and plan for the middle of their own novels. Students will also discuss the emotional and psychological challenges that come with writing the middle of a novel. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 9 11/29/21 

Writing Goal: 30,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

Discussion of revision/querying/submission/self-publishing 

Objectives: Students will discuss what’s next after they are finished drafting their novels and explore strategies for revising and pursuing publication. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work. 

Session 10 12/6/21 

Writing Goal: 35,000 words 

Excerpt workshop for 4 students 

Goal setting for break/future  

Objectives: Students will reflect on their work this semester and set goals for the future of this particular novel and their careers as writers. Students will give and receive feedback on each other’s work.

Instructions for Submitting Work for Workshop

For each workshop, students will submit a 250-500 word excerpt from their novel which will be read aloud and critiqued during class.

Students who would like to give and receive more feedback may form optional small critique groups outside of class. Students will decide whether to sign up for small critique groups by the second class.

Instructions for Submitting Work to Tracy

Tracy will read and give feedback on up to 5,000 words of your work at the time of your choosing or shortly after the start of the semester. Tracy suggests submitting the beginning of the book, as other sections will lack context. If students would like suggestions on a specific type of scene (action, romance, dialogue-heavy), they may choose to ask for that instead. 


Follow William Shunn’s formatting guide here, except use Times New Roman

Supplemental Materials

If you can’t get copies of either of the below books, do not worry. Tracy recommends choosing a resource to help guide your plotting/drafting process, but there are more than just the two texts, including free online resources, which will be discussed in class.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You'll Ever Need  by Jessica Brody, ISBN-10: 0399579745 ISBN-13: 978-0399579745, recommended 

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, ISBN-13: 978-1582979984 ISBN-10: 1582979987

About the Instructor

Tracy Gold Headshot





Tracy C. Gold (MFA), is a freelance editor and teacher. She taught writing for many years at the University of Baltimore. While working for literary agent Carrie Pestritto, Tracy read thousands of queries and dozens of prospective client manuscripts. She also worked with Carrie’s clients on manuscripts and marketing plans. Tracy has two picture books forthcoming in 2021, Everyone's Sleepy but the Baby from Familius, and Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat from Sourcebooks eXplore.

Tuition Remission and Refund Policies

Full-time JHU faculty/staff, their spouses or same-sex domestic partners, JHU retirees and their spouses or same-sex domestic partners are eligible for tuition remission. The tuition remission form is required. All tuition remission forms and details on eligibility can be found here and should be returned to odyssey@jhu.edu

After registration, tuition remission eligibility will be confirmed by the Odyssey registrar. If eligibility cannot be confirmed, you will be required to pay full tuition for the course. Under the terms of the University’s remission program, Hopkins employees must withdraw in writing at least five working days before the first class to receive a 100% refund. No partial refunds are given to JHU employees and affiliates.  

Please visit the registration and policies page for more information. 

While participating in on-campus events and meetings, participants must follow all public health guidelines required by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine at the time of the event. If you are not fully vaccinated, we require that you wear a face covering during your visit to campus, even when it is no longer required for those who are vaccinated.  

While participating in off-campus events and meetings sponsored by the JHAA/JHM/JHHS participants must follow all public health guidelines mandated by the local jurisdiction and venue at the time of the event, including vaccination and masking and distancing guidance. Johns Hopkins strongly suggests that attendees who join in person be fully vaccinated. 

 Event Date
Monday, October 4, 2021
Start Time: 6:30pm EDT


Virtual via Zoom
Baltimore , MD 21218


Status message

Thank you for your interest in Odyssey. This course has reached capacity. To be placed on a waiting list, please email odyssey@jhu.edu.

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