Advanced Fiction Workshop

Once a student completes the beginning & intermediate workshop courses, they have learned how to polish the technical aspects of their prose and studied the stylistic and artful qualities of prose. Technically proficient and stylistically in control, students are ready to begin submitting their work to journals and participate in the larger literary community. This course focuses on student work via a writer's workshop while additional weekly assignments will help students enter the literary community, assess literary journals, and begin submitting their fiction for publication and to contests.


By the end of the course, students will have:

   1)  written and revised 2 original short stories

   2)  practiced close reading of works-in-progress and writing editorial memos by

         writing critiques of classmate stories

   3)  practiced revision as part of their writing process

   4)  practiced the skills needed to be a good writing workshop participant

   5)  learned how to find appropriate journals to submit to

   6)  practiced formatting their manuscripts to submit

   7)  identified journals they will both subscribe and submit to

   8)  been introduced to the concept of literary citizenship

   9)  entered the literary community by attending events, joining clubs outside of the university, joining online communities, et cetera

Required Texts

   1)  Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit

        Yourself Into Print  by Renni Browne & Dave King
   2)  the most recent edition of The Best American Short Stories

   3)  a subscription to a literary journal of your choice


Report on 3 Literary Journals

For this assignment, browse literary journals listed on, or in the Writers Market. Identify 10 journals where you might want to submit your work. Or, if you write in a particular genre, identify 10 magazines that publish your genre. Of these 10, choose 3 to investigate in depth.


Step 1:  Review the Journals

Once you have identified 3 publications, review the websites of each journal to see if they post sample stories, poems, and creative nonfiction online. If so, read sample fiction from the most recent issues (published in the last 2-3 years). You needn’t read every single story. Your task is to get a feel for the journals, enough so that you can (1) compile a profile of each of them and (2) identify some current trends. Your goal is to get a general feel for the journal or magazine and a feel for the writing currently being published.


Step 2:  Profile the Journals

Write at least 1 single-spaced page for each journal. Begin by describing your method for selecting each publication. What criteria did you use? What attracted you to this journal over the many others? What stands out about it? et cetera. Then provide information such as: When was it founded? What is it’s circulation? Cost of subscription? How many issues published per year? What genres/ types of work does it publish? Is there a word limit for submissions? When do they accept submissions? Are there any fees to submit something? Are there any yearly contests you can enter? How do you submit—online, through the mail? How many pieces do they publish in each issue on average? Can you tell whether they publish previously unpublished authors?


Two Original Short Stories

Over the semester, you will write 2 original short stories, each between 12 to 16 pages in length. This must be a new story—old work written for another class is not allowed. Both stories will be workshopped by the class. Your story may be about anything you want in any genre (realism, humor, noir, magic realism, sci-fi, fantasy, et cetera).


Written Critiques 

The heart of this class is reading and responding to your classmates' work. For each story you will write a critique following these guidelines:  Each critique will consist of two parts (examples will be provided). Remember that you are criticizing a draft, not a finished product.  It is impossible to write a good story in one draft. Professional writers go through dozens of drafts. Writing is revision. More often than not, revision is where the magic happens. 


   1)  A general comment of at least 400 words that discusses the following issues:

         What is your interpretation of the story? In other words, who is the main character

         and what is his or her emotional journey? How do the secondary characters fit into

         the main character's journey? What overall emotional effect did the story have on

         you as a reader?  What do you think contributes to this overall effect? Is there

         anything that is not contributing to the story’s goal or purpose? What is distracting,

         confusing, or takes away from the overall effect?


   2)  Our instinct is to write brief notes in the margins when reading a manuscript.

         Instead, draw a star and give it number. This number will correspond to a numbered

         comment in the document you give to the writer. Your starred comments should be

         of two types:

         -  Comments about the story’s content should consist of honest, open questions for

             the writer to consider. Questions should not be advice in disguise. (Have you

             thought about killing this character? et cetera.)

        -   Grammatical errors should be identified, explained, and a suggestion provided to

             correct the error


Final Portfolio 

At the end of the semester, you will turn in a final portfolio which consists of three parts.  1) The final drafts of your 2 original short stories, revised based upon classmate & instructor critiques, and formatted as if you were submitting it to a journal for publication.  2) A cover letter.  3) A reflection essay of 3-4 pages (formatted according to MLA guidelines), that explores your composition process over the semester, from the initial invention stages through the final revision.


Discuss any weaknesses you see in the final version as well as its strengths. How and why did you make the revisions that you did? How does the current draft compare to the first draft? How did the story evolve over the semester? What techniques did you employ or try to employ? What affect did you hope to achieve with these techniques? Did you succeed? Why did you make the choices you made with respect to form, character, and plot? Reflect upon your workshop experience. And finally, how does the story speak to you, or in other words, why were you compelled to write this story at this time?

Course Calendar


Week 1

  • welcome & ice breakers
  • class introduction & syllabus review
  • lecture/discussion: what is a workshop? how is it conducted?
  • sign up for workshop dates

Mock Workshops

Week 2

  • lecture/discussion: how to write a good critique
  • practice workshops of sample stories


Week 3

  • workshop of students 1, 2
  • workshop of students 3, 4
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 4

  • workshop of students 5, 6
  • workshop of students 7, 8
  • discussion of assigned readings

Workshop + Lit Journal Presentations

Week 5

  • workshop of students 9, 10
  • workshop of students 11, 12
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 6

  • workshop of students 13, 14
  • workshop of students 15, 16
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 7

  • workshop of students 17, 18
  • workshop of students 1, 2
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 8

  • workshop of students 3, 4
  • workshop of students 5, 6
  • discussion of assigned readings

Workshop + Literary Citizenship

Week 9

  • workshop of students 7, 8
  • workshop of students 9, 10
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 10

  • workshop of students 11, 12
  • workshop of students 13, 14
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 11

  • workshop of students 15, 16
  • workshop of students 17, 18
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 12

  • voluntary workshops
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 13

  • voluntary workshops
  • discussion of assigned readings

Week 14

  • voluntary workshops
  • discussion of assigned readings


Week 15

  • end of semester self-assessment
  • instructor evaluations

Week 16

  • exam week—no class!
  • due: final portfolios