Novel in a Year: First Draft

with Rebecca Makkai

This is the year to write your novel

Novel in a Year: First Draft is a unique opportunity to join a writing cohort, study novel craftworkshop key scenes, measure your progress, meet deadlines, and give and get support for the long slog from plotting to composition and beyond.


It’s a chance to devote an entire year to your novel, giving it the attention and effort your work deserves. Acclaimed author Rebecca Makkai (The Great BelieversMusic For Wartime) will help you through the drafting process and provide personalized guidance and feedback on your manuscript.

Benefit from special Master Classes from visiting authors, and enjoy a writing retreat with other novelists.



Students at any stage of novel drafting are encouraged to apply. You may have completed a 500-page draft; others may have nothing more than an idea and a first sentence.

Work of any genre is welcome, though we offer specialized programs for Speculative Fiction and Young Adult/Middle Grade.

This application-based class is selective, and you will find your classmates to be dedicated and serious about their work.

Rebecca Banner


Specific topics covered during the class sessions include:

  • Plotting & Pacing
  • Outlining
  • Voice, Tense & POV
  • Scene Building
  • Character Building
  • The Vast Middle
  • Major Edits & Line Edits
  • Endings
  • Representing Your Novel
  • The Publication Process

PLEASE NOTE: This program is for novelists who are ready to make a strong commitment to their work, and our waitlist for the course is typically very long. Students will be expected to participate in the full program.


Students will meet monthly for three-hour sessions to discuss craft, solve drafting challenges, workshop scenes, and share some snacks and beverages. In between class sessions you’ll have plenty of time to write and generate new work while still staying in touch via StoryStudio’s private online class forum.

We’ve structured this program to provide maximum benefit without demanding too much time away from focusing on your own work. In addition to workshopping short scenes in class, participants will meet individually with Rebecca for 100-page manuscript reviews.

Students enrolled in this course will receive complimentary admission and early registration to two (2) classes from our acclaimed Master Class series throughout the year. (Recent and upcoming writers include Alexander Chee, Pam Houston, R.O. Kwon, Sara Paretsky, Paul Lisicky, and Garth Greenwell, among others.)

The class also includes a one-day offsite spring writers retreat, where you can spend the day writing and thinking, with breaks to mingle at lunch and over drinks with students in our other novel workshops. Additionally, throughout the year we will organize two optional evening social gatherings. As a writer in our Novel in a Year program, you’re considered a “VIP” at the studio.

Throughout the course, you’ll have access to a private online forum for exchanging additional work and sharing articles and links of interest. And most importantly, these courses provide accountability check-ins to report your progress and struggles, and keep you writing.


Whether you’ve already made headway on your novel or are just gathering ideas, your cohort will provide the structure, companionship, feedback, good humor, and emotional support to help you see your project through.

You’ll also join StoryStudio’s larger community—in person and on social media—where you can connect with students from other classes, receive “first chance” invitations to special programming, and stay informed about literary events around the city.

The Novel In a Year program has been going for eight years strong, and you will have the opportunity to benefit socially and professionally from a strong network of alumni, many of whom are experiencing publishing success.

The program fee is $2,350.

This tuition includes:

11 sessions, meeting once per month for 11 months
A manuscript review with Rebecca Makkai
A half-day retreat at Ragdale with your cohort
2 comped passes to our Master Class series
OR 3 passes to our PJ Seminar series
A private online chat forum
VIP status at the Studio
A literary community to take well beyond this program

2020-21 Schedule Meets in the Studio on the Following Dates:
6:30pm – 9:00pm Central Time 
August 23, 2021
September 27, 2021
October 25, 2021
November 15, 2021
December 13, 2021
January 24, 2022
February 28, 2022
March 14, 2022
April 25, 2022
May 16, 2022
June 6, 2022



This course is limited to 12 students and is submission based.

  1. You will be asked to submit a 10-page writing sample in a .doc or PDF. The sample can be a short story or novel excerpt.
  2. Someone who submits on the first day has the same chance as someone who submits on the last day, so don’t worry, and don’t rush.
  3. Payment isn’t due until after the application period is closed and acceptances have been sent out. We are happy to discuss payment plans with students who are accepted.
  4. NOTE: You can use this application form to apply for either Rebecca Makkai’s in-person cohort, or Michael Zapata’s fully-online cohort, or asked to be considered for both cohorts.

The 2022-23 cohort will begin in August 2022, and applications will open in the summer of 2022. Please subscribe to our newsletter to get the most up-to-date information.