Novel in a Year: First Draft ONLINE

with Michael Zapata

This is the year to write your novel… online

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. But now, you can participate from anywhere as long as you have access to the internet. 


It’s a chance to devote an entire year to your novel, giving it the attention and effort your work deserves. Acclaimed author Michael Zapata (The Lost Book of Adana Moreau) will lead workshops, offer in-depth craft lectures, help you through the drafting process, and provide personalized guidance and feedback on your manuscript.

Benefit from special Master Classes from visiting authors, or participate virtually via our PJ Seminars. You’ll also have additional access to visiting agents and editors.


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.

Unlike our other Novel in a Year programs, this cohort will be entirely hosted online, so anyone can participate from anywhere.


Specific topics covered during the class sessions include:

  • Structure & Plotting
  • Outlining
  • Voice, Tense & POV
  • Scene Building & Time
  • 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 on Zoom monthly for three-hour sessions to discuss craft, solve drafting challenges, workshop scenes, and share some virtual 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.

Added content to the virtual cohort will be 2-3 visiting guests throughout the year, including publishing professionals, agents, and other authors.

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 Michael 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, OR three (3) complimentary admission and early registration to our virtual PJ Seminars. (Recent and upcoming writers include Alexander Chee, Pam Houston, Vu Tran, Garth Greenwell, Laura van den Berg, Kaveh Akbar, and Nick Flynn, among others.)

The class also includes optional evening social gatherings via Zoom, to be scheduled between Michael and the cohort as desired. As a writer in our Novel in a Year program, you’re considered a “VIP” at the studio with early-bird access to programs and events.

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 Michael Zapata
Access to visiting authors, agents, and editors
Various online social gatherings with your cohort
2 comped passes to our Master Class series
OR 3 comped passes to our PJ Seminars
A private online chat forum
VIP status at the Studio
A literary community to take well beyond this program

2021-22 Schedule Meets Online on the Following Dates:
6:30pm – 9:00pm Central August 18, 2021 (NOTE: this is a Wednesday date, but all others are Thursdays)
September 16, 2021
October 21, 2021
November 18, 2021
December 16, 2021
January 20, 2022
February 17, 2022
March 17, 2022
April 21, 2022
May 19, 2022
June 16, 2022



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

If you would like to apply to both Rebecca Makkai’s in-person cohort, as well as Michael Zapata’s online cohort, you can indicate as much on the application form. Rebecca and Michael will coordinate in screening these dual-applications.

  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.

The next 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.