Craft of Fiction

Teacher:Lise Brody

Two things I know:

You get good at writing by writing a lot. There is no other way.
You get good at writing by reading a lot. There is no other way.

Unit 1: Thinking About Stories / Getting stuff out

For the first few weeks, we will focus on short writing exercises and what Anne Lamott calls Shitty First Drafts. The goal will be to get words on the page – to generate ideas, begin to grow characters and situations, build up a store of material to use later, when it's time to develop and shape complete stories. During this unit, we will also read lots and lots of stories together, practicing reading as writers.

Unit 2: Developing and Shaping

In this unit, we will water the seeds we planted in Unit I. We will focus on shaping a story arc, but also on zooming into the moment, fleshing out characters, and bringing scenes to life.

Unit 3: Deep Revision

Revision is not just fixing the punctuation and spelling. Sometimes, you have to get far along on a piece of writing before you suddenly realize what it's really about. Sometimes, you have to go back and change … well... everything. In this unit, we will dedicate 3 – 4 weeks to the hard work of overhauling a single story. We will look closely at focus, pacing, and character development.

Unit 4: Final Revision & Polishing

By this time in the semester, you will have one developed story that you've been watering and weeding. This will be your chance to make it into its own best self. It might need another overhaul to the engine, or it might need a few touch-ups to the paint. This is your semester project. When it's proofread and polished, it will become part of a class anthology, which we will publish.

About Language and Conventions

I know what you're wondering. When are we going to do grammar, spelling, punctuation? Fear not. There will be mini-lessons throughout the semester, and lots of opportunities to cover those pesky questions you have about commas. Why? Because punctuation gives you power.

Risk Taking and Respect

This class includes discussion, personal exploration, and creative work. In order for it to be (1) fun and (2) meaningful, everybody needs to feel safe and respected. It is important that we give both others and ourselves permission to take risks and speak our thoughts, and that we listen to one another with attention and generosity of spirit.


Revision is not something you do after waiting to see whether your grade was was high enough. It's something you do throughout the writing process. Since you will be working on one project for a good deal of the semester, you will be receiving plenty of feedback and revising all along the way. There will be little or no opportunity to revise for a changed grade.

Course Expectations


I do not believe that it is either useful or possible to place a letter value on a piece of literature. Every “rule” that we will examine this semester has been broken in wonderful ways by wonderful writers. I refuse to evaluate the worthiness of your stories.

Grades, therefore, are not a reflection of your promise as a writer, your originality, or how much I like your story. Nor are they a reflection of your “effort.” Your grades will reflect your demonstrated mastery of the tools of writing – specific skills that we will learn and practice. Grading strands are: Content (25%); Structure (25%); Language & Conventions (25%); and Work Habits (25%).


Please see attached overview of the honors work.

Extra Help

Please come! My extra help is on Monday afternoons or by appointment.

Computer Use in Class

Computers should be closed in class except when we are writing. Please bring a notebook for taking notes.

Cell Phones Too

Turn them off and put them AWAY.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s words or ideas as your own. That means:

  • copying/ pasting something from the internet or another source without quote marks and citation

  • paraphrasing something from any source without citation

  • using someone else's ideas without giving them credit

When in doubt, CITE! If it’s in the gray area, it IS plagiarism. I take this very seriously.

For more information on the Academic Honesty policy, please refer to the student handbook.

I will take cases of plagiarism to Dr. Arnold with the first offense.


All homework will be posted in the course web-page. You are responsible for work assigned while you are absent. I will make accommodations for serious illnesses and real emergencies.

Late Work Policy

I grant no-strings, no-questions-asked extensions, provided you request them before the end of the school day at least two school days before the assignment is due. If you do not have an extension, I will accept late work up to two weeks after the due date, but the work-habits grade will drop one letter grade per school day (whether or not we have class that day). If you hand it in more than two weeks late, I will accept it, but it will receive a maximum grade of F. If you are failing the course due to missing work, please do not ask me to design special extra credit assignments for you.

Course Documents

Lise Brody,
Aug 28, 2015, 6:17 AM