Crafting the Novel

I - June 28–July 16, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m. –1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m., with optional elective 2:00–3:00 p.m.

Rachel Carter, Hilary Leichter, Anya Yurchyshyn

Interested applicants are required to submit one or more creative writing samples (three pages minimum). The program may request additional writing samples as needed to determine the appropriate student level.

Students should come in with an idea for a novel, or a novel currently in progress that they are looking to receive feedback on. Prior workshop experience is preferred but not required. This course is intended primarily for current 10th, 11th, and 12th graders. Younger students are encouraged to apply to Introduction to Creative Writing or to consult with an admissions counselor.

“It pushed me to really examine and improve my writing.” — From a program course evaluation 

Course Description

Whether you are interested in writing literary fiction, young adult, fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery, certain truths about crafting a novel hold true across genres. This course is designed to teach students the ins-and-outs of novel writing, from conception to outlining to the writing itself. We focus on how to structure a novel as well as establishing conflict, world-building, character work, pacing, and how to create an effective scene.

Course participants share their writing in a workshop setting and receive in-depth feedback from both their peers and the instructor. By the end of the three weeks, they will have completed an original outline and the first three chapters of their novel. They leave with a greater understanding of what it means to craft a long-form work of fiction—and having become stronger and more confident in their overall writing skills.

Interested applicants are required to submit one or more creative writing samples (three pages minimum). The program may request additional writing samples as needed to determine the appropriate student level.


Students may choose an optional elective as a supplement to the three required daily class meetings. Please note that participation in an elective will prevent students from partaking in most other midday activities. Electives that have been offered in past summers include:

Comedy Writing: Students spend class time reading, writing, and performing comedy.

Genre Fiction: Students spend class time reading and writing different types of genre fiction, including science fiction, horror, crime, fantasy, and mystery.

Journalism: Students produce a news blog, including but not limited to campus and neighborhood news, book/music/art/restaurant reviews, interviews/profiles, and op-eds.

Publishing House: Students work as editors to create their own literary magazine, which is published at the end of the program.

Write What You Don’t Know: Students read authors who have perfected the art of writing in persona; exercises are designed to help students practice writing from points of view that are distinctly not their own.

Exquisite Corpse: Students wishing to focus more on poetry read a wide and stimulating selection of poems, and work toward finishing a chapbook at the end of the program.

Independent Project: Students complete an additional writing project and take part in extra conferences.

Courses in creative writing are offered in conjunction with the Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Overseen by Chair of Creative Writing Lis Harris, Professor Alan Ziegler, and Director of Creative Writing for Pre-College Programs Christina Rumpf, the creative writing courses are designed to challenge and engage students interested in literary creation, providing them with a substantial foundation for further exploration of their creative work.


Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter is the author of the So Close to You series with HarperTeen. She attended the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction creative writing. She has taught at Columbia University, Champlain College, and Southern New Hampshire University, and her nonfiction has appeared in The New Republic, The Faster Times, and Booktrib. She currently lives in Brooklyn and is a Visiting Professor of creative writing at Montclair State University. 

Hilary Leichter

Hilary Leichter's writing has appeared in Conjunctions, n+1, The New Yorker, Bookforum, American Short Fiction, The Southern Review, and New York Magazine's The Cut. She has been awarded fellowships from the Folger Shakespeare Library and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her debut novel, Temporary, is forthcoming from Coffee House Press/Emily Books in March 2020. 

Anya Yurchyshyn

Anya Yurchyshyn is the author of the memoir My Dead Parents and of numerous works of short fiction. Her writing has appeared in Esquire, Granta, Oprah Magazine, N+1, BuzzFeed, Lenny, Bustle, Refinery29, Mod Art, Guernica, and elimae; she is a frequent contributor to NOON. Her story “The Director” was included in Best Small Fictions of 2015. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has received fellowships from Columbia and from the MacDowell Colony.

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.