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UBCx: How to Write a Novel: Edit & Revise

Discover story analysis strategies and rewriting tools, develop a concrete plan for creating a more accomplished draft and explore what it takes to attract agents, editors and readers.

6 weeks
4–8 hours per week
Instructor-led on a course schedule
Cost to Enroll
$295 USD

Choose your session:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Jan 2, 2024
Ends Feb 18, 2024
Starts Jan 7, 2025
Ends Feb 22, 2025

About this course

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Experienced writers understand that novels improve incrementally with each draft. This course teaches the skills of revision and the attention to detail it takes to make a good story great.

Do you have a complete rough draft of a novel? Do you know it needs more work, but are unsure what to do next? Bestselling authors and professors from The University of British Columbia's renowned School of Creative Writing will guide you through a rigorous self-editing and revision process, a stage of manuscript development all successful writers undertake.

The trend in global publishing is toward outsourcing the editorial process. More and more, publishers are looking for that elusive "finished" draft, placing the burden on writers to take their work to that next level. Learn the necessary skills to polish your novel and better position you in today's highly competitive and fast-moving publishing marketplace.

In this course we'll explore the editorial process from macro to micro. From a far-reaching analysis of the three journeys every novel must take (internal, external, aesthetic) to a tight focus on the rigorous choices associated with prose style, learners will hone critical skills and develop a rewriting plan tailored to the needs of their individual projects.

Through self-evaluation and discussion with fellow writers, learners will build an autonomous writing practice and discover a community of peers familiar with the challenges and aspirations of novel writing.

This course is recommended for professional and aspiring writerswho have completed or almost completed a rough draft of a novel, especially those who have taken How to Write a Novel: Structure & Outline and How to Write a Novel: Writing the Draft.

At a glance

  • Institution: UBCx
  • Subject: Humanities
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Prerequisites:

    Students should have a completed rough draft of a novel or novella.

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Creative Writing, Editing, Detail Oriented, Writing

What you'll learn

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  • Tackling the revision process from macro to micro
  • Troubleshooting common problems
  • How to create a revision plan
  • How to choose your trusted readers
  • How to work with feedback
  • The key steps in the editorial process
  • How to prepare for submissions to agents and editors
  • What agents and editors look for in submitted work

Every Week

Learners will read writing examples, watch instructor videos and view interviews with authors, editors and agents. Each week there is at least one assignment, regular group discussion topics and instructor feedback in the form of a lively question & answer podcast.

Week 1: Preparing to Rewrite

We'll discuss rewriting looks like and what types of rewriting you'll go through in the process of taking your novel from first draft to something complete enough to send to agents and editors including:

  • The substantive edit
  • The line edit
  • The copy edit

Week 2: Rewriting Tools: Structure

The backbone of your novel, structure is essential to making sure that your story is coherent, compelling and satisfying. Rewriting is a chance to look at your structural choices in a careful and considered way.

This week's topics include:

  • The Three Journeys of your Novel.
  • Common Problems and how to Solve Them.

Week 3: Managing the Rewriting Process

We'll review the actual process of rewriting, hearing from published authors who'll discuss their own rewriting process.

This week's topics include:

  • Rewriting for character and voice.
  • Dialogue and narrative voice.
  • Methods of rewriting.
  • Dealing with a daunting rewrite.

Week 4: Rewriting Tools: Prose Style

This week we move from the large scale to the small, and examine how writers revise at the paragraph and sentence level.

This week's topics include:

  • Revising for cliche.
  • Exploring prose style options.
  • Revising for prose style.
  • Rewriting for theme.

Week 5: Working with Feedback

At some point, all writers benefit from thoughtful feedback on their writing.

This week's topics include:

  • When to get feedback
  • How to choose trusted readers.
  • Assessing and incorporating feedback.
  • Mentorship.
  • The value of writing groups.
  • Writing programs: to MFA or not to MFA.
  • Writing conferences.

Week 6: Preparing to Submit

This week, we'll look at the materials you'll need to assemble to best present yourself and your work in the marketplace. Along the way, we'll hear writers talk about how they got started in publishing, as well as some popular misconceptions about the publishing industry.

This week's topics include:

  • Researching the market.
  • Understanding when your work is ready to send out.
  • Crafting a query letter.
  • Creating a synopsis.
  • The value of literary agents.
  • What agents look for in a manuscript.
  • The writer/editor relationship.
  • Rejection and success.
  • Indie publishing.

Learner testimonials

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"Before doing the course I had a manuscript that I had worked on for years, it had no structure and I had paid to have it edited, yet it was going nowhere. It was a disaster and an expensive one at that! After the three courses I found myself with a decent manuscript that was well edited and elicited a publishing offer." - Jane Ryan, Author of Forty-Seven Seconds

Frequently Asked Questions

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Do I need to complete your previous courses to take this course?
No. As long as you have completed the first draft of a novel and are ready to rewrite, this course will be valuable to you. Of course, we strongly recommend our other courses, as they will help you get the most out of this one by leading you through the process of outlining and finishing your draft, but they are not required.

Is this course related to an existing UBC university class?
This is an entirely new course, created by instructors with years of experience teaching the art of fiction writing to undergraduate and graduate university students as well as members of the community.

What are the other courses in the series?
How to Write a Novel:Structure and Outline explores the core elements of fiction writing necessary to build an outline: a blueprint for a successful draft of your novel. How to Write a Novel: Writing the Draft takes you from your outline through the process of getting your first draft completed.

I have more questions about the course content!
Contact us with your questions, and we'll be happy to answer!

More about this course

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Sample Course Material

What is it like to take the course? This is not a writing workshop. Instead, it’s a focused, week-by-week exploration of rewriting and editing tools and strategies. Each week we’ll present video lessons from UBC Creative Writing Professors Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon, supplemented by interviews with published authors, agents and editors. You’ll take part in assignments that will develop the specific skills that you’ll use to rewrite and improve your own novel in progress. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss your work with the other learners in the class.

Our instructors will be available each week to answer learner questions through a lively Q&A podcast, created only for students in the course. They won’t be providing feedback on your writing directly – this is a course aimed at giving you the tools and techniques to take you through the writing process long after the course ends.


Sample video lesson: Week 1, “Rewriting is Writing”

Nancy and Annabel talk about how the process of rewriting is an integral part of the writing process. “If you’d like to see a published writer roar with laughter, ask to see the first draft of their novel.”


Sample interview:Laura Bradford “Common Agent Querying Mistakes”

In the course we interview editors and agents, and collect industry insider information and tips for writers. In this excerpt from a longer interview, agent Laura Bradford talks about one common mistake she sees all too often.


Sample video: Week 3, “Writers Share Their Rewriting Process”

In this sample from the third week of the course, a week where we explore methods of rewriting, author Lauren Groff talks about how her process has changed from novel to novel, going from index cards to sheets of butcher paper.

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