Weekend With Your Novel: From Start to Finish

Register now to join us Nov 13-15, 2015!

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? Have you begun writing a novel and could use advice or motivation to get it finished? Have you completed a draft and are daunted by the revision process? Or do you have a completed novel ready to market and are looking for tips on agents and publishing? If so, this weekend retreat is for you!

Regardless of where you are in your journey as a novelist, we have sessions with writers, teachers, and editors geared toward helping you take the next step with your novel, whether it’s the first step or crossing the finish line. All in a friendly, supportive environment.

At a glance

What: Annual retreat for novelists

When: Nov 13-15, 2015

Where: Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St, Madison, WI (Sat)
Lowell Center, 610 Langdon St., Madison, WI (Fri/Sun)

Cost: Varies. See event details page for complete info.


Questions? Contact Christopher Chambers at christopher.chambers@wisc.edu or 608-262-5095

Your Novel: Start to Finish This Year!

This annual retreat for novelists is new every year, with a weekend’s worth of valuable tips, techniques, and inspiration for novelists and aspiring novelists who want to start smart, revise right, and finish strong. Our goal is to help you finish and publish your novel.

With 12 workshops and 6 optional manuscript critique sessions, this intensive and fun weekend is a thorough, hands-on boost for any novel writer. You can sign up for only 1 day or 1 workshop, or more.

Get revision tips and techniques from professionals on starting, completing, revising, and marketing your novel. Our workshop leaders are all experienced published writers, teachers, and editors with a wealth of experience.

Success stories

Still Life, the first novel in D.B. Kennison’s Randi Lassiter series, debuts
This quirky murder mystery with Evonovich-esque humor got Kennison a contract on her birthday. Darlene’s manuscript opening was workshopped in Angela Rydell’s fiction critique group during Weekend with Your Novel.

Darlene wrote to Angela Rydell, “I feel like my writer's journey is just beginning and I wanted to say thank you. Your feedback, as well as the group's, was invaluable to my completing the manuscript. I literally cried tears of joy as I drove out of Madison that night because of the guidance and encouragement that the experience gave me… There were two big take-away items from the group: Everyone laughed (so they got my humor—bonus!), and everyone said I needed to get to the dead body sooner. We handed in ten pages and my dead body showed up on eleven. LOL. When I got home, I first moved the body and then finished the novel.”

Darlene’s advice to other writers: “Be fearless! No matter what point you’re at in the writing process, stay focused, work on your craft and don’t give up.” Find her blog at Whispers in the air.

Friday Night Keynote Address

Friday evening join us for an early bird workshop and to hear Nickolas Butler, author of the acclaimed, best-selling debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, which The New York Times called “big-hearted…impressively original,” and People magazine said "Sparkles in every way. A love letter to the open lonely American heartland…A must-read.”

Saturday sessions:

  • You Have an Idea for a Novel—What Comes Next?
  • What Makes a Good Novel and How Do you Write One?
  • Bestselling Edge Tactics and Techniques
  • Publish While You Write: Strategies and Markets for Novel Excerpts
  • Creating Tension on Every Page
  • The Deep Edit
  • Stage Business: What People Aren’t Saying
  • Creating Characters: Protagonists, Anti-heroes, Antagonists, and Villains
  • Solid Structure = Agent Interest, Reviews, and Books Sales
  • The Beginning Writer’s Toolbox
  • The Dos and Don’ts of Sexual Tension in Your Novel
  • Tips for Tightening and Toning Your Prose

Saturday Luncheon and address

Enjoy a delicious lunch overlooking beautiful Lake Mendota. Special luncheon address by novelist Kathy Steffen on Surviving the Writer’s Life. The luncheon buffet includes vegetarian and vegan options.

Something for every level of writer

Track 1:

Beginning level sessions geared toward the aspiring and beginning novelists, but with lots of tips on the fundamentals that can benefit experienced writers as well.

Track 2:

Advanced sessions geared toward more experienced writers, focusing on writing techniques, revision, marketing, and publishing.

Note: These are general guidelines and you may attend any session, regardless of track.

Do you need guidance about critique groups or which workshops to attend? Call Christine DeSmet, 608-262-3447, or email her at christine.desmet@wisc.edu.

Critique groups

Have an excerpt of your novel read and critiqued in a small group with the session leader of your choice. Limited space; register by October 17 to reserve your place. This year’s critique group leaders: Christopher Chambers, Christine DeSmet, Kristin Oakley, Angela Rydell, Kathy Steffen, and Tim Storm.

Make this the year of your novel, from start to finish!

We look forward to seeing you in November!

– Christopher Chambers, director, christopher.chambers@wisc.edu, 608-262-5095

P.S. The fall weekend retreat is an ideal warm-up for those of you pitching to agents at the April 2016, 27th edition of the Writers’ Institute in Madison.

Get complete details about our program agenda, workshop content, critique sessions, and speakers, as well as fees, location, lodging, logistics, and more.