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2020 Summer Writing Retreat – “Finessing Fiction: Moving Your Work to the Next Level” with Charlotte Gullick

August 4, 2020 - August 27, 2020

Finessing Fiction: Moving Your Work to the Next Level with Charlotte Gullick
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Class Meeting Times:

“Finessing Fiction” will meet for a total of four sessions on Tuesday evenings in August: 8/4, 8/11, 8/18, 8/25

6:00pm to 9:00pm CDT on Zoom

Class Description:
Have you already toiled for hours on a first draft and are wondering where to go from here? Or maybe you have dozens of pages of ideas, fragments, scraps of dialogue—all those little gems you’d like to bring together into a compelling work of fiction. In both scenarios, you’re likely ready to take the next big step and uncover a clear sense of what is needed to take your work to an improved level. In this class, registrants will write, strategize, grow, connect, and plan. Along the way, you’ll pick up new ideas for defining your writing life as well finessing what you have into a more complete, engaging story.

Session Descriptions: 

Session #1: What’s Already Good, What Needs Improvement: In this first session, we will fire up our resolve to develop what we have into what we need. We’ll consider the importance of plot, causality, and scene. Additionally, we’ll connect with other writers, identify best practices, and pinpoint goals for the next three sessions.

Session #2 / Considering the Reader: We will explore what pulls the reader out and what demands that they stay as well as explore the importance of setting and the senses. In addition, we’ll study how simultaneous actions contribute to an engaging story that readers cannot refuse.

Session #3 / Identifying Action and Surprise: This session will focus on the key elements of action and story as they define compelling storytelling. We’ll dive into the character sins of omission and commission and investigate how they relate to secondary characters and subplots. We’ll also create an action plan that includes micro goals and accountability partners.

Session #4 / Finessing on the Line Level to Deepen the Work Overall: In this final session, we’ll study techniques for improving the work on the line level and for improving the entire project. Sometimes spending time with a single sentence can unlock the needed insight and perspective to understand the work more globally.

This class is for writers who have started a fiction project, have generated a bit of material, and are now ready for a clear plan for moving the material into greater strength and coherence. Both novelists and short fiction writers will find the material useful.

Participation: It’s recommended that participants be present for scheduled class time. Sessions will be highly interactive. There will be 1-2 small group activities per session that will not be available to those who access session recordings afterwards. The instructor will be available to answer any questions in real time only.

Homework Expectations: Registrants will be asked to read the novel We the Animals by Justin Torres (over the course of the month). Each week, there will be an assignment in response to that week’s reading, thinking about character action and development, plot, surprise. Additional short readings/podcasts will be assigned each week; they will include interviews with Toni Morrison, Angie Thomas & articles by Daniel Jose Older, Walter Mosley, Jason Reynolds, and Michael Noll.


Charlotte Gullick is Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College. She holds BA in Literature/Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz and a MA in English/Creative Writing from UC Davis as well as a MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her awards include a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship for Fiction, a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, and residencies at MacDowell and Ragdale. She is the author of the novel By Way of Water.

Before purchasing, please read all policies as noted below and on our Classes page.

If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click here for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it. If you prefer this option, please email wlt@writersleague.org with a copy of the form as well. We are working out of our office at this time.

Class & Event Registration Policy

Once a purchase has been made, registrations are not refundable and cannot be transferred to a different class or event. No exceptions will be made. If you purchase a registration and then find you cannot attend the class or event, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at wlt@writersleague.org and let us know the name and contact information for the person who will be using the registration so that we can update the class or event roster.

Credit Card Transaction Handling Fee Policy

All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. If you’d prefer to pay by check for membership, a class, or an event, you can use the provided forms on the membership or event pages and mail to: WLT, P.O. Box 14355, Austin, TX, 78704.


Our classes offer a combination of lecture and practical exercises, determined by the individual instructor, on focused aspects of the craft and business of writing. Your fellow participants will come from a range of writing experience, from beginners to people with MFA degrees and published books. WLT instructors, participants, and administrators all work together to create a welcoming, supportive environment.

If you haven’t taken a class with us in recent years, feel free to email WLT Program Director Sam Babiak at sam@writersleague.org if you’d like to discuss whether our programming is the right fit for your needs.


Once you register for the class, you’ll receive an email with detailed instructions no later than 48 hours before the class date. You should expect 2-2.5 hours of direct teaching and 30 minutes of Q&A (for three hours total). If you need to leave the class early or can’t attend the class on that date, all registrants will have access to the recording for one month after the class date. No microphone or camera required, just an Internet connection capable of streaming video. All online classes are hosted on Zoom. To learn more about how Zoom works, click HERE. 

Plan to log in to the online platform several hours before the class so that you can update your software or any other settings required to access the platform. (Updates usually only take a few minutes, but you don’t want to wait until the beginning of class.) Questions? Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Cultural Arts City of Austin

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.

Texas Commission on the Arts

Writers’ League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts – Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to www.arts.texas.gov.

National Endowment for the Arts

This project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

Mid-America Arts Alliance

This project is supported in part by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. For more information, go to www.maaa.org.


August 4, 2020
August 27, 2020
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Online Class