Skip To Content
The Popular Novel (in any genre) with Kelly Dwyer. Section II. Nov 9–Dec 14, 2022 is a Course

The Popular Novel (in any genre) with Kelly Dwyer. Section II. Nov 9–Dec 14, 2022

Time limit: 100 days

Sorry! The enrollment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description



The Popular Novel (in any genre) Section II (Six-Week Workshop)

Kelly Dwyer, Instructor



Wednesdays on Zoom, November 9–December 14, 2022

  • 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Iowa/Central Time
  • 11:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • 8:00–11:00 a.m. Pacific Time
  • 9:00 a.m.–12:00 noon Mountain Time


Fee: $750

Course Description

No matter what type of novel you’re interested in—literary, science fiction, paranormal, young adult, rom-com, mystery, etc.—you’d probably think it ideal if it had many readers. If it attracted buzz. If it were, in other words, popular. In this six-week online workshop, we’ll discuss the elements that make popular novels (across genres) so popular (according to bestseller lists and computer algorithms), and we’ll look at participants’ submissions with these elements in mind, to increase the odds that your own novels will become widely read. Our goal in this workshop is to help you plan or strengthen your ideas for novels so that they become works you’re not only proud of—but also works that just might enable you to buy that nice little château you have your eye on….

This class is best-suited for writers with some experience. (We define “experience” broadly. If you’ve taken workshops in fiction or narrative nonfiction, or you’ve established a writing practice on your own, or you’re familiar with the elements of narrative craft via some other means, you’re experienced!)

The class welcomes those with a novel already underway and those interested in generating new work.

How the course will work:

During our first session, we’ll discuss where you are in your novel (anywhere is fine, by the way, from “I don’t have the faintest idea about what I want to write about,” to “I’m on my two-hundred-eighty-second draft—but who’s counting?”), and we’ll also discuss the elements of the novel we’ll be focusing on in the coming weeks.

During the next weeks, we’ll hold lectures, discussions, and workshops based on some of the most important elements that make a popular novel in any genre—theme, plot, style, and character. Word counts for submissions each week will vary based on the assignments. I’ll provide written comments on every submission and will also hold a private 30-minute conference with each writer to discuss everyone’s novels individually over Zoom.

Course Objectives:

·      To learn, study, and discuss four of the most important elements that make a popular novel (according to bestseller lists of the last fifty years and computer algorithms): theme, plot, style, and character.

·      To apply these elements to our own novels, while still staying true to our visions.

·      To provide and receive valuable feedback, from fellow writers and the instructor, which we can use to help us improve our novels and to help us brainstorm as needed.

This will be a fun and rewarding class in which you are sure to receive valuable feedback on your writing and feel like you are a valued part of a writing community. Château is not guaranteed.


Kelly Dwyer taught in the University of Wisconsin system for fifteen years and has taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for over twenty years. She loves the on-campus experience of the Festival and is also truly enjoying the worldwide writing community that teaching and learning over Zoom affords. Whether in-person or online, Kelly is passionate about helping other writers achieve success. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Oberlin College, Kelly grew up in San Pedro, California, and now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her family, where she has recently finished her third novel, a psychological ghost story. Kelly also writes flash fiction and plays, which have been performed in Boston, New York, and Glasgow. Feel free to visit


Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $750. Payment in full is required to register.

Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Class size is limited to 10. 

Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center.”


Refund & Cancellation Policy

If you need to cancel your enrollment in a Festival class, please let us know as soon as possible. We can only offer full refunds if you cancel five days prior to the start of class. After that, before the start date of class, we can offer a 50% refund. We cannot refund day-of cancellations, and we cannot refund or partially refund tuition once the class has begun.


Terms & Community Policy

1.    The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is a program for adults. You must be at least 18 years old to enroll in Festival workshops.


2.    The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is a community built on an assumption of shared enterprise, in the spirit of mutual respect. We reserve the right to a) revoke the registration of or b) dismiss from the program any person who disrupts the learning/working environment of others. Participants in the Festival are subject to all University of Iowa policies governing conduct in our community, whether online or in person.





Contact the Iowa Summer Writing Festival: Phone: (319) 335-4160.

Our tiny staff is working remotely. If you phone and we miss you, please leave a message!