Facilitator Guide:

These are some tips and suggestions from the creator who has facilitated these courses before. Note that this page may be updated at times. 

In-Class Timeline

Plan for each in-class session to take about 2 hours, but note that going overtime is easy when students are having fun and getting a lot out of the class.

Recommended times for each class section are as follows: 

Class Discussion – 30 minutes

Getting in the Mood Writing – 15 minutes

Getting in the Mood Feedback – 30 minutes

Group Assignments – 45 minutes (some weeks have multiple group assignments, so split them evenly, if possible in your remaining time.)

Each week will cover a different topic related to writing fiction. On the page for that week, you will find the reading and writing assignments that students should be doing at home. Following those are the in-class sections that include class discussions, a writing exercise, and some group assignments.

Trying to get the word out about your class?

Try contacting your local Municipal Liaisons for National Novel Writing Month. This is a month-long event that happens every November. MLs are in charge of hosting local events, and they have the power to email all the participants in their region of the world.  

Once you have folks registered, you may want to send out a welcome email about a week before class starts just to give students a heads up as to what they’ll need and be required to do, as well as a link to your online workspace or video chat, if you’re using one.

Online tools that can work with this course include:

Other tools exist, but these are what I’ve used.

Slack is a great online forum tool that’s free to use for you and your students to communicate outside of the classroom, and share their documents. Individual accounts are required for everyone in the class.

Etherpad is a good alternative to Slack. It’s free and no accounts are necessary. It is one ongoing page people can write on. And it’s easy to create multiple pages and link them all on the homepage so breakout groups can have their own page to share their work. 

Jitsi Meet is a good video chat platform that’s free. The link to your meeting space is evergreen so you can reuse it as many times as you’d like. I’ve had great success with smaller groups of ten or less. Larger groups of 20 it’s not so great at handling. You can create as many Jitsi spaces as you’d like, so creating breakout rooms is easy enough. Link to all of them on an Etherpad page for easy sharing!

Zoom is a video chat platform that works really well, but the free version only lets you use it for less than one hour, so in that regard it’s very limiting. Otherwise, it has breakout space capabilities and handles large groups very well.

Be flexible for your students’ needs.

For my first class I hadn’t planned on using Slack or anything like it, but the students really wanted it, and got a lot out of it. The second class used it a lot less. And we didn’t use it at all in another class and we didn’t miss it.

When we hosted virtual classes, participants enjoyed reading along while someone shared their work out loud. Being able to post work where everyone in a break out group can read it can be important.

Students should read as many of the articles each week as they can. The more they read and the more writing exercises they do, the more they’ll get out of it, of course, but they don’t have to do everything if time is short. The same goes for the group exercises at the end of class.

Also note, some of the articles may not be relevant to every student. For example, if they’re not planning on writing about a female villain, then they wouldn’t need to read the article about how to create one.

Please Note

Links to articles may be updated or changed any any time without notice.

If you find any broken links, please email the content curator: jdraves@bpl.org


1.) Learn To Write Fiction: Creating My Own Online Course – By A. Jordan Draves – Posted to the Peer2Peer University’s Blog
2.) What Does a Learning Circle Look Like – by Grif @ P2PU – This is a short video showing the 2019 Learn To Write Fiction Beginner Course at the Boston Public Library. 
3.) Online learning, offline: Fiction writing learning circles at Boston Public Library – by Grif Peterson & Jordan Draves

Student & Facilitator Endorsements:

“I hate creative writing like most people hate public speaking. But my community wanted to practice creative writing and so I decided to really test the theory that you don’t need to be an expert to run a learning circle. I found Jordan’s fiction writing course. I literally just did what Jordan told me to do and it worked like magic. I ended up participating and I loved my learning circle so much. The learning circle process and the way it works…I’m sold…100%. What happens for the people in the class, the type of learning that takes place, I think it’s really fantastic for adults to come together to find this type of support around a topic of common interest.” – Gwendolyn, Facilitator, Spokane, WA (LTWF: Beginner Course, 2019)

“This format was perfect for me: lots of independent, thought-provoking assignments to help us flesh out our characters and their universe, and just enough in-person collaboration with the other participants. The ice-breakers at the beginning helped us to bond as a group. I’d recommend this format to adult learners who can give and take constructive feedback.” – Deb, Student, Boston, MA (LTWF: Beginner Course, 2017)

“I liked the class discussions we had in-person, and how we were able to continue that online during the days we couldn’t meet. I liked how the articles are easy to read, as well as the assignments. I also liked sharing the assignments with classmates.” – Jessica, Student, Boston, MA (LTWF: Beginner Course, 2017)

 “This class was a great opportunity to reflect and practice my writing. The readings gave me the opportunity to think about aspects of the craft, and the writing exercises and class discussion allowed me to both practice and gain valuable feedback. This format is very useful for learners who are comfortable giving and receiving constructive feedback.  I am working on applying what I learned to my current projects!” – Megan, Student, Boston, MA (LTWF: Beginner Course, 2017) 

NOTE: Do you have an endorsement you’d like to share here? Email Jordan at jdraves@bpl.org. 

Content Curator:

anna250-150x150 Jordan Draves is a Reader Services Librarian in Boston who has been writing for most of their life and acting as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month since 2006.