The MA in Writing offers students two concentrations to choose from: Fiction or Nonfiction.

Fiction Concentration

Fiction students complete the following nine courses:

  • Two core courses
  • Three fiction workshops from the list below, general or specialized
  • Three electives, including at least one Fiction-specific elective
  • Thesis and Publication—taken only after completion of all core courses, workshops, and electives

Nonfiction Concentration

To earn the M.A. in Writing, Nonfiction students complete the following nine courses:

  • Two or three required core courses
  • Three workshops from the list below, regular or specialized
  • Two or three electives (depending on a number of cores taken)
  • Thesis and Publication—taken only after completion of all core courses, workshops, and electives

Fiction Core Courses

This foundation course surveys issues and trends in recent fiction and nonfiction, with emphasis on the diverse work and methods of American writers publishing today. Students read and discuss contemporary writing and hear from Writing Seminars faculty or other accomplished writers. This core course focuses on developing skills to read as a writer, and it explores the similarities and differences between factual and nonfactual writing, including the roles of truth, accuracy, and reader expectation. This core course is required for all incoming fiction and nonfiction students and usually must be completed before students in those concentrations enroll in a writing workshop.

In this foundation course, students explore the elements of fiction, including point of view, plot, character, setting and the forms of short stories and the novel. The course also introduces students to the writing process, the techniques of reading as a writer, and the workshop process. Readings usually include short stories, one or more novels, and books or articles on craft. Writing assignments involve exercises, response writings, and one complete piece, either an original short story or novel chapter. Revisions also may be required. This core course is required for all incoming fiction students as a prerequisite to any workshop. Nonfiction students may take it as an elective, although the program may limit the number of registrants from outside the fiction concentration.

This final required course is required for all degree candidates in fiction or nonfiction and is offered only in the fall and spring terms. The two course goals are the completion of a successful thesis and an enriching, challenging capstone experience for the entire Writing Program. A creative writing thesis must be of considerable ambition and length — portions of a novel or a nonfiction book, or a collection of short stories, essays or articles. Thesis students should select their best, most revised work from previous program courses; not all program writing will become part of a thesis. Thesis students submit a full thesis draft in the first week of the course; the author spends the term revising this draft. To provide extensive time for revision, thesis students meet as a class only for certain weeks during the term. During those class sessions, students create a class literary journal, engage in forward- looking discussions on the writing life, participate in a program- capping roundtable discussion, and rehearse and conduct a public reading. Prerequisite: All other required and elective courses. Students may not take another course during their thesis term without program permission; such a course must be in addition to program requirements. Students enrolling in this course should submit a Thesis Planning Form at least 30 days in advance. For more information about the thesis course and process, see the Writing Program website under Program Resources.

Fiction Workshops

Three required; each may be taken more than once.

Fiction Workshops concentrate on intensive writing and revision, with some required reading. As members of a general workshop, students submit short stories or novel chapters to their instructor and peers for critiques. Typically, two or three stories or chapters are submitted during a semester; revisions are usually required. Workshop participants also submit detailed critiques of their fellow students’ writing. We recommend, but do not require, that students take at least one general workshop before progressing to more specialized workshops, and we urge students to take workshops from different instructors, if possible. Students may take Fiction Workshop up to three times, although specialized workshops also can count toward the requirement of three workshops for a master’s degree. The 660-1-2 sequential numbering of workshops relates only to the three annual academic terms and does not indicate cumulative coursework.

Fiction Workshops concentrate on intensive writing and revision, with some required reading. As members of a general workshop, students submit short stories or novel chapters to their instructor and peers for critiques. Typically, two or three stories or chapters are submitted during a semester; revisions are usually required. Workshop participants also submit detailed critiques of their fellow students’ writing. We recommend, but do not require, that students take at least one general workshop before progressing to more specialized workshops, and we urge students to take workshops from different instructors, if possible. Students may take Fiction Workshop up to three times, although specialized workshops also can count toward the requirement of three workshops for a master’s degree. The 660-1-2 sequential numbering of workshops relates only to the three annual academic terms and does not indicate cumulative coursework.

Fiction Workshops concentrate on intensive writing and revision, with some required reading. As members of a general workshop, students submit short stories or novel chapters to their instructor and peers for critiques. Typically, two or three stories or chapters are submitted during a semester; revisions are usually required. Workshop participants also submit detailed critiques of their fellow students’ writing. We recommend, but do not require, that students take at least one general workshop before progressing to more specialized workshops, and we urge students to take workshops from different instructors, if possible. Students may take Fiction Workshop up to three times, although specialized workshops also can count toward the requirement of three workshops for a master’s degree. The 660-1-2 sequential numbering of workshops relates only to the three annual academic terms and does not indicate cumulative coursework.

This specialized workshop is designed for students who are writing a novel. Students must submit a total of 40-75 pages of a novel in progress, plus a synopsis. Revisions also may be required. Included are readings and discussions on the particular demands of longer fiction. Prerequisite: Fiction Workshop, or permission of the program fiction advisor. Enrollees also must have completed or waived the fiction core courses. This course counts as one of the required three workshops in fiction.

Fiction Electives

Three required, including but not limited to those on this list. Other electives include dual concentration courses such as Sentence Power: From Craft to Art, Voice in Fiction and Nonfiction, and Poetry for Prose Writers.

This craft elective is meant primarily for fiction writers, especially those writing or wishing to write a novel. The course focuses on a writer’s analysis of novels, expanding the study of fiction into techniques and issues relating to the longer form. Topics include structure, character arcs, style, consistency of voice, techniques of backstory and plot management. Class assignments may include response writings and original fiction as well as oral presentations. Readings usually include a number of novels, plus books or essays on novel craft.

This fiction reading elective begins with a brief review of the history and development of short fiction, moving to analysis of contemporary forms, trends and practitioners. Featured authors may include Chekhov, Carver, Paley, Barthelme, Munro and Dixon. The course focuses on intense reading, analysis and discussion more than writing assignments. Students also may be asked to make class presentations and to review a range of literary journals.

In this intensive writing course, students are introduced to the basics of film studies and screenwriting by reading scripts, examining films from a writer’s perspective and writing one or more short screenplays. Topics include dialogue, characterization, plot, subtext and visual storytelling. This craft elective is designed primarily for fiction students who have completed Fiction Techniques; others should obtain program permission before enrolling. Registrants should recognize the extensive writing requirements of this course if they decide to pair it with a workshop.

This elective course is designed to hone skills in the elements of fiction through an intensive revision process. The course is intended for fiction students who have a significant body of writing. All enrolling students must have completed at least one, and preferably two, fiction workshops. The course explores in depth such techniques as expanding/slowing down/”exploding” a scene, defining and refining character and plot arcs, and using syntax and word choice to strengthen sentences. Students improve the use of these and other techniques by reviewing and revising their own writing. While some workshop methods will be employed, this course will focus more on specific techniques and exercises than a workshop-style evaluation of student writing.

Nonfiction Core Courses

This foundation course surveys issues and trends in recent fiction and nonfiction, with emphasis on the diverse work and methods of American writers publishing today. Students read and discuss contemporary writing and hear from Writing Seminars faculty or other accomplished writers. This core course focuses on developing skills to read as a writer, and it explores the similarities and differences between factual and nonfactual writing, including the roles of truth, accuracy, and reader expectation. This core course is required for all incoming fiction and nonfiction students and usually must be completed before students in those concentrations enroll in a writing workshop.

The intensive reading and writing exercises of this foundation course help students gather information and transform it into clear, creative prose – whether in literary essay and memoir or journalistic forms such as profiles, reviews or opinion. Reporting techniques include interviewing, personal observation, and examining documents. Writing techniques include structure, quotation, detail, word choice, transition and revision. This core course is required for all incoming nonfiction students prior to enrolling in a workshop. Fiction students may consider this course as an elective.

This final required course is required for all degree candidates in fiction or nonfiction and is offered only in the fall and spring terms. The two course goals are the completion of a successful thesis and an enriching, challenging capstone experience for the entire Writing Program. A creative writing thesis must be of considerable ambition and length — portions of a novel or a nonfiction book, or a collection of short stories, essays or articles. Thesis students should select their best, most revised work from previous program courses; not all program writing will become part of a thesis. Thesis students submit a full thesis draft in the first week of the course; the author spends the term revising this draft. To provide extensive time for revision, thesis students meet as a class only for certain weeks during the term. During those class sessions, students create a class literary journal, engage in forward- looking discussions on the writing life, participate in a program- capping roundtable discussion, and rehearse and conduct a public reading. Prerequisite: All other required and elective courses. Students may not take another course during their thesis term without program permission; such a course must be in addition to program requirements. Students enrolling in this course should submit a Thesis Planning Form at least 30 days in advance. For more information about the thesis course and process, see the Writing Program website under Program Resources.

Nonfiction Workshops

Workshops (general or specialized / any combination of three required).

This course allows students in nonfiction and fiction to earn a workshop credit in the same class. Students in both concentrations and from either Washington or Baltimore are urged to enroll. In most cases, this course will have a separate instructor in each concentration who will form smaller workshop groups. Those groups will then workshop material in innovative ways, including digital discussion, video conferencing, phone conferencing, or one-on-one discussion with the instructor. These workshops groups sometimes do not meet each week at a set day and time, making this course more flexible and convenient to students from different campuses. Students need advisor permission to enroll in this course.

These general workshops give students extensive experience in writing and revising their factual work, regardless of topic or form. Submissions are critiqued by peers as well as by the instructor. Students typically submit two to four essays, articles or book chapters. Revisions, exercises and readings also are required. Students may take this general workshop or any specialized workshop to meet the requirement of three workshops for the MA in Writing. The 670-1-2 sequential numbering of workshops relates only to the three annual academic terms and does not indicate cumulative coursework.

These general workshops give students extensive experience in writing and revising their factual work, regardless of topic or form. Submissions are critiqued by peers as well as by the instructor. Students typically submit two to four essays, articles or book chapters. Revisions, exercises and readings also are required. Students may take this general workshop or any specialized workshop to meet the requirement of three workshops for the MA in Writing. The 670-1-2 sequential numbering of workshops relates only to the three annual academic terms and does not indicate cumulative coursework.

These general workshops give students extensive experience in writing and revising their factual work, regardless of topic or form. Submissions are critiqued by peers as well as by the instructor. Students typically submit two to four essays, articles or book chapters. Revisions, exercises and readings also are required. Students may take this general workshop or any specialized workshop to meet the requirement of three workshops for the MA in Writing. This is a dual-campus, videoconference course. Baltimore students meeting in a classroom in Baltimore will be connected by video with students in a D.C. classroom. The instructor will alternate campuses each week.

The best travel writers weave a rich “sense of place”— a trait also crucial to literary fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction. The telling detail, apt metaphor, historical reference, cultural connection, and vivid character sketch, coupled with reflections that link these observations to broader themes, can elevate travel writing beyond the guidebook. In this specialized nonfiction workshop, students complete exercises, hear guest speakers, and analyze the works of acclaimed writers such as Jan Morris, Barry Lopez, Ian Frazier, and Jonathan Raban. Students may be asked to visit an assigned nearby location to prepare writing. This workshop counts as one of the three required for a nonfiction degree. Enrollees must have completed or waived the nonfiction core courses. Fiction students may enroll only with program permission.

Articles or books about people are a central component of contemporary nonfiction. In this specialized workshop, students examine methods used in profile articles, biographies and, to a lesser extent, fictionalized biographical accounts. Students usually write two or three profiles or biography chapters in this course, plus revisions. This workshop counts as one of the three required for a nonfiction degree. Enrollees must have completed or waived the nonfiction core courses. Fiction students may enroll only with program permission.

Writers have long enjoyed a major impact on contemporary thought by producing compelling essays about personal experiences, feelings, or ideas. In this specialized nonfiction workshop, students experiment with memoir and the personal essay as distinct forms and as explorations of the self. Seminal essays are read to clarify students’ thoughts and to help them develop their own voice and style in personal nonfiction. This workshop counts as one of the three required for a nonfiction degree. Enrollees must have completed or waived the nonfiction core courses. Fiction students may enroll only with program permission.

Nonfiction Electives

Two or three required, depending on cores taken; Nonfiction students must complete at least one elective from this list.

This reading course focuses on essay and memoir both short and long, with the goal of deeper understanding of these popular writing forms. The course is designed for nonfiction students; others may consider it with an advisor’s permission. Only minor writing assignments or exercises are included. Students who want to submit essays and memoir in a writing workshop should consider 490.693 Writing the Memoir and Personal Essay Workshop or a general Nonfiction Workshop.

In this cross-concentration craft elective, students examine aspects of voice in fiction and factual writing, considering how style, point of view, tone, structure and culture all contribute to an author's or narrator's individual writing personality. Students use exercises to strengthen their individual styles or the voices of the characters they portray. Readings include novels, short stories, essays, articles and nonfiction books, as well as articles on craft. Class assignments may include response writings and original fiction or nonfiction as well as oral presentations. This course is the dual-concentration version of 490.683 Voice in Modern Fiction, which covers only fictional works, and 490.705 Crafting a Nonfiction Voice, for factual writers.

Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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