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Novel Workshop Spring 2016


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The Brainery Workshop is an online writing workshop focusing exclusively on speculative fiction as a discipline, and is run with the same artistic rigor as a top-tier university course found in creative writing PhD and MFA programs.
Please note: Nothing is automated on The Brainery. When you register, this page will not update. I do batch updates at night. Thank you. –JD


imageThe Brainery Workshop is an online creative writing class focused exclusively on speculative fiction as an artistic discipline worthy of theory and practice. The writing participants are expected to produce includes, but is in no way limited to: magical realism, science fiction, horror, weird tales, slipstream, steampunk, and the like. As long as there’s a speculative fiction-y element, we’ll call it good.

This course is an intense practicum in speculative fiction writing and students can expect a traditional graduate-level quality fiction workshop, concentrating on understanding and implementing the various aspects of speculative fiction. These aspects include craft issues such as characterization, point of view, narrative structure, style, and voice. Although this class is designed with a flexible schedule in mind, students are expected to commit to the same standards as expected of graduate-level creative writing courses, including: deadlines, feedback, and accountability.

Students participating in The Brainery must be committed to a spirit of community development and support. We believe collaboration, as opposed to competition, is the key component of a good workshop chemistry–and having a supportive community of like-minded writers and readers, of the kind of stories you’re most invested in, is transformative.


There are only 5 slots available, but the intention is that writeThers come to the class with a manuscript in hand to work on. Ideally manuscripts should be at least 30,000 and no more than 80,000-100,000 words. If your manuscript falls substantially outside this target range, please use the form below to contact me before registering.

We will be reading each student’s ENTIRE MANUSCRIPT and we will only be meeting ONCE A MONTH in order to budget enough time to read and comment on the manuscript. Now, “entire” does not necessarily mean “complete,” because if you’ve run out of ideas on where to take your novel, then hopefully this is what the workshop will help you figure out.

This is NOT a generative writing workshop where students will work on parts of their novel and submit sections as they go.


In addition to the montly virtual class sessions, we are excited to host Master Class Roundtable Sessions with the guests profiled below.

Every student enrolled in The Brainery will have the opportunity to RSVP and attend all roundtable sessions as there is limited virtual seats available. It is important to note that guest speakers are no longer designated for each workshop, but are available to all enrolled in The Brainery. All sessions will be recorded and available for students to download.

Who is teaching Novel Workshop?

Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.
Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.
Founder of The Brainery

Jilly Dreadful is the founder of The Brainery: Online Speculative Fiction Workshops + Resources which has been featured on The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Roundtable Podcast. She completed her Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing at University of Southern California. Jilly is a member of SFWA, and has stories published or forthcoming from: Lightspeed, She Walks In Shadows, the first all-female Lovecraft anthology (Innsmouth Free Press), and Rough Magick, an anthology edited by Francesca Lia Block and Jessa Marie Mendez. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in NonBinary Review, Devilfish Review, among others.


Entire novels are not normally workshopped in campus-bound workshops, and, because of this The Brainery’s Novel Workshop is largely experimental in this structure. However, the goal is help shape your first draft into a stronger second draft and to help you develop strategies for revision and expansion.

Writers will deepen their theory and practice of spec-fic through the discussion of course readings, a continually evolving feedback loop from me and their peers, as well as the kind of accountability that a community of peers can provide.

By connecting you with fellow readers/practitioners of speculative fiction, The Brainery helps you recognize that your writing is important by connecting you to peers in meaningful ways, which, ideally, will allow you to realize that your writing is important and that there is a market for your work. By investing in your writing in these ways, it is my hope that The Brainery gets you to make your writing a priority.

The focus of Novel Workshop is on working with a substantial manuscript from each of the 5 writers enrolled, not necessarily on generating new material.


Screen Capture of The Portal demonstrating highlighting and marginalia capabilities.

There are only 5 student spaces available for Novel Workshop being taught with me (Jilly Dreadful, Ph.D.). Once class times have been selected, I’ll give students access to The Portal, the private peer review site I custom-designed, where students will only have access to/be responsible for reading and responding to the submissions in their section.

Since these manuscripts will be substantially longer than what The Portal usually handles, I ask that writers make their manuscripts available to download in Microsoft Word and also PDF formats, so readers can decide how they want to read the initial manuscript. As the instructor, I will provide in-depth written feedback on each manuscript. When I originally taught this during the Summer of 2015, I wrote an average of 12 pages of feedback for manuscript.

By the end of the workshop, the goal is for everyone to have workshopped their manuscripts and have a plan for expansion and revision.


Master Class Roundtable Sessions are 60-90 minutes long. Please note: Every student enrolled in The Brainery will have the opportunity to RSVP and attend all roundtable sessions as there is limited virtual seats available. It is important to note that guest speakers are no longer designated for each workshop, but are available to all enrolled in The Brainery. All sessions will be recorded and available for students to download.

Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders
Writer, Editor, Hugo Winner

Charlie Jane Anders is the editor in chief of and the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series. Her novel, All the Birds in the Sky, will be available January 26, 2016 from Tor Books. Her stories have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction,, Lightspeed, Tin House, ZYZZYVA, and several anthologies. Her novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo award.

Daniel José Older
Daniel José Older
Writer, Editor, Composer

Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, which begins in January 2015 with Half-Resurrection Blues from Penguin’s Roc imprint. Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History and guest edited the music issue of Crossed Genres.

Ellen Datlow
Ellen Datlow
Editor, Writer

Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for over thirty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short fiction for In addition, she has edited more than sixty science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year, Lovecraft’s Monsters,Fearful Symmetries, Nightmare Carnival, The Cutting Room, and The Doll Collection. Forthcoming is The Monstrous.

She’s won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for “outstanding contribution to the genre,” was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.

Nathan Lowell
Nathan Lowell
Writer, Narrator, Voice Actor, Podcaster

Nathan Lowell first published a poem in elementary school; that early success was followed by forty years of attempt, rejection, failure, and ultimately giving up on the dream of writing science fiction. In 2007, with the rise of podcast fiction, he started writing again. He completed his first successful novel – Quarter Share – in January, 2007, and podcast it through over February and March, 2007. Since then he has written eight novels, several short stories, and a novella. His podcast novels have been finalists in the Parsec Award five times, and he’s won Parsec Awards for Speculative Fiction (long form) twice — 2010 and 2011.

He holds a BS in Business Administration with a minor in Marketing from SUNY/Buffalo (92), an MA in Educational Technology (98), and a Ph.D. in Educational Technology with specializations in Distance Education, Interactive Media, and Instructional Design (04). He lives Colorado with wife, two daughters, and a trio of feline companions.

Francesca Lia Block
Francesca Lia Block
Writer, Editor, Educator

Francesca Lia Block is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She received the Spectrum Award, the Phoenix Award, the ALA Rainbow Award and the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as other citations from the American Library Association and from the New York Times Book Review, School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, German Japanese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Portuguese. Francesca has also published stories, poems, essays and interviews in The Los Angeles Times, The L.A. Review of Books, Spin, Nylon, Black Clock and Rattle among others. In addition to writing, she teaches fiction workshops at UCLA Extension, Antioch University Writing Pad and privately in Los Angeles where she was born, raised and currently still lives.


Spring 2016 Schedule

Virtual face-to-face classes are held once a month using GoToMeeting. Classes are 2-2.5 hours each week during an agreed upon time, so participants will have a chance to meet and talk about each others work out loud. All writers are expected to read and submit written comments on the work we’re peer reviewing that week by our class meeting during the virtual class session.


This semester we are offering Literary Lab, which functions as book club where an instructor with The Brainery will lead discussions of a novel from the perspective of readers reading as writers once for each month: February, March, April.

This is a book discussion group that is open for enrollment to workshop participants and non-workshop participants alike.

For currently enrolled students: $20.

For non-currently enrolled students: $40.

Find out more here.



The Brainery Workshop is an investment in developing and deepening one’s relationship to, and mastery of, speculative fiction writing. If you find yourself starting stories, but never finishing them; if you find yourself without a stable, reliable writing group that “gets” your kind of writing; if you crave learning from a collection of writers who will read your work with a spectrum of spec-fic and literary knowledge; if you find the solitary nature of writing a hindrance to productivity, but find sharing work as a source of productive motivation–then The Brainery Workshop may be for you.

The Brainery is for you if you are creative, courageous, curious, and, perhaps, most importantly: generous, both with others, and with yourself; generous with your time and energy to provide insightful feedback and share resources with your fellow writers, but also generous with your writerly self–believing your writing is important, and making your writing a priority.


We are using the term “graduate-level” for this course for a couple reasons, even though we are not affiliated with an institution of higher education:

  1. Graduate school is where you pick a specialty discipline, regardless of subject matter.
  2. This course is specifically for people who are interested in working on their speculative fiction creative writing in a professional way.

As teachers, our impulse is to be as inclusive as possible and say that all levels of writers are welcome–as long as you’re comfortable writing and you’re willing to work on your craft. But, as a student, we know that feeling of intimidation all too well. Sometimes the fear can be debilitating.

So we will say: only you can be the judge of your comfort level. But we will also say: we are all here to work. It’s not a competition. It’s about cooperation. And that a large part of personal growth as a writer comes from critiquing writing in a workshop. Peer review is where many of us learned about what we liked and didn’t like, what worked and didn’t, and became able to articulate these things, as well as identify these in our own writing (added bonus: these are skills that translate to other careers as well). Plus, peer review can make you brave–if you’re able to write for yourself and not worry about “performing” for a group.

This is why Dr. Dreadful spent so much time developing The Portal where we’ll conduct our peer review critiques: because she didn’t want to lose this integral part of a workshop just because we’re online.

If you’re interested in the workshop but have concerns about your writing level or capabilities, feel free to contact us.


There are goals we have at The Brainery for early career writers. First, learning how to make writing a part of daily life–giving yourself the permission to give your writing space and time to develop–is hard to do outside of a campus-bound program (regardless of whether it’s a low-residency one or not). Incorporating writing as part one’s daily life is a skill one naturally learns in campus-bound programs due to the nature of deadlines. Emerging professional writers still sometimes have that problem as well, for a variety of life reasons.

The second goal is publication. During the first year, when it was just Dr. Jilly Dreadful teaching, she had 33 students, 5 publications, and 2 students got agents from their novel manuscripts; several students have made it to the second round of submissions at a variety of professional markets as well. Most MFA programs don’t have those kind of numbers, and The Brainery just had one person teaching that first year.
To further this goal of publication, the feedback on work focuses on revision. Not editing, which is different. We try to point out the seeds that writers have already planted into the story through pointing out underlying themes, character motivations, and gaps in knowledge that the writer didn’t necessarily write, but, as readers, we were able to read between the lines and decipher.

We will not give you a prescription for how to change a story so it’ll get published. We will tell you what you’ve done so you can highlight and reinforce those things that we perceive to be working in order for writers to make the story consistent throughout.Furthermore, with the focus on publishing, we also try to suggest which magazines would be the best fit based on our knowledge.

The third goal for writers enrolled at The Brainery is developing a community.

It is difficult enough being a writer, but having a support system that is rooting for you is a powerful motivating force. Trying to keep pace with your cohorts who are sending manuscripts out is as well. Not in a competitive sense, but, rather being inspired by their bravery and their success.

The final goal is developing a writer’s critical eye. Writers learn a lot by writing critique.
Many writers have been submission readers or editors at magazines, and it shows. You learn what mistakes to avoid, as well as what risks to take.


On Refunds:

On Trigger Warnings:

On Conflict Resolution:


Absolutely. You can keep up to date with future workshop offerings on the email list (sign-ups are on the blog, in the sidebar on the right hand of the screen), and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Registration ends January 30, 2016.

We can take late registration until February 3, 2016, with an additional $25 late registration fee.



The cost of Novel Workshop is $500. I can guarantee the following:

If you have a PayPal account, you can use PayPal credit to break the payment down into installments. Right now, PayPal credit has no interest on purchases for 6 months of $99 or more. The Brainery offers a Writer Support Fund for writers in dire economic circumstances.

Contact Dr. Jilly Dreadful

Do you have any other questions about The Brainery Workshop? Here’s an easy way to contact me:








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