AUTHORS LAB: The best way to get your book written, once and for all

Authors Lab 2021 applications are open! The deadline to apply is October 15, 2020.


COME TO AN ONLINE INFO SESSION! One hour, led by Authors Lab program leads, covering everything you need to know. Six sessions to choose from: 12 noon or 6 pm, September 10, 16 or 22. Register here. Note: Attending an info session is REQUIRED for application acceptance.


What is Authors Lab?

Charlotte Lit’s Authors Lab is an immersive program that helps you to get your book written, revised and ready for submission for publication.

Our model: craft classes + customized coaching + cohort community + content creation = creative success.

Authors Lab is a two year program. In Year One, you learn to write a book and develop your craft as you complete the first draft by year’s end. In Year Two, you rewrite and polish your first draft. (Year One writers who do not complete their drafts or who wish to continue on their own can opt to exit after Year One.) Writers with a completed first draft written outside of Authors Lab can enter at Year Two.

Entrance is competitive; we receive more applications each year than we have available spaces. An application, writing sample, and story summary are required for admission to either year. (Find the application link and instructions at the bottom of this page.)

Year One: Getting to the First Draft

Year One helps you to get that book out of your head and onto paper and makes you a better writer in the process. Here’s what it includes:

Craft Classes: A deep dive into essential writing skills

  • Monthly Classes with Your Cohort. One Saturday each month, the cohort meets from 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Charlotte Lit or online. In the morning, you’ll learn from some of our area’s most highly respected writers and writing teachers. The first quarter focuses on finding your story and developing a plan. The rest of the year covers essential craft elements: scenes, character and narrative arcs, descriptive writing, dialogue, conflict and tension, and more.
  • Generative Writing and Feedback. In the afternoon, you’ll work on your book using exercises that build on the morning’s class and you’ll receive feedback on the prior month’s writing assignment.
  • Electives. In addition to your cohort classes, you’ll take four electives from Charlotte Lit’s public class calendar. 

Customized Coaching: Personalized attention from the Faculty

  • Program Leads. Throughout the year you’ll work with the Program Leads, first to understand and plan your book project, then to receive monthly feedback on your writing.
  • Your Mentor. You’ll be matched with a writing mentor based on your genre and other factors. The mentor will meet with you up to six times during the year to discuss your progress, help you brainstorm, and encourage you toward your writing goals. At the end of the year, your mentor will give your finished first draft a full read and provide extensive developmental feedback, which will prepare you to write your second draft.

Cohort Community: The heart of Authors Lab

  • Main Cohort. You and your cohort of up to 12 people take the journey together, under the guidance of the faculty and your mentor. You still have to put the words down yourself, but it’s easier when you have allies.
  • Sub-Cohort. You will be placed in a three- or four-person subgroup—your accountability partners, sounding boards, and feedback partners.
  • Socials. In addition to the monthly class meeting, the cohort also gathers for a series of working socials for additional craft lessons and sharing experiences.
  • Online Community. All are invited to participate in a private online chat board.
  • Writing Sprints. Each week, Charlotte Lit will host two-hour writing “sprints” that use the Pomodoro Technique to help you get some words out.
  • Open Studio. As a member of Charlotte Lit you’ll have access to our lovely and quiet writing studio in Plaza Midwood.

Content Creation: The outcome you seek

  • Getting the Words Down. You will be encouraged to set a weekly goal of 2,000 words.
  • Finishing the First Draft. If you work at this pace, you will complete the first draft before the end of the first year.
  • Improving Your Craft. Because you’ll be attending classes and working with your cohort community, your writing will improve steadily during the year, preparing you for the Year Two rewrite.

Year Two: Rewrite and Polish

Year Two helps you complete your rewrite while continuing to develop your craft. Here’s what it includes:

Craft Classes: Develop your story and sharpen your manuscript

One Sunday afternoon each month, the cohort meets for four hours at Charlotte Lit or online. The focus changes as the year progresses and as you progress through your rewrite.

  • Planning your rewrite. The sessions in the first part of the year take you through the tasks of rewriting, including: mapping your scene sequence; determining what can stay, what has to go, and what’s missing; defining your primary characters’ arcs, and the overall narrative arc; identifying your book’s theme; and making a plan for the rewrite.
  • Mastery classes. The sessions for the remainder of the year focus on advanced skills: working with time (flashbacks and backstory); weaving (story lines, points of view, immediate scene and exposition); and many more, using examples from current literature. These sessions will also include in-depth feedback on a submitted scene (see below).

Customized Coaching: Monthly feedback plus a full developmental read

  • Scene feedback. In each monthly session, writers receive detailed feedback on a submitted scene from the Year Two coaching team. Optionally, your sub-cohort may also agree to provide feedback to each other.
  • Manuscript feedback. At the end of the year, two-year cohort members will receive a full read and developmental edit from a selected reader. This review will identify what’s working and not working in character development and distinctiveness, plot arcs, dialogue, pacing, and much more, to prepare you for the final edit and polish. Writers entering at Year Two will receive this read at the beginning of the year, on their first-draft manuscript, and can have a second read at the end of the year for an additional fee.

Cohort Community: The heart of Authors Lab

  • Main Cohort. As in Year One, you and your cohort of up to 12 people take the journey together, under the guidance of our faculty.
  • Sub-Cohort. You will be placed in a three- or four-person subgroup—your accountability partners, sounding boards, and feedback partners.
  • Socials. In addition to the monthly class meeting, the cohort also gathers for a series of working socials for additional craft lessons and sharing experiences.
  • Online Community. All are invited to participate in a private online chat board.
  • Writing Sprints. Each week, Charlotte Lit will host two-hour writing “sprints” that use the Pomodoro Technique to help you get some words out.
  • Open Studio. As a member of Charlotte Lit you’ll have access to our lovely and quiet writing studio in Plaza Midwood.

Content Creation: The outcome you seek

  • Finishing the Rewrite. By the end of the first year, if you follow the program, you will have a completed rewrite that is ready for the editing-and-polishing stage.
  • Improving Your Craft. Because you’ll be attending classes and working with your cohort community, your writing will continue to improve during the year.

What’s different from other book-writing programs?

It’s live. Authors Lab happens live (either in the classroom or by Zoom). Most similar programs are online virtual communities with little cohort interaction.

It’s customized for you—and by you. We built flexibility into the program. You select your coach from our roster of highly-qualified faculty members. You choose which electives to take. And you choose how (and how much) to engage with your cohort out of class.

It evolves with you. As you move from first draft to rewrite, Authors Lab is ready to meet you where you are, providing what you need when you need it.

At the end of the year…

If you follow your plan, you will have a completed first draft at the end of Year One, and a quality rewrite at the end of Year Two.


COME TO AN ONLINE INFO SESSION! One hour, led by Authors Lab program leads, covering everything you need to know. Six sessions to choose from: 12 noon or 6 pm, September 10, 16 or 22. Register here. Note: Attending an info session is REQUIRED for application acceptance.


Benefits: Why should you join Authors Lab?

Writing can be a solitary process, but Authors Lab is a community. During the two years, you will make the writing journey alongside your cohort companions: learning together, writing together at scheduled write-ins, socializing and talking writing, and forming accountability and critique groups. You will also work closely with Charlotte Lit’s staff and faculty. During your time in the Lab, all the following will happen:

  • You will imagine and then clarify your book’s purpose and target audience, with the help of your cohort and coaches.
  • You will create an outline of the book that is solid, achievable, and editorially-sound.
  • You will write, and you will have deadlines to meet.
  • You will have scheduled feedback sessions to keep you on track.
  • You will attend monthly writing workshops designed especially for Authors Lab writers, and attend a selection of Charlotte Lit’s public workshops.
  • You will belong to a vibrant cohort community, which will include both informal and formal support. Formal support includes weekly writing socials, workshopping groups, and accountability partners.

Authors Lab Faculty

The Authors Lab faculty members teach the monthly classes, lead feedback sessions, and coach the program writers. Our 2021 faculty includes program leads Paul Reali and Megan Rich, memoir coach Kathie Collins, and novelist Kim Wright. You can read their bios on our Lit People page. More faculty will be announced soon.

Your Investment

Your investment has three parts:

  • Your time and energy. To be successful in Authors Lab, you must be dedicated to your writing and to your cohort. This means: writing consistently; attending the monthly class; attending elective classes; meeting with your coach and cohort accountability partners; and participating in the online forum. We estimate this as 7-10 hours per week. See the FAQs for details of the time commitment.
  • Base fee. The base fee for 2021 is $325 per month, which includes all components mentioned above. Note: in Year Two, the optional second manuscript read is an additional $1,200.
  • Charlotte Lit membership. All Authors Lab participants must be Charlotte Lit members; options begin at $75/year (or $7/month). After you complete your Authors Lab experience, you’ll be a part of an Authors Lab alumni group for as long as you maintain your Charlotte Lit membership.

Scholarships

Charlotte Lit has limited funds available for full and partial scholarships. You can make a preliminary application here. Writers making it to the final round may be asked for income verification in the form of IRS filings.

Authors Lab FAQs

Click here to read the FAQs…

How do I know if I’m right for this program? Do you want to write a book, but don’t know where to start? Have you tried to write a book, and stalled? Do you want the support, encouragement, and accountability from other writers? Do you want to get it done, once and for all? Any of these are reasons to join the Year 1 program. Alternately: have you completed a first draft and don’t know what to do with it — how to make it better or how to get to a publishable final draft? That makes you a good fit for the Year 2 program.

If I want in, am I’m automatically in? Spaces are limited, so there is an application process. We will evaluate your book idea and writing samples, look for a fit with other members of the Authors Lab cohort and our coaching team, and consider your readiness to succeed (see the next question).

How do I know if I’m ready for Authors Lab? The decision to write your first book is a big one. Successful Authors Lab candidates typically have worked toward developing their craft through writing classes at Charlotte Lit or similar programs before making a full-year commitment. If you’re not yet confident about your writing skills, consider registering for a Charlotte Lit 4-week Studio course this fall or spring instead. You’re also welcome to talk with us about readiness for Authors Lab, either at one of our upcoming information sessions or by private appointment.

Don’t most writers do this on their own? Many do, but that doesn’t mean that you have to. Writing a book is a difficult, nuanced, complex process. It can be immensely helpful to have professional guidance and peer support. And, our expectation is that you will write a far better book this way.

What if I’ve written and published books in the past? Authors Lab is designed to meet you where you are, taking advantage of your experience. What’s different about writing a book while in the Lab is that you’re not isolated, not going it alone. You will have teachers, coaches, and a cohort of writers to guide and support you. And, your prior experience will be very valuable to you and to the others in your cohort.

What is the cohort? A cohort is a group assembled for a particular purpose. In Authors Lab, your cohort will be the 12 people who are taking the journey together in that year.

When does the cohort meet? There are at least four different ways that the cohort meets.

The Year One cohort meets monthly, usually on the second Saturday, from 9:30 am-3:30 pm. Each day begins with a craft class from 9:30-12:30. The afternoon session is either an additional class or guided writing time. The Year Two cohort meets monthly, usually on the second Sunday for four hours in the afternoon. These sessions are primarily focused on scene feedback from the coaching team, along with deep-dive craft lessons.

The cohorts also gather monthly on a weekday evening, usually held in the fourth week of the month. This optional gathering is a working social, and includes both substantive content and cohort-building.

Authors Lab members are also placed into a sub-cohort of three or four writers, who will meet in person and virtually as they see fit. Finally, there is a Facebook-style chat board where you can interact with the cohort and faculty online.

What are the Year One classes like? During the year you will take 12 classes with your cohort, and four electives from Charlotte Lit’s public class catalog. The cohort classes are MFA-caliber craft classes designed to dramatically improve your writing skills, taught by some of the area’s best teachers. In the afternoons, you’ll do guided writing activities that allow you to practice the skills just learned, in scenes from your book.

What if I can’t attend some of the classes? Because conflicts are inevitable, we expect each writer to attend at least eight of the 12 weekend classes. Class materials and audio recordings will be available for those who cannot attend a session in person.

Who are the writing coaches and mentors? The faculty changes from year to year, but always consists of well-published writers and veteran teachers.

How is my coach chosen? If you are accepted into the program, you will be provided a registration link which secures your place and establishes your 12 monthly payments. After completing that step, you will select your top three coach choices from our faculty list. Based on fit and availability, one of the three will be selected by the program leads. Note that each coach can accept a limited number of writers, so the earlier you register, the better your chances of getting your first choice.

What is the coaching like? In Year 1, you’ll first work closely with the lead coaches to shape your book concept and plan your year. You’ll also be matched with an outside coach/mentor who will meet with you every other month to help keep you on track and help you develop your story. At the end of the year, this coach/mentor will read your manuscript in full and provide extensive developmental feedback. In Year 2, the entire cohort meets monthly with the lead teacher (Kim Wright) and program leads (Meg Rich and Paul Reali), who will provide detailed feedback on that month’s scene. (Memoir coach Kathie Collins will provide additional feedback and coaching to memoirists in both groups.) When your rewrite is completed, you’ll submit the manuscript to your selected reader for a full manuscript read and developmental edit.

How much does it cost? Everything described here is $325 per month; plus Charlotte Lit membership, which starts at $75/year or $7/month. In Year 2, the optional second full manuscript read is an additional $1,200.

If I change my mind, can I drop out? Because the cohort experience depends on everyone’s active participation, and because there are only 12 spaces available, we require that you contractually commit to a full year at the beginning of Year One and again at Year Two.

Who is running the program? Authors Lab was created by Paul Reali and Kathie Collins, Charlotte Lit’s co-founders. The program is entering its fifth year. In 2021, Megan Rich and Paul Reali will serve as program leads. Kathie Collins will serves as lead memoir coach. Their bios can be found here.

What if I have more questions? Contact Paul and Kathie at admin@charlottelit.org.


COME TO AN ONLINE INFO SESSION! One hour, led by Authors Lab program leads, covering everything you need to know. Six sessions to choose from: 12 noon or 6 pm, September 10, 16 or 22. Register here. Note: Attending an info session is REQUIRED for application acceptance.