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

Authors Lab 2020 applications are closed. We’ll reopen for the 2021 cohort from September 1 to October 15, 2020.

“Without Authors Lab I may have given up trying to write a novel. The progam’s curriculum, professional mentoring, and supportive cohort have kept me on track to finishing a first draft in a year.” — Tamela Rich

What is Authors Lab?

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

Our model: Craft Classes + Customized Coaching + Cohort Community = Creative Success.

Authors Lab is a two-year program. In Year One, you write your first draft while learning to improve your craft. In Year Two, you rewrite and polish it. (Writers with a completed first draft can enter at Year Two.) Entrance is competitive; an application and writing sample are required for admission to either year.

Year One: Getting to the First Draft

Year One helps you to get that book out of your head and onto paper, while improving your writing. Here’s what it includes:

Craft Classes

From January to December, you’ll take classes to help develop your craft from some of the area’s most respected writers and writing teachers. These include 12 monthly classes with your cohort and 10 hours of electives from the Charlotte Lit catalog.

Customized Coaching

You’ll be matched with a coach based on your genre and other factors, and will meet with that coach four times during the year. In January, your coach will help you visualize your book and plan your year. Then, three times during the year, you’ll receive extensive feedback on partial drafts of your manuscript. When you’ve completed your draft, you’ll have the option for a full developmental manuscript read by your coach (additional fee applies).

Cohort Community

A cornerstone of Authors Lab is making the journey with a cohort of writers who support and encourage each other, teach and learn from each other, and help keep each other on track to achieve their goals. You’ll attend classes and socials together, create accountability and critique groups, and participate in a private online forum.

Year Two: Getting to the Final Draft

Year Two helps you with your rewrite. Each month you’ll meet with your cohort and a coach to have scenes and chapters workshopped; that is, to receive and provide feedback in a structured environment. Your manuscript will also receive a full developmental read from a Charlotte Lit faculty member of your choosing, from a provided list. This full read can be at the beginning of the year, on your first draft; or at the end of the year, on your re-write.

What’s different from other book-writing programs?

It’s live. Authors Lab happens in person, right here in Charlotte, face-to-face. Most similar programs are online virtual communities.

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.

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 (in Year One) 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.

Craft Classes

Monthly Authors Lab Workshops: Year One

Authors Lab includes monthly writing workshops created especially for the cohort. Here’s the preliminary schedule for 2020, subject to change.

Workshop List
  • Jan: What’s this thing called a story? What’s YOUR story?
  • Feb: What shape is your story? Structures and arcs
  • Mar: Who is telling the story and how? Protagonists, narrators, and POV
  • Apr: Creating conflict
  • May: How to build a book: Scene study
  • Jun: How to show and tell: Narrative forms
  • Jul: Say what? The art of dialogue
  • Aug: Hearing voices: Developing distinct characters & voices
  • Sep: Writing Intense Scenes
  • Oct: How to make your writing vivid: Description, metaphor and more
  • Nov: Endings (and beginnings): Scenes, chapters, books
  • Dec: What now? Revising & editing the first draft

Elective Classes

Included in the Authors Lab fee for Year One, cohort members may also select 10 hours of classes from Charlotte Lit’s extensive course calendar. (Additional classes are 25 percent off regular rates.)

Authors Lab Faculty

The Authors Lab faculty members teach our monthly classes, lead workshopping (feedback) sessions, and coach the program writers. In 2019 we are thrilled to be working with these terrific writers and teachers: Sarah Creech, Kathy Izard, Jeff Jackson, Paula Martinac, Cathy Pickens, Paul Reali, Kathryn Schwille, and Kim Wright. (Our 2020 faculty team will be announced soon.) You can read their bios (along with those of all Charlotte Lit teachers) on our Lit People page.

Your Investment

Your investment has four 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 (usually the second Saturday for Year One and the second Sunday for Year Two); attending elective classes in Year One; meeting with your coach and cohort accountability partners; and participating in the online forum. See the FAQs for details of the time commitment.
  • Base fee. The base fee for 2020 is is $295 per month for 12 months, for either the Year One or Year Two program. In Year One, the optional full manuscript read is an additional $1,200 (payable all at once or in 12 monthly installments). For Year Two, the full read is included.
  • 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.

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 program.

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.

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, and look for a fit with other members of the Authors Lab cohort and our coaching team.

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 on the second Saturday from 9:30 am-3:30 pm. Each day begins with a craft class from 9:30-12. The afternoon session will include either an additional class or guided writing time. The Year Two cohort meets monthly on the second Sunday from 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm. These sessions are primarily focused on workshopping (MFA-style group feedback), along with a brief deep-dive craft lesson.

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 10 hours of electives from Charlotte Lit’s course catalog. The cohort classes are MFA-caliber craft classes, held in the mornings on the second Saturdays, are 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 coach from our faculty list. 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 One, your coach will meet with you in January to help you plan the book and the year. During the year, you will have three opportunities to submit up to 20,000 words for extensive developmental feedback. Should you opt for a full manuscript read after completing the first draft, you’ll be able to select your reader from a roster we’ll provide you. In Year Two, the entire cohort meets monthly with the lead teacher (Kim Wright) and program leads (Kathie Collins and Paul Reali), who will provide detailed feedback on that month’s scene. 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 just $295 per month in 2020 and 2021; plus Charlotte Lit membership, which starts at $75/year or $7/month.

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 commit to a full year at the beginning of Year One and again at Year Two.

Who is running the program? Paul Reali and Kathie Collins, co-founders of Charlotte Lit, are the program leads. Their bios can be found here.

What if I have more questions? Contact Paul and Kathie at