At a glance

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This online course features one-on-one guidance from an experienced writing mentor/coach. With a writing coach you learn to write and revise pages with speed and quality. The focus is on helping you retain your unique voice and vision for your story.

Your instructor, Christine DeSmet, has adapted this material from her successful retreats and the deep revision work she does with writers one-on-one throughout the year. She’s helped writers at all stages accomplish a variety of goals, from starting their first novel to getting an agent or making a sale.

With Option 1 (Basic level), you write your novel with a mentor — from the idea stage through your outline/beat sheet, culminating with a three-chapter proposal for an agent. With Option 2 (Pro level), you write your novel from idea stage through the "magic page 100," with an option for coaching and critiques all the way to the end. Includes marketing assistance. Work at your own pace and take up to a year to finish.

This could be the course for you if:

  • You’re new to novel writing and want quality from the start.
  • You’ve had a manuscript rejected several times and know it’s time for deep revision.
  • You can’t sustain your writing habit and need a mentor/coach to keep the pages flowing.
  • You have great ideas but can’t find a plot that works. Things fizzle by page 30.
  • You need help in developing more dynamic characters.
  • You want help with marketing advice as well as writing assistance.

What this course covers

Topics include logline, premise, story spine, character arc, fatal flaw, plot, setting, scene polishing, and voice. Learn how to write a logline, query letter, synopsis, beat sheet, and outline. Create great scenes. Then learn how to write “set-piece” quality scenes. Learn how to take clutter out of your pages and put in the stuff that matters to agents, editors, and readers.

Each unit includes action steps for you to do that help get you writing and keep you writing.

You get tons of immediate feedback on your pages, and on the revisions.

Exercises at the end of each unit lead you through the actual writing of either your first 30 pages (Option 1, basic level), or your first 100 pages or more (Option 2, pro level). Writers may opt to purchase additional page critiques. The choices let you spend only what you need to in order to get your novel written YOUR way.

This course is a writer’s retreat—YOUR retreat

You get to ask the instructor questions anytime via email. There are no maddening required hours that you’re required to be online. Work at your own pace. And if you need a deadline to help nudge you along, your instructor will help set one up with you.

You can begin this course at the Basic level, then trade up to the Pro level anytime. Or start at the Pro level. Your choice.

All feedback, critiques, and instruction are delivered in a nurturing, professional manner, with an emphasis on the great joy it is to be a novel writer.

Resources

No textbooks are required. This course focuses on writing YOUR novel. Each unit contains the essentials you need for writing a novel with quality and sureness. Feedback on your pages and exercises replaces the need for textbooks in this course; however, writers are always encouraged to seek the wonderful advice found in the many good “how-to” books available in your library or book store. Your instructor’s personal welcome letter will list a few books that most writers agree contain excellent advice.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Give your novel momentum from the start

  1. What are you really writing when writing a novel?
  2. The importance of your “concept”
  3. Your genre’s promise and reader expectations
  4. The character’s “journey” and “character arc”
  5. Novel story structure in a nutshell
  6. Homework: Writing your novel fast and sure (1-5 pages)

Unit 2: Your best novel-creation tricks

  1. The Logline and Central Question: necessary tools
  2. What are plot points?
  3. The Fatal Flaw and the Transformational Arc
  4. Homework: Writing your novel fast and sure (10-20 pages)

Unit 3: Character Deepening

  1. Finding character depth fast: 20 questions to ask your character
  2. What characters do you need?
  3. Incorporating theme or an issue into a plot or character: clunkiness versus elegance
  4. Homework: Writing your novel fast and sure (10-30 pages)

Unit 4: Good scenes = Great novels

  1. The spine of your story: the clothesline containing key scenes that push your plot forward
  2. What is a scene? What makes a scene “good”?
  3. Common mistakes in scenes and how to correct them
  4. The “set-piece” scene. How many should you have?
  5. Create dazzling dialogue
  6. Creating your beat sheet. Do you outline or not?
  7. Homework: Writing your novel fast and sure

Unit 5: Setting sells

  1. Savvy writers know the secrets of setting
  2. Eight questions to improve setting in your novel
  3. Page 1-2 checklist for setting
  4. Setting as character
  5. Some important questions to help you revise and improve your novel’s setting
  6. Homework: Writing your novel fast and sure (through pages 25-75, depending on your level)

Unit 6: What’s your next step?

  1. Where do you go from here?
  2. Feedback on your query letter
  3. Feedback on your short synopsis
  4. Writing to page 30 for Basic-level writers
  5. Writing to page 100 (or more) for Pro-level writers
  6. Marketing goals: Find an agent? Publish?

Details

Cost: Option 1, $245 | Option 2, $525

Credit: Option 1, 3.0 CEU | Option 2, 18.0 CEU

Contact: For more information about Write Your Novel Fast and Sure, contact Christine DeSmet at cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu or call 608-262-3447.