Outline Your Novel Now: A Sampler Course

Help with outlining is just a few clicks away. In Option 1, submit four outline exercises for feedback from a professional writing coach; in Option 2 you submit two additional outlines. Discover how outlines keep you inspired, organized, and writing pages. Sample a dozen outline techniques, including plot sketches, character sheets, summary sentences, and scene steps. Immediately apply your favorite techniques to your novel.

At a glance

What: Outline Your Novel Now: A Sampler Course

When: Start anytime, complete within 1 year

Where: Online

Cost: Option 1: 1.0 CEU, $150 | Option 2: 2.0 CEUs, $175

Continuing education credit: 10 hours (1.0 CEU)

Instructor: Angela Rydell

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For additional information, contact Christine DeSmet: 608-262-3447

What the sampler approach can do for you

Help with novel outlining is just a few clicks away! Troubleshoot a novel going nowhere, jump-start that idea you’ve been meaning to write, or step up the progress you’ve already made—and write with the end in sight.

Whether you’re outlining for the first time, or looking to revamp what you’ve begun, this sampler approach provides plenty of options. Explore key outline techniques from Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, Karen Wiesner’s “First Draft in 30 Days,” and John Truby’s “The Anatomy of Story.”

You needn’t buy any books or software to get started. Simply read through the units and keep sampling until you hit on what works best for you. Try out 3 exercises each unit, and get feedback on 1. You may find a method you love, or decide mixing and matching is the way to go—there's no right or wrong way to outline. Take away practical tools to develop character, setting, theme, and a solid outline of your novel’s plot.  

Writers preparing for novel-in-a-month challenges and retreats such as Write-by-the-Lake can use this course to help shape up their novels in short order.

Course content

Unit 1: Choose an Outline Method That Works for You

  • Try out the Snowflake Method’s one-sentence summary to home in on plot essentials
  • Flesh out your characters using Karen Wiesner’s character sketches
  • Strengthen the core of your novel with Truby’s detailed premise steps

Unit 2: Plan Plot & Build Setting

  • Use the Snowflake Method to focus a one-paragraph plot summary
  • Find out how Wiesner’s setting sketches make where and when your novel takes place matter more
  • Follow Truby’s “Seven Key Structure Steps” to organize  your plot from beginning to end

Unit 3: Develop Character and Strengthen Plot Threads

  • Get to know your characters though the Snowflake Method’s one-page character sheets
  • Use Wiesner’s plot sketch to untangle and intertwine plot threads 
  • Weave intricate character relationships using Truby’s character web

Unit 4: Delve Into Deep Structure

  • Turn your summary paragraph into a one-page plot synopsis using the Snowflake Method
  • Plan out scenes with Wiesner’s summary outline
  • Experiment with Truby’s moral argument system to explore the themes in your novel

Outlining provides a system to organize your thoughts, not rigid rules. Imagine never being at a loss for how to stay on task, or what to try next. You can outline at any stage—starting out, drafting or revising. You can outline at any pace—sketch out plot in a few hours or hunker down to develop character or theme. And you can outline now—get swift feedback as you discover which outline techniques keep your novel on track.

Build your novel’s structure while making creative discoveries every step of the way:

  • Set out your novel’s big picture at a glance
  • Keep track of plot points, subplots, and scene sequences
  • Pinpoint options for your novel’s ideal beginning and end
  • Eliminate the muddle of a middle
  • Gain perspective on where to foreshadow, plant clues, or introduce twists
  • Spot mistakes early on to reduce revision time  
  • Bring all plot threads together in just a page or 2and identify what to keep or cut
  • Develop plot and character simultaneously
  • Deepen your novel’s themes

The techniques in the course help you create an outline you can rely on—one as basic or detailed as you like. Get the direction and creative freedom you need to write a novel you can finish.

How the course works

You can start this course anytime, and there are no required hours to log on. We have writers from around the world participating in our workshops. It’s all done with one-on-one correspondence with the instructor using email. A lot of great writing gets accomplished via email. You can read and print course materials in the course website, which you can access at your leisure with a password that we provide. Because of the one-on-one nature of this online course, you’ll find it an excellent coaching/mentoring situation that will keep you going. And if you want to just work on your own—hey, that’s fine too. Of course you can do the suggested exercises on your own without the feedback if you’d rather do that. We’re also here throughout the year if you have questions.

Review the current technical requirements for students in Learn@UW online courses.