What's the goal of this course?

What kind of book are we trying to write here?

This video explains one of the qualities we are going for: lightness.

And it also outlines the tools we'll need to deliver those experiences.

The next few lessons will show you how to put those tools to work in your own writing. 

(What do think of my description of this imagined "ideal" novel? Does it match the kind of book you want to write? Leave a comment below!)

  • aqui_eugenio says:

    All this really makes sense.

  • Your description is definitely a match to my ideal novel.

  • One of my favorite books, “The Constant Gardner,” opens with the villain, Sandy Woodrow. You are about 3-4 pages in until you realize this. The hero, Justin Quayle, appears on the scene 30 pages in or so, and you do not realize he is the real protagonist until quite a bit later. And you are never really, really sure that Sandy is the villain until the end.
    In “Cold Mountain,” another favorite, the hero deserts almost immediately upon waking up in the hospital. Throughout his adventures and mishaps, you slowly get to understand him. John Frazier’s method of writing the protagonist is the more traditional way that you recommend, but there is a lot to be said for the way John Le Carre switches it around. Le Carre keeps the reader off-kilter. Does that mean he does not like his readers? Just asking.

    • Hi Mary! That’s a great question.

      In this course, I am trying always to speak as a teacher and guide. So I’m always trying to aim my advice at the most useful / productive path for a writer. Lots of novels DON’T do what I am recommending, and were this a course on literary criticism, or the history of the novel, I would work hard to describe the most interesting cases. But in PPN, I’m trying to advise on the best, most reliable course of action.

      I also think that by the time Le Carre wrote The Constant Gardener, he was on novel 15 or so (is that right?). He had a style, an audience, and so his readers were better able to read switch ups and surprises.

      That said — on the other hand, “starting in the villain’s POV” to be a pretty established approach in many novels, especially thrillers. In my system, it would be considered something like a (long) prologue — if that makes sense.

      And the protagonist deserting in chapter one — I think that’s great. I don’t encourage writers to make protagonists “nice” or “admirable” if that’s not suitable for the story.

      Have I answered your question fully?

  • Sounds like a logical way to approach a story. Makes sense.

  • Clear presentation. Goes quickly.

  • Reading some of the comments below and after listening to the video, it’s helpful to keep remembering the ideal novel is accessible to the reader – to their interest in the characters (villain or hero) and rewards the investment of the reader’s time – whether that is long or short.

    Great stories are always the small box that as a reader digs into it, they finds the bottom and the walls are far wider and deeper than first believed and they want to keep exploring.

  • I love the lightness aspect of it. I can really relate to that as a reader.

  • Intrigued and really thinking about where to start the story to draw the reader into this world.

  • rjanemcneil says:

    I like this. I look forward to the rest of the lessons.

  • I wish I had known about this before I started writing my novel – having 2 timelines for at least Act 1 and 3 main protagonists will make this a real challenge to accomplish .. but I am willing to try 😉

  • lydialundgren says:

    Daniel – just a general thank you! I absolutely love the way you teach these concepts, and I’m so excited to begin 🙂

  • John Scanlan says:

    Your words capture the essence of what I wanted to create which I have called high quality. This gives me confidence that I can create something others will take pleasure in reading. “It feels meaningful and it matters!”

  • ladycowvet says:

    I need to learn how not explain too much.. which I think makes the writing heavy, and to lean toward lightness. If you have ever read “Florence Gordon” by Brian Morton, he is a genius in character and lightness.

  • I immediately thought of “The Phantom Tollbooth” as one of my favorite books & the feelings I still get from reading it. I’d love to be able to craft a children’s story that resonates in that way.

  • I’m feeling a bit agnostic about tis as my current favourite authors are people like Elizabeth Strout and Elena Ferrante who are in no way light or easy. Having said that I’m not trying to emulate them, and my protagonists are trying their best and likeable, but of course get in their own way!

  • Holly Vagley says:

    Daniel, I’m so grateful for your lifetime access to materials, which continue to grow, engage, and impress. Life interrupted writing, and I’m excited to begin again using materials this year with a new WIP. Your suggestion, that the reader wants the writer to be kind or welcoming, reliable, etc. prompted me to think of the voice and point of view differently. I’m not sure I’ll change, but it initiated a new avenue of thinking about the opening. Thank you!

  • jayneyorkauthor says:

    Daniel,
    I’ve watched all the videos, listened to all the lessons and even watched the live events videos. My course is showing 58% complete. I’m confused at this point, there doesn’t appear to be any further course material to cover and as far as I can determine, unless I sign up for additional course material, you’re not actually showing me how to PLOT!
    There must be something I’m missing. Can your or one of your staff please explain/expand on where I go from here?
    Neva, aka JayneYorkAuthor

    • Hi Neva! Can you explain a bit more about this: “you’re not actually showing me how to PLOT!”

      The course is meant to be a complete guide to plotting, so can I make sure we’re on the same page? What kind of story are you trying to tell? What kind of problems are you trying to solve? I’m happy to record more lessons to make sure I’m helping you.

  • mythosmarji says:

    Mine is a war novel, so the idea of lightness does not immediately come to mind but, yes, I think I get it. Style and tone will carry it and I do plan on scenes with actual ironic humor or at least much irony. But by lightness I think you are referring to the reader’s experience of wanting to keep going because it is a damn good read and not too heavy, despite the subject matter.

    • Exactly — it’s not about the pace being “happy” — but rather that the story moves lightly *for the reader.* Things might not be light at all for the protagonist.

  • Laurie Richards says:

    I hope my readers want to pull my sentences over them like a warm quilt in a snow storm. I’m happy to listen to them.
    I’ve got the task of making readers care about a lonely female vampire who seeks a companion for the ages and when she finally chooses someone, he’s angry and petulant. I’m afraid I’m stuck in an episodic tale: This happened and then this happened and then this…..and so on.

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