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This course guides you through the process of creating a fantastic “character-first” plot. 

Welcome to the Course!

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A welcome message + guided tour: all the ways you can use this course to improve your writing.

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Log In to View Lessons The Place to Start: Day One

What you will learn -- and write -- in the first 24 hours (if you wish to move at that pace).

How to Begin Your Novel

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Lesson 1:  The Goal

All right. What kind of book do we actually want to write in this course? What will the reader feel while reading it?

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Log In to View Lessons The problem with starting a novel

Readers want two things that seem contradictory: they want a novel to begin quickly, but they don't want to be confused. How can we get the story moving without providing all the weighty backstory and context they will need to properly understand the story?

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Log In to View Lessons One clue: reading vs remembering

One helpful clue to solving that problem: when we remember a novel, we tend to remember it from the middle or the end. But this isn't actually helpful when we try to write our own novels.

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This is at the heart of the concept of the "project" -- your protagonist is resisting the "real story" of your novel. The more, the better.

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How we solve the reader's problem -- and create a compelling, easy-to-follow, quick-moving opening to our novels.

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Log In to View Lessons The Project for Mysteries

When writers hear about "the project," they tend to ask, "But what about mysteries? Do they have a project??" Here's my answer.

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Log In to View Lessons The Project for Space Operas

The project works well for large cast, sprawling sci fi epics (the space opera). But it works a little differently: the projects are usually more professional than personal.

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All right! We've learned how to introduce a project while still conveying that more is coming. Now let's turn that project idea into a plan for the first few chapters of your novel. Ready?

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Log In to View Lessons Congrats!

You did it! Whether it took you 24 hours or 24 days, I'm very proud of you. You made it to the end of Module 1 of this course -- and now you know how to construct a great plan for your novel's opening.

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Bonus lesson: prologues are controversial! Some writing teachers say not to use them. But lots of successful novels have them; some even have two! Here's one approach to designing a compelling one.

How to Set Limits on your Novel

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Log In to View Lessons Don’t Hate Me, But… Cut It?

The very real dangers of fake plot.

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Log In to View Lessons The Rule of Five Ones

My advice: for this course, write a five or four "one" novel.

A Story That Reads Quickly

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Do you like the idea of the "project"? If so, you may be wondering -- how do I let the reader know that more is coming? How do I begin the transition from project to "real plot"? My answer: weave it in, a little at a time.

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The key to exposition is to sprinkle it lightly — very lightly — at the start. Here's how...

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Log In to View Lessons The Dragon’s Foot

Trick your reader with this easy technique

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Log In to View Lessons Connecting Story Elements

This is so powerful: when two parts of the story become one.

You Should Narrate More

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Log In to View Lessons Scene and Satellite

This is how we convey to the reader all the information they need to enjoy, understand, keep reading your novel.

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Log In to View Lessons The Wheel of Drama

Download the Pre-writing Manual (it's amazing)

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This interactive guide helps you design your own ABC-style plot.

The Heart of the Course: the ABC Plot

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Log In to View Lessons From a Protagonist to a Plot

We have the building blocks. Now we're going to use them to create a great plot.

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Log In to View Lessons Plot Your Novel in Four Stages

By this point in the course, we've studied how to build our scenes, establish "care," and build a great protagonist. Here is the framework to turn those concepts and building blocks into a detailed plot.

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Here is a low-stress way to plan out a great ending to your novel.

Optional: ABC Plot Troubleshooting, Tips, and Examples

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It's critical to give your protagonist a way forward with their A plot.

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Log In to View Lessons Designing the Best Possible B

Your character has issues! But -- which ones?

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Here is how the ABC plot is working in the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.

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The ABC plot works just as well for a classic literary novel like The Age of Innocence as it does for Jack Reacher. 

Internal Conflict to Drive Forward Your Story

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Here's how the character-first approach enables you to conquer the "messy" middle.

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This is the secret that helps writers write the middle of their stories: the protagonist is not ready for C.

External Conflict to Keep Your Reader's Attention

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Log In to View Lessons Introduction to this Chapter

The role of "external" conflict in a novel -- and what this chapter will teach you.

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Log In to View Lessons The Mid-Point Twist

This is a useful technique for all kinds of novels. You can use it to help plan out a draft or to kickstart a revision plan: the idea that something big happens halfway through the story.

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Log In to View Lessons The "All is Lost" Moment

Many novels bring the character to the brink -- or beyond the brink -- of disaster, often at the 75% mark of a novel. Here's one way to make that crisis work well for you.

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Log In to View Lessons Build in “Manifestations”

A more advanced lesson: use "manifestations" to keep your reader turning pages and to develop your themes.

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This is such a straightforward, effective aid to your plotting.

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Log In to View Lessons Plot Twists and Mirror Scenes

It's easier than you think to confuse readers with plot twists and reveals -- rather than being shocked or intrigued, they end up just unsure what you are saying. Here's how to use "mirror scenes" to prepare the way for big twists.

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Just a quick optional lesson from me: why don't I talk about "acts"?

The Plotting Manual - It's Time to Plan This Story Out!

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Now it's time to plot.

Conclusion

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Log In to View Lessons Send Off

You did it! You finished the course. Now I just want to say…

The Quick Win

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Log In to View Lessons This How You Get Started

This is my strategy for getting a "quick win" for this novel project.  

Resources and Download

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For ease of use, all downloads mentioned in the course are also available here.

About the Teacher

Daniel

Daniel is the creator of the "character-first" approach at the heart of this course. 

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