How to Plot and plan a novel
that your readers will love
What if you could write your book steadily and smoothly, without always wondering whether it was good or not?
Do you want to write a great novel that engages and intrigues your readers?
A novel that feels like the kind of story you love to read?
If so, this course is for you.
The Fiction writer's Problem
We've all heard this advice: just sit in your chair and write! And we know it's good advice, too. Writing a novel does take time, and you have to keep typing away if you want to make progress.
However, if you are fiction writer like me, you probably also know the pain and frustration that come when you are writing a new chapter and you can just tell the story isn't working. The plot has wandered off track. The energy has drifted away.
Maybe you also know this feeling, too: when you have a few pieces of a story-idea, but despite copious backstory-sketching, the full story simply isn't becoming clear to you. "Just write it" isn't so helpful here.
And what do you do when you share chapters with friends, beta readers, workshops, agents, or editors -- and they don't like it?
In fact, not only do they have complaints and reservations, they offer you confusing, conflicting advice about what to improve? You want to get better as a writer, and you want your story to be better, but the people giving you advice don't seem to agree on what you need to change.
After all, many of us also know this problem: you've written your book, you've revised it, you've accepted feedback on it and made edits, and yet something still isn't right. The novel isn't exciting many readers, or publishers reject it without much interest.
(Later on in this page, I'll share my own painful story of having a novel rejected by the New York publishing houses.)
Here's the point: as a coach and teacher, I've worked with hundreds of writers, and I rarely see the problem that a writer refuses to "just write."
Rather, those writers want to feel like they are creating a story that fits their original vision -- rather than one that keeps drifting off course, or where the pace seems off. Those writers are seeking a better understanding of how to tell a story, and an approach, or framework, or outlook that helps them create a great experience for their readers.
Now, there are already so many "craft of fiction" books and lessons out there. Probably you've read at least a few of them. A lot of those books are great, too. However, maybe you've found that these craft books don't always talk about the kind of books that you want to write, or they give you advice that doesn't quite seem to fit. Or maybe you just feel like there must be some other set of techniques, some other secret or craft lesson that you haven't found yet.
Probably you have collected a number of plot structures and novel outlines, all with lists about what plot point to hit by page twenty, or by page fifty.
Now, I love those plot structures, too. But I find they still leave us with a more basic question: how do I make page one good? After all, that's the first test for my readers: do they enjoy page one? And if I can make page one good -- how do I make page two good?
This is the problem that Plotting and Planning Your Novel has solved for so many writers. It has helped people writing in so many genres, at so many different experience levels.
I would love to solve that problem for you and your writing, too.
"The book I wrote after we worked together landed me my agents at InkWell, and back in May, we sold two YA fantasy novels to Wednesday Books/Macmillan.
To other writers considering this course: Daniel truly has a gift. He’s one of the most patient and encouraging teachers I’ve had."
- Allison Saft, author of Down Comes the Night and A Far Wilder Magic.
I'm Daniel David Wallace, novelist, teacher, & PhD researcher
I'm an award-winning writer and teacher. I've read my work to crowds of hundreds of people, holding their attention, keeping them hooked. I've heard them laugh at the jokes in the dialogue, and watched their mouths go "ahhhh" at the plot twists.
But it wasn't easy to get there.
In this course, I'm going to guide you through what I believe is the best way to plot, plan, and write a novel. Because plot is hard.
For most writers, even the most talented ones, plot doesn't come naturally.
It's possible to be a gifted, serious, dedicated writer, and spend years working on a book (or multiple books), and still have nothing to show for it.
My goal is to solve your biggest problems and frustrations about trying to write (or re-write) a novel, so you'll be able to finish it, share it with the world, and start writing your next book.
The system that this course teaches is all about making your plot "character-based," or "character-first." That's the secret: this is how we create a story that we can actually write, edit, and finish — and which our readers will love.
Instead of starting with a pre-ordained sequence of challenges and tasks — like an "inciting incident" or a "journey to the underworld" — and then trying to squeeze your characters into that sequence, we're going to start with your characters, and build the plot out of them.
The plot will arise from your main character's conflicting wants and needs — as well as their interactions with all the cool exposition, and family secrets, and painful backstory, and intriguing world-building that you're eager to share with your reader.
In other words, this approach begins with the parts of novel-writing that you probably find the easiest (creating characters, setting, and backstory), and uses them to create the part of novel-writing that is hardest for almost everyone: the plot.
I've taught this approach to sci fi writers, literary writers, romance writers, and YA writers. I've used it to coach authors who were working on lighthearted teen mysteries, dark urban fantasy, and gritty political thrillers. It's not about a particular genre.
Rather, it's about focusing the reader's attention on a protagonist, and helping the reader follow along as that protagonist encounters one plot twist and difficult choice after another.
With each shift in the plot, your readers will become more and more caught up in your story.
The heart of the course: THE ABC PLOT
Plotting and Planning Your Novel is a complete education in writing a novel, with lessons on narration, scene design, and so much more. However, you'll learn the central framework of the course quickly and easily: this is the "ABC plot."
For new writers, the ABC plot offers a streamlined way to get a story down on the page; for published writers, it illuminates a path for continual skill development and improvement.
One protagonist = three plot threads
In the ABC plot, we don't talk about the character having "goals" or "needs": rather, we construct three different threads that are pulling on them, and which continues to pull on them as the story develops. This makes your protagonist feel "alive" to your reader and it adds to the reader's tension in every chapter.
The quick start
Some writing approaches suggest that you open a novel with a period of "everyday life," forcing the reader to wait for the tale to truly begin. Others suggest you start with a bang, confronting the confused reader with a complex fight scene. Instead, the ABC plot shows you how to hook your reader's attention on page one by connecting them to the main character on a deep level -- and yet without confusing them or requiring they understand lots of back story.
The Compelling Middle
Writers dread the "messy" middle, that long slog of trying to write those chapters where the story is supposed to get really exciting. The ABC plot shows you how to fill your middle chapters with conflict, revelation, and character change: we use your main character's original desires and world-views to heighten the story in those crucial middle chapters.
the course Also contains...
The ABC plot will be transformative for your writing. But that's not all the course contains. You'll also receive:
plot myths exploded ($100)
Video and written lessons that show you how to focus your storytelling on the moves and developments your reader truly needs.
The Robot Teacher ($100)
More than a dozen interactive prompts that show you, as if you are having a conversation with a teacher, how to instantly apply the techniques to your own story.
novel Inspections ($50)
Follow along as I break down the plots of the classic novel, The Age of Innocence, and the famous thriller, the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor.
Mentoring by email ($50)
Guidance, reminders, and links sent by regular emails once you join the course.
in the trenches ($50)
Recordings of two masterclasses where I answer student questions and expand the themes of the course.
master dialogue ($50)
Additional lessons in chapter-writing (on dialogue and planning a plot twist) borrowed from the sister course, Writing Great Chapters.
planning template ($50)
Smoothly design your plot online with this beautiful Dropbox Paper template.
Your "Quick Win" System ($100)
The capstone of the course: a framework to conquer self-doubt by writing the first thirty pages of your draft -- and have early readers, editors, and agents demand the rest.
secret reading room ($100)
A private discussion area for participants of the course where you can pose questions or ask for clarification.
The podcast version ($100)
Download a free app to your phone to listen to every lecture like a podcast. (May not be available in all markets.)
The "PErfect" opening pdf ($50)
A series of handouts to help you plot out the essential moves of your novel, from first page to mid-point crescendo.
The Pre-writing manual ($100)
This handbook talks you through the lessons of the course as a series of questions and prompts, helping you develop your tale.
The abc Plotting manual ($50)
When you are ready, open the course's second manual, which turns your pre-writing into a sequenced story.
Comment badges ($50)
Earn badges and titles as you ask questions and share your thoughts, so the other students will respect and fear you.
Total estimated value of all these extra course components: $1,ooo
"Not all good writers are good teachers, but Daniel David Wallace (a talented, thoughtful writer himself) is a terrific instructor.
Daniel is attentive to plot, structure, character, and other high-level narrative elements, but you’ll appreciate his ability to zoom in closely on language and sentence-level concerns.
If you can take a class with him, do it!"
- Julia Brown, editor and literary author
Why take a course with me?
For years, I read every "how-to" book on plotting I could find. And I learned a lot from them, but I still felt unsatisfied.
I felt like the kind of story they wanted me to write didn't resemble the books I loved to read.
There were lots of thoughtful, quietly dramatic books that hooked my attention, and which didn't seem to resemble the sort of "plot" these guides described.
Even with the stories that should have been easiest to map on to a "three-act structure," like the first Harry Potter novel, or the first Jack Reacher novel, I still didn't feel like JK Rowling or Lee Child were doing what the how-to books said they were doing.
The best bits of those novels seemed to have little to do with the "hero's journey."
Then I did a masters degree in creative writing. Here, we focused more on questions of narration, style, and artistic vision (rather than on plot). It was a more elevated conversation, but I wasn't sure how practical it was. Leaving plot out of the discussion meant that there was no real focus, no clear process for grabbing and keeping a reader's attention.
During that degree, I kept thinking that there had to be a better way to teach people how to write a novel. So when I began my PhD, I started looking for other options.
I wanted to find a framework for writing a novel that:
- took me from my initial vague inspirations to an actual, thought-out plot
- kept things simple and clear, so I wouldn't get stuck or overwhelmed
- followed the example of the novels I loved the most
- won the reader over early, and kept her attention until the end
Once I had a process that seemed to work, I started teaching it online, coaching individual writers and small groups.
Slowly, based on their feedback, I refined and tested my system. Because I didn't want to just invent an idea about writing. I wanted to create a comprehensive learning experience, one that any writer, even a very busy one, could learn at home.
It's finally ready.
And now I want to share it with you.
Get full access to Plotting and planning Your Novel today -- and receive all future additions and improvements
Pay for the course in two payments
/mo * 2
Pay for the course once and get the lowest price
course + coaching
Get the full course AND my Novel Development one-to-one coaching program
The "call to adventure" guarantee
30 day money-back guarantee. no questions asked.
This course comes with the best guarantee I could create.
Why? Well, I know that many writers have mixed feelings about writing courses. Maybe you've bought a course in the past that wasn't well made, or which merely repeated platitudes you had already heard.
The bad news is that these mixed feelings can leave writers in a state of frustrated indecision. You are eager to improve your craft: you love to write and you want to develop your skills to the highest possible level. In addition, many writers are stuck with their current novel, no longer making progress, unsure how to fix the parts of the story that they know aren't working well.
That's why I created the "call to adventure" guarantee. I want to improve your writing skills and help you plan out a great novel, but I also want you to feel free to take action, with no fear or doubt. My goal is to give you the feeling of a heroic adventurer, taking that first step. Isn't that a better frame of mind for a writer, anyway?
So there is no risk in trying this course out and you don't have to feel conflicted about answering its "call to adventure." If you buy Plotting and Planning Your Novel and don't like it, just ask for a refund within the first 30 days after your purchase.
You won't have to explain yourself or give a reason. I won't even ask why you want the refund: I'll just send you your money back.
Elizabeth R. Alix
Author of Maple Hill Chronicles
Urban Fantasy Writer
"I wish I had taken a class like this sooner. I would've been a better novelist and my short story production would've been much larger."
- John Vurro
Why Write a "Character-First" Novel?
Here's why this approach makes a difference:
Grab your reader's attention
What's your favourite novel? Do you remember, the first time you were reading it, how strongly you felt about the protagonist? In a character-first novel, the reader gets to form a strong bond to your main characters — quickly.
The Staggered Ending
Deliver a satisfying ending that feels meaningful to your reader: this finale will exposes your protagonist's secret desires, force them to make real choices, and will place at risk something (a goal, a lover, a possession) you previously made the reader care deeply about.
Learn From Famous Authors
The character-first novel appears in many genres and traditions. I'll walk you through detailed examples of this style of story in literary fiction, fantasy, mystery… Through reading plot breakdowns from the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, as well as Edith Wharton's classic The Age of Innocence, you'll see exactly how to apply this approach to your own writing.
The character-first novel is all about plot twists. Turns, surprises, discoveries, shifts in emotion — and these aren't just silly, gratuitous twists. These are powerful, meaningful developments in the plot, and your reader will love them.
The Quick Win
The character-first approach gives you a clear goal for the first "section" or "movement" for your novel: the build up to the first plot twist. In other words, you'll be able to create an opening sequence that will be enjoyable to read on its own. This "quick win" will become a valuable asset for you: it can become the first fifty pages you should to agents and editors, or a teaser for your existing readers.
Use your Best Writing Skills
In my experience, most writers are gifted at creating protagonists and settings. For most of us, when we imagine a new novel, that's our the starting point: an imaginary person — in an interesting place.
For some writers, this part even comes "for free." You just see a character somewhere, or you're called to write about a place that haunts you.
And even if you're not like this, and these two aspects of a novel don't come for free (if it requires work to build up your historical setting, for instance) it's still work that many authors seem to enjoy doing.
The problem is that plot isn't like that. For most writers, it doesn't come for free — not at all. Many of us, instead, begin with a slightly hazy picture of how the story will end, and an extremely hazy picture of the story's middle. Trying to turn that into a detailed plot is stressful and unsatisfying.
We all have the nervous intuition that, as the story progresses, things will need to get more intense, more dramatic, more challenging, but it's not at all clear how to do that.
Additionally, once we start writing, there is the constant worry: is this any good or not? Often, we can sense that something isn't coming together quite right, and so we go back and revise the beginning, or spend days editing our previous paragraph.
This is not a good situation to be in!
Here's why this plotting framework offers you a much better way: it plays to your strengths.
You're already good at imagining a fictional situation: the course shows you how to turn that situation into an engaging, twisty, intriguing plot. It doesn't ask you to construct spreadsheets or inspect your dreams for clues (although you definitely can do so if you wish): instead, you will construct the plot from the things you already love about your story.
Even when I've work with a writer who is really despairing about their novel, who is convinced the whole project should be locked in a steel box and hurled into the sea, once we get talking, we usually find that they already have the building blocks of a great plot.
It's rare that we have to add that much more to their concept than a few secondary characters.
And it's never the case that I ask them to write a different type of novel to the one they were picturing. This is a wonderful, euphoric moment for a writer: to see, finally, their mental picture of their novel turn into a step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter plot.
The second reason why you should write your novel "character-first" is that it suits how your readers actually read.
What your readers want is to meet a person, and to see that person struggling and yearning, and to get wrapped up in that protagonist's hopes and challenges. They want startling plot twists and shifts in focus. And they LOVE mysteries: they love to gradually uncover the truth as the tale builds to its conclusion.
They want to care about the main character, and they want to be able to understand what is happening, scene by scene, and they want to see the story deliver on its promises. They want the ending, above all, to feel meaningful.
That's the kind of story we're going to write in this course.
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
You are fully protected by my 100% Satisfaction-Guarantee. If you don't find the course valuable, just let me know within 30 days, and I'll send you a prompt refund. It's a no-questions-asked guarantee: I won't even ask you why you want your money back!
"Daniel respected my work and vision on a profound level but also had a keen editorial eye and a stroke of literary genius that took everything I’d written to the next level.
Is it weird that I think of him as my literary midwife?"
- Tawni Waters, I.L.A. award-winning author of Beauty of the Broken, The Long Ride Home, Siren Song and So Speak the Stars.
Why is This Course Urgent?
Sometimes, writers have been interested in this course, but have told me words to the effect of: "It looks good, and it would probably be helpful, but it isn't urgent. I can get to a course like this later. I do need help with my plot, but maybe there's a free book on Amazon I can download, or something."
And, even though I'm the creator of the course, I used to think like that, too! In the past, at least a little part of me wondered how my approach could possibly compete with all the other ebooks and cheap online courses out there.
However, as more writers benefited from learning character-first approach (you can see some of their testimonials on this page), and as I coached more writers through difficult plotting problems, I started to change my mind.
I want to convince you that the situation is urgent. I want to explain why you do need this course now.
Because here's what I discovered. It wasn't simply that these writers — the talented, serious, gifted writers who I was working with — struggled to plot well. It wasn't simply that they had the potential to get better at plotting.
Rather, they also had an additional problem, one that neither I nor they knew about at first.
This is the problem of fake plot.
Lots of writers suffer from it. And if you have read this far, it's very possible that you suffer from it, too.
Let me explain.
Plot does not come naturally to most writers. Plot is really hard.
It's just not easy to tell a compelling story where the stakes gradually rise for both protagonist and reader. But writers want to tell stories, and they know that SOMETHING is supposed to happen in those stories: something is supposed to develop, grow, change.
These writers find plot hard, but they know they have to put something on the page, or it won't be readable at all.
So what actually happens is that writers figure out ways to FAKE plot.
This is the horror of "fake plot." Even though our story doesn't have a good plot, we invent techniques to hide this omission from our imagined readers — and worse — to hide it from ourselves.
We develop extraordinary skill with "plot-like" devices, with "faux-plots," and with dramatic-seeming transitions that give the impression that a story is just about to begin…. on the next page… or the one after that...
Many aspiring writers learn to rely on these techniques in order to keep themselves writing.
Using fake plotting, you can get 70 pages (or more) into a novel and feel like you're telling a great story. But sooner or later, you get stuck, and can't make progress. You are a talented writer, but there's only so much you can do: you can't get the story to develop, escalate, resolve.
Here's one example of fake plot:
The fake plot technique of "fascinating side characters"
Sometimes a writer who isn't sure about her plot will invent all kinds of "interesting" secondary characters as a plot-substitute.
For example, let's imagine a writer has a great premise for a novel: an aspiring playwright discovers that her mentor has written his most famous plays with the help of an 17th century ghost.
I say: "Sounds cool! Great! What happens next?"
The writer pauses. "Well, then she has to help her brother file an insurance claim about his foot... after that, she goes back to Oklahoma to help her dad collect comic strips from the 1970s..."
In other words, the writer isn't sure where to take the ghost story, but rather than face that reality, she's used these secondary characters to keep herself writing.
Now, let me be clear: that's not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes, when you aren't sure where next to take a writing project, you have to just write stuff down to figure out what you want to say. And I completely support that!
Sometimes you are just stuck, and you survive by writing about the protagonist's brother's foot. That's not what I'm talking about here.
After all, there's nothing wrong with interesting side-characters! The dad and the brother actually sound great, but right now they have taken over, like weeds.
The danger of fake plot is that the writer doesn't know she's writing a fake plot. The writer thinks that the visit to the foot doctor is actually advancing the story.
The whole problem is that fake plot is really good at hiding from us. It convinces us we're supposed to be writing a ghost story about feet.
To get this project back on track, we need to figure out the ghost / theatre plot first, then weave back in the brother's foot and the dad's comic books.
Here are a few more "fake plot techniques."
See if any sound familiar.
Too Many Protagonists
The writer isn't sure how to develop the story, so he starts the first chapter in one character's perspective, and then writes the next chapter in another's, and the next from a third. After all, each character is interesting… But rather that using each protagonist to tell the story, these jumps are only making it feel like the story is developing. He can write eight chapters (two for each protagonist) before the lack of a plot becomes unbearable.
Old Men Giving Missions
I love a good "Obi-wan" character. It's great to introduce expert figures who can explain what's really going on. However, here's the bad news: this character can help to "fake" a plot: writers conceal just how passive and uninvolved their protagonist is, and how little the protagonist has to do with the actual story, by having mysterious old men give them one mission after another.
Backstory / Flashbacks
Great novels frequently contain mysterious and powerful backstories, character histories, and secrets buried in the landscape. However, many writers find it difficult to deliver those mysteries correctly: piece by piece, little by little, as the story progresses. As a result, these authors tend to fill their early chapters with something they find easier to write: huge sections of backstory, flashbacks, or world information. But as a result, these writers can spend months writing their books, and yet have no idea what the plot is supposed to be.
"Daniel was as good an editor as one could ever wish for. In fact, he went way over what I expected, suggesting small revisions and cuts, helping me organize my book... Daniel has a good eye and a very good ear."
- Bill Buege, author of Stumble into a Lighted Room
Here's How the character-first approach Helps you defeat fake plot
The character-first approach has helped so many writers because it gives your plot an engine, a straightforward principle for guiding the story forward.
We start the story with a protagonist who has certain longings, regrets, and ambitions. As the reader starts following this character on her journey, the reader begins to bond with the protagonist. The reader starts to care. At the same time, we gradually introduce the secrets of the world around our protagonist: its magic, its hidden histories, its politics and customs.
When the story begins, the protagonist assumes that her longings, regrets, and ambitions are compatible with each other: the plot starts to quicken and build as she discovers this may not be the case.
In fact, the major components of the plot are tied, in a deep and significant way, to the building blocks of this protagonist's character, and the more she tries to make progress, the more these building blocks conflict with each other.
(In the course, I will break down, scene by scene, how this plotting process works in a crime thriller, Lee Child's Killing Floor, and in Edith Wharton's literary love story, The Age of Innocence. And I'll give copious examples from Brandon Sanderson, Haruki Murakami, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and others.)
This process ensures that we can tell a story that is forward-moving (we don't need to throw in fake-plot stuff to make it seem like things are developing) and meaningful (when big shifts and twists happen, they actually mean something, both to the reader and the protagonist).
"You didn’t just teach me to write better sentences. You boosted my confidence and gave me the courage to call myself a writer.
I love both “The ABC Plot” and “The Perfect First Stage.” It fits perfectly with my way of outlining and planning. It’s subtle enough to allow for spontaneous and natural occurring changes along the way, but gets down the essential and critical parts of the plot where you need it, and especially helps you tackle the beginning in great depth."
- Yuan Sigel, fantasy writer
This Course Will Get Your Novel (And Your Writing Life) On The Right Track
This course is designed to help you build a great plot for your novel. You'll be guided step by step.
It's designed for busy people. If you want, you can binge all the training videos in one long night, but if you don't have that sort of time, I will coach you through the course in a sequence of bite-sized lessons.
You won't need a much time each day: during the course, I'll be in touch with regular emails teaching the day's technique or concept. I'll tell you when it's time to watch each video in the course.
And we're going to learn some fantastic writing skills.
The ABC Plot
Build a plot out of your character's rawest emotions, deepest fears, and their most conflicted desires. This plotting sequence takes your protagonist on an emotional journey of increasing tension and significance. They begin by feeling distant and disinterested, yet by the end they are willing to sacrifice everything to complete their quest.
The power of care
Few books or classes teach this, but writing a novel is inherently different to writing a screenplay or a myth. For novel-writers, "care" is a crucial concept: this lesson will teach you how to guide your reader's attention through each twist and revelation.
Level up your protagonist
In order to write a good "character-first" novel, we need at least one worthy and substantial protagonist. But what makes a character an effective protagonist for your novel? This unit will walk you through the process of inventing, or raising to the surface, the three key qualities your protagonist will need.
The Big Toe Method
Many writers feel unsure how to present exposition, backstory, character histories, or complex world-building. As a result, they tend to drop too much, too soon, leading to the dreaded "info-dump," a big chunk of exposition that stops the reader cold. But it doesn't have to be like this. The "big toe" method shows you how to turn your exposition into engaging and exciting mysteries, so that your reader will be eager to read more about it.
Chekhov's Gun Plus One
How is it that famous novels contain amazing plot twists that always seem to land right? While the rest of us try to include twists, but they either really confuse our readers or aren't that surprising? The secret is repetition: repetition and attention. You'll harness the power of your reader's attention to prepare them, subconsciously, for the next big surprise.
The Five Ones
Learn to streamline and focus your story. Spot the parts of your current vision for your novel will trip you up and cause you grief, and get them back under control.
"This was the course I needed to get me writing again and I am well on my way to finishing my manuscript. Worth it completely."
- Holly Pickett, novelist
Daniel David Wallace
Creator of Plotting and Planning Your Novel
Hi, I'm Daniel. I'm a writer, teacher, PhD researcher, and book editor. I create easy-to-implement techniques that help you master the craft of fiction.
I've given lectures on plot at the AWP conference and other writing festivals around the US, and my work has been read at the Iowa Writers Workshop. My fiction has won the Hodges prize, the Toni Brown scholarship, and I've published short stories and essays in many journals. In my regular life, I teach advanced writing skills at a great university.
Since I started teaching online, I've worked with hundreds of writers as a coach and teacher. Over six-thousand writers subscriber to my newsletter, "Writing Related."
Get Instant Access to Plotting and Planning Your Novel
Here's What You'll receive:
Prompts in your inbox
People learn best when they are active participants in the process. That's why I'll be guiding you through the course with quick every-other-day emails, sharing cues and prompts, advising you what short challenge or exercise to try out next.
Once we've talked through the big ideas of the character first plot, and you've seen how those plots work in some of your favourite novels, it's time to actually plan and plot your own novel. Use the "pre-writing" manual to assemble all the building blocks of your plot. Then you can move on to the plotting manual, where you can plot out the entire novel in as much detail as you wish, scene by scene.
video training sessions
Follow along with handouts and notes as I walk you through: how to introduce exposition, how to structure the long middle section of story, how to play off multiple protagonists, how to start the story quickly and easily, and how to build up to a great ending. Plus I'll offer advanced variations and alternate approaches to the course's techniques.
You can reach me through email, monthly support live sessions (delivered via Zoom), and live chat during my office hours. Sometimes it takes a few questions to figure something out: I'm happy to help!
writing myths explained
Sometimes even the most talented writers start to believe confusing, or limiting, or just plain wrong writing advice. There's so much advice out there! And some of it is inappropriate for your story, your style, your situation. You may experience this part of the course as merely a refresher of craft topics, as a powerful new look at your writing, or as a "omg-mind-is-blown-I'm-finally-free-of-their-lies!!" epiphany.
I like podcasts! They let me do stuff while listening to something interesting. The main lectures in this course are available as downloadable audio files: you can listen while walking your highly intelligent dog, cleaning your kitchen, or polishing your collection of gigantic swords.
Pay for the course in two payments
/mo * 2
Pay for the course once and get the lowest price
course + coaching
Get the full course AND my Novel Development solo coaching program
"Daniel’s courses have all the hallmarks of college level coursework: solid foundations, good habit-building, and practical study aids."
- D. Pease, adventure writer
How long do I have access to the course?
After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like. We generally call this "life-time" access.
When does the course begin?
The course starts as soon as you sign up. You can either follow along with the emailed prompts and activities, or you can go through the course materials at your own pace.
What if I'm really busy?
I know the feeling! The introductory course guide gives you a "quick start summary," showing busy people how to get started on their novel after only an hour of training sessions. You can then watch the rest of the short, focused videos whenever you have a moment.
Is the course suitable for every genre of novel?
I have tested these techniques with authors working in YA fantasy, literary fiction, supernatural mysteries, crime, and light-hearted adventure. However, I'm not an expert on children's literature. This course may also not be ideal for truly experimental novels: the course assumes that you are attempting to grab your reader's attention, and earn their loyalty, with a character and a forward-moving plot (even if that plot is low-key and subtle).
What if I'm writing a memoir?
This course is designed to help novel writers. I'm sure you would get a huge amount out of the techniques, especially the ones teaching narrative structure, exposition, and scene design, but it might feel frustrating to constantly hear me talk about "novels" in the videos. However, the course comes with a money-back guarantee, so it might well be worth joining us and seeing if it's worth it! Memoirists have taken my courses in the past and have gained a lot from them.
What if I'm really rusty / I don't have an idea for a story yet?
This course includes a process of inventing / discovering a great premise for your novel, so you don't need an idea before you begin. Now, I wouldn't recommend, if you are feeling rusty, that you try the "quick start" approach. But over the course of a month, you will create a fantastic plan and scene map.
I'm a really good writer. Can you teach me anything new?
Yes. I've studied with award-winning, remarkable novelists and editors, and I've read extensively in narrative form and theory. Plus I'm simply a good teacher. Some people are naturally good at jumping or running. Some people are naturally good looking. I don't have any of those skills, sadly -- but I am very good at teaching, coaching, and editing fiction. It's odd talent, maybe, but I'm glad to have it.
What if I don't like the course?
Ask for a refund: I have a no-questions-asked 30-day refund policy.
This is not specifically intended to be a course on sci fi or fantasy world-building. However, if you have a world in mind, but are struggling turning it into a good story, this is the perfect process to go through. You'll be able to infuse your invented setting with a dynamic and sympathetic cast of characters; you'll figure out how to deliver your world-building in an exciting, engaging way. For many fantasy writers, these techniques become the missing link that turns their setting into a real story.
I do want to buy the course, but I've got a lot going on this month.
Buy it and start when your schedule looks better! Once you join the course, you'll have access to it forever. Email me and I'll hold off the daily prompts until you're ready to get started.
What if I'm writing a quiet, introspective, or "literary" novel? Can you help me?
This course can really help you. Please give it a try! The character-based plot works really well with "quieter" storylines: the significance comes from the events' impact on the characters, not whether you have car chases or giant swords.
Bonus section: "Your Quick Win"
After you have completed the course, and created a fantastic plot for your novel, I'll begin prompting and guiding you to start writing.
But I won't just tell you to "sit in your chair" and type, or "write everyday until it's done." That's nice advice to hear but it's not very useful. Instead, I'll be helping you write (or re-write) a particular part of your novel: a compelling, engaging, and intriguing opening section (of between 5,000 to 15,000 words).
This opening section will build up to one or more plot twists / surprising revelations, hooking your reader's attention: the goal is to write something that an agent, editor, or friendly reader will read all the way through, and then demand to see the rest of.
This opening section "quick win" will become a valuable asset for your writing career. Plus it will make you feel GREAT about your project and want to keep going and finish the book.
"He’s legitimately an expert who has unique and helpful information to share. His content is original and genuine and worth paying for."
- Eva Langston, literary blogger and YA author
What it feels like to finally be able to actually plot
Can I share a personal story?
A few months ago, I was feeling a little low. Nothing that serious. It was simply a busy time for me and my family. You know how some months (and some seasons) opportunities and responsibilities just mount up?
Unexpectedly, however, an editor contacted me and asked if a past book project of mine was still available. This was great news!
But I hadn't looked at the book in years, not since my agent and I had sent it out and got no bites. And when I examined it, I could tell it wasn't ready.
Back when I had been writing it, I loved it. But now the story just seemed too spread out, too confusing, and hard to relate to.
Plus I was using a special fake plot technique all of my own, one I'll explain more in the course: the "three plots in one." This made the beginning and end of the novel very unsatisfying.
It was uncomfortable: I understood then why the editors at the big New York publishers had rejected the manuscript all those years before.
I decided to rewrite the book. And as I mulled on it, I suddenly saw how I could streamline the story, remove all the fake plot stuff, and actually have a compelling, engaging, and (maybe even) significant novel.
But I also knew how publishing worked: I couldn't just disappear for a year to rewrite my novel and then see if that editor was still interested.
So I put to work the techniques I teach in this course. I outlined in rough form the same type of ABC plot that you'll learn in this course. I sketched out a "quick win" opening section, one that blended forward motion with the slow release of clues, secrets, and setting information, and which led up to a big plot twist.
And then, in early mornings before the rest of the family woke up, I spent two weeks writing that opening section.
When I sent that opening section to the editor, he loved it. There was no need, he said, to check in for more feedback. Send the rest, he told me, when it's done.
This was an incredible feeling. It was one of the best moments in my writing life.
I want to give the same experience to you.
It's time for you to create a great plot for your novel.
Copyright - Daniel David Wallace 2021