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Stop feeling stuck and frustrated:
plot and plan your novel with this detailed step-by-step framework

What if you could write your book steadily and smoothly, without worrying whether it was good or not?

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"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

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.

A picture of me, Daniel Wallace

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 two hundred 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.

don't force your unique protagonist into a pre-made plot

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.

instead, build the plot from your protagonist

I've taught this approach to fantasy writers, literary writers, romance writers, fantasy 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.

Julia Brown testimonial

"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 often finished them feeling unsatisfied.

I felt like the kind of story they wanted me to write didn't really 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 very 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 tried to work out what separated the work of famous writers from those of us who were still "aspiring." I studied theories about storytelling, myth, and narrative form. 

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

This was not an easy search. I sat in a coffee shop, a copy of a classic novel in front of me, and underlined the words that seemed to repeat, looking for plot threads. I researched theories of artistic development and skill acquisition. And as the books editor of a publishing company, I reviewed dozens of aspiring writers' short stories and novel chapters, slowly figuring out what made some stories hard to get into, and what made others impossible to put down.

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.

testimonial image

"Daniel truly has a gift. He’s one of the most patient and encouraging teachers I’ve had. He gives the type of feedback that energizes rather than discourages, the kind that makes you feel like you can rebuild your novel—and rebuild it stronger."

- Allison Saft, YA fantasy writer

What is a "character-first" novel?

I've worked as a teacher, an editor, and a coach. Based on those conversations, I've built up a picture of how most of us writers try to write our books.

What I've seen over and over again is that most writers are very good at creating protagonists and settings. That's the starting point for most people: an imaginary person — in an interesting place. 

This part seems to come "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 unlucky, and these two aspects of a novel don't come for free (if it requires work and research to build your 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, have a slightly hazy picture of how the story will end, and an extremely vague picture of the middle.

We all have a sense 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 one starts writing, there is the constant worry: is it any good or not? Often, authors can sense that something isn't coming together quite right, and so they go back and revise the beginning, or spend hours editing their previous paragraph.

This is not a good situation to be in! 

Here's why the plotting process that I teach in this course offers you a better way:

The first reason why this approach has worked for so many writers is that it plays to your strengths. You're good at imagining a fictional situation: the course shows you how to turn that situation into an engaging, twisty plot. It doesn't ask you to construct spreadsheets with different timelines and plot threads (although you definitely can do that if you wish): it builds the plot from what you already love about your story.

Even when I work with a writer who is really despairing about their novel, who is convinced the whole project should be buried at 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 new secondary character or two. 

And it's never the case that I need to 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 fits 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.

Grab your reader's attention

What's your favourite novel? Remember how fondly you felt about the protagonist in that novel? In a character-based novel, the reader gets to form a strong bond to your main characters — quickly. 

Learn From Famous Authors

The character-first novel appears in many (every?) genres. I'll walk you through detailed examples of this style of story in literary fiction, fantasy, mystery… We'll study plot breakdowns from the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, as well as Edith Wharton's classic novel The Age of Innocence.

Plot Twists

the character based novel is all about plot twists. Turns, surprises, -- readers love it.

The Quick Win

The framework I'm going to teach you divides your novel into four stages. The very first stage is meant to build to a twist, a change in the protagonist's plans -- it's enjoyable to read on its own. You can follow my step by step process and rapidly complete this section: then you'll have a calling card, a useful skill...

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Why... me?

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What it feels like to finally....

Editor interested in my work... Able to... 

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But maybe you're thinking...

Maybe...

Maybe...

You've already been writing for a while

You know it isn't easy...

You've struggled...

What is a "character-based" novel?

This is why I find "character-based" novels so exciting to teach.

Quick reader buy in

In a character-based novel, the kind I will show you how to write, reader is hooked quickly. We meet a struggling, yearning character and develop a connection...

Appears in many (every) genre?

I'll give you detailed examples of this style of story from classic literature, science fiction, mystery... Plot breakdowns from the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, and the classic novel The Age of Innocence. I'll point out where some well-known books deviate from my model... 

Plot twists and reader shocks

the character based novel is all about plot twists. Turns, surprises, -- readers love it.

The quick win writing project

The framework I'm going to teach you divides your novel into four stages. The very first stage is meant to build to a twist, a change in the protagonist's plans -- it's enjoyable to read on its own. You can follow my step by step process and rapidly complete this section: then you'll have a calling card, a useful skill...

It focuses on the parts you love...

not about throwing out your ideas... forcing you to... it starts from the parts that you are most interested in... and shapes them into a plot.

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Anna Olson - Blogger

Eva Langston


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Ella Johnson - Fashion Editor

Elliot Blair aka Last Pirate self nathan copy


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