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?

Two payment options for ongoing, "lifetime" access

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The first day: how to start your book

Welcome to the Course!

2

How to Begin Your Novel

11

The problem with starting a novel

One clue: reading vs remembering

Trouble-shooting: What if I can’t find my real plot?

The Project – how to begin your novel

The Project for Mysteries

The Project for Space Operas

Case study: How to start a novel quickly without confusing your reader

It’s Time! Sketch Out your First Chapters

Congrats!

Bonus lesson: How to Design a Compelling Prologue

The first week: how to use the character-first method

A Story That Reads Quickly

4

Weaving in the Real Plot - Quickly!

The Dragon’s Foot

Connecting Story Elements

You Should Narrate More

3

Scene and Satellite

The Wheel of Drama

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

1

Construct Your Plot With This Pre-Writing Manual

The first month: plot out your entire novel and start writing

The Heart of the Course: the ABC Plot

6

The Plan for This Section of the Course

From a Protagonist to a Plot

The perfect stage one opening

Plot Your Novel in Four Stages

Build a Knot at the Middle of Your Plot

Stage Four and the Staggered Ending

Optional: ABC Plot Troubleshooting, Tips, and Examples

4

Designing the Best Possible A: the Path to Success

Designing the Best Possible B

ABC Plot Summary: Killing Floor by Lee Child

ABC Plot Summary #2: The Age of Innocence

Internal Conflict to Drive Forward Your Story

2

How to Master the Middle: Your Protagonist's Three Mistakes

External Conflict to Keep Your Reader's Attention

7

Introduction to this Chapter

The Mid-Point Twist

The "All is Lost" Moment

Build in “Manifestations”

Add a Ticking Clock to the Second Half

Plot Twists and Mirror Scenes

Bonus: Be Careful About the Three Act Structure

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

1

Download this Manual and Create your Plot

Your Quick Start Guide

The Quick Win

1

This How You Get Started

Bonus Videos: Start a Novel from Scratch

8

Start with your Dream Story

Imagine the Best Bits

Picture An Unhappy Visitor

Now we use hints to connect the two

Sketch the Backstory

Begin the World-building Bible

Now Start Sketching out "Implied" Scenes

Wrap Up: Now You're Ready for the ABC Plot

Resources and Download

1

Collected Handouts, Downloads, Manuals

Conclusion, Your Certificate, and Next Steps

Conclusion

4

Send Off

Final Exam

Download Your Completion Certificate

Next Steps / How I Help Writers

Bonuses, live sessions, and acknowledgements

Live sessions

1

Daniel answers questions from participants in the course

Preview of the NEXT course: "Write A Great Chapter"

2

How to write dialogue

How to prepare a plot twist

Collected prompts and challenges

1

Prompts & Challenges

Build a Great Writing Routine + Better Writing Habits

4

Intro to this writing habits bonus section

How to Become a More Consistent Writer

Getting Over Perfectionism

Using Time Tracking to find more writing time

The "Writer's Block Un-blocker" guarantee

Many writers feel mixed feelings towards...

30 Days


MONEY BACK GUARANTEE

What the course contains

Benefit 1:

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Why Choose Us:

What the course contains

The Foundations of Character First Fiction

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The ABC plot

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Interative Prompts

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The Handbook ($47)

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Bedroom

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Kids Room

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Bathroom

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Commercial

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Payment Plan

Pay for the course over four months

$

77

a month * 4

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story
Pay Once

Pay for the course once and get a BF-only discount!

$297

$287

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story

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!

Yours,

Daniel

"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

A picture of me, Daniel Wallace

I'm Daniel David Wallace, novelist, teacher, & PhD researcher

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. 

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

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.

create the plot out of your protagonist

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.

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 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.

daniel speaking in public

 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.

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

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.

Plot Twists

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.

the course on any device
Payment Plan

Pay for the course over four months

$

77

a month * 4

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story
Pay Once

Pay for the course once and get a BF-only discount!

$297

$287

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story

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!

Yours,

Daniel

tawni waters bio pic

"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.

Yuan in cosplay

"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. 

image of the course on an imac

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.

Payment Plan

Pay for the course over four months

$

79

/mo * 4

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story
Pay Once

Pay for the course once and get a BF-only discount!

$297

$267

  • Full access to the course
  • Live training in January
  • Bonus: Character-First Revision
  • Bonus: Mini-course — creating my award-winning short story
Holly Pic

"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

A picture of me, Daniel Wallace

Daniel David Wallace

Creator of Plotting and Planning Your Novel

Your Teacher

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 two-thousand writers subscriber to my newsletter, "Writing Related." 

I'm currently working with a publisher on a novel set in Taiwan: it involves unhappy English teachers and a ghost.

Lynn Epnett

"I loved how deeply you love your material... Thanks, again, for a course worth every penny!"

Lynn Epnett, novelist and consultant

Get Instant Access to Plotting and Planning Your Novel

Here's What You'll receive:

1

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. 

2

Interactive manuals

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.

  • Fill in the gaps
  • Spot plot holes
  • Work at your own pace
  • Create your ABC plot
  • Discover new characters
  • See the whole story at once

3

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. 

4

office hours

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!

5

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.

  • What is a "main" character?
  • Is writing advice "political"?
  • What do readers want?
  • How do I link my scenes?
  • Can I just "tell," sometimes?
  • Are my characters "good"?

6

audio files

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.

  • Design a great plot
  • Connect to your readers
  • Know which part to write next
  • Video lessons
  • Email training sequences
  • Manuals and worksheets

Secure 
Payment

Elliot Blair aka Last Pirate self nathan copy

"Daniel’s courses have all the hallmarks of college level coursework: solid foundations, good habit-building, and practical study aids."

- D. Pease, adventure writer

Faq

How long do I have access to the course?

When does the course begin?

What if I'm really busy?

Is the course suitable for every genre of novel?

What if I'm writing a memoir?

What if I'm really rusty / I don't have an idea for a story yet?

MORE Faq

I'm a really good writer. Can you teach me anything new?

What if I don't like the course?

World-building?

I do want to buy the course, but I've got a lot going on this month.

What if I'm writing a quiet, introspective, or "literary" novel? Can you help me?

eva on a cliff

"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 2020

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