Anatomy of the Novel with Susan DeFreitas

You could spend 40K on an MFA—and hundreds more on books on craft—and still be in the dark with your novel. Or you could take this four-week class with Susan DeFreitas and nail it.

Your Instructor: Susan DeFreitas is the award-winning author of Hot Season, as well as an editor and certified book coach.

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here


Price: $325

Class Description

It’s a dirty little secret in the writing world: you can rack up $40K+ on an MFA, and/or read 40+ books on craft, and still have no idea how to write a publishable novel.

That’s because creative writing programs generally focus on the short story, which is easier to workshop—and because when most authors teach, whether in person or through their books on craft, they tend to teach their own method and structure, which may or may not work for you.

If you’re tired of wondering what you’re doing—and, frankly, tired of the BS—pull up a chair, crack open your laptop, and prepare yourself for a serious download. In the course of four weeks, you’ll learn the fundamental principles of publishable fiction, regardless of genre, and gain the tools to recognize when your novel meets the standards of the marketplace. Period.

Each student will leave this class with a sound outline for their novel, developed and refined via feedback from the instructor and peers. Appropriate for writers at all levels, with manuscripts in any stage of completion.

What This Class Covers

Week One: Plot 

Plot is the skeletal structure of any novel, and it’s not just a series of events—it’s a series of events that connect via the articulation of cause and effect, giving the novel a workable form and structure. Topics covered in this lecture include: 

• Ground situation and exposition
• Plot points and reversals
• Tension and stakes
• Plot vs. subplot
• The neuroscience of cause and effect, and why it matters
• Best practices for narrative drive 

Assignment: Brainstorm the events of your plot via the included worksheets and lay out the major events of your novel’s plot.

Week Two: Character 

Character is the muscular system of the novel, the part of the story that fleshes it out, sets it into motion, and, ultimately, makes it feel real. Topics covered in this lecture include: 

• Character arc—what it is and what it isn’t
• Your protagonist’s backstory and internal issue
• Problems, obstacles, and changes
• Climax—the moment of truth
• The “inside game,” and why it’s the key to creating an emotional experience for your reader
• Best practices for POV 

Assignment: Brainstorm your protagonist’s character arc via the included worksheets and integrate into your novel’s plot arc.

Week Three: Goals and Motivations 

Your characters’ goals and motivations are the nervous system of your novel, that part that connects plot to character. (It’s also responsible for sending those key signals to the reader that will allow them to actually follow the story.) Topics covered in this lecture include: 

• Motivation and stakes
• Conflict, challenge, and pacing
• Action and reaction
• Lower-order goals vs. higher-order goals
• The neuroscience of desire—how understanding your character’s goals and motivations is key to your reader’s understanding of the story 

Assignment: Brainstorm your characters’ goals and motivations via the included worksheets and refine your novel’s outline.

Week Four: Fiction Fundamentals in Action 

To illustrate how all of these systems work together—not in the abstract, but in practice—this two-part lecture takes the initial inspiration for two very different novels and shows how they can be developed in a way that meets the standards of the marketplace. Topics covered include: 

• Starting with character vs. starting with concept
• Choosing the right plot for your character
• Choosing the right character for your plot
• Genre considerations
• Writing to your strengths
• Spontaneity vs. structure 

Assignment: Revise your novel’s outline and submit it; your instructor will respond to this final submission with a page of written feedback designed to help you further refine it—and, ultimately, write the strongest novel possible. 

Goals Of This Class

• To teach the fundamental principles of publishable long-form fiction
• To show these principles in action (and exactly how they apply to your work)
• To cut through the BS!
• To help you develop a fundamentally sound outline for your book, and, ultimately,
• Nail your novel

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