Best-laid plans: a novel outlining workshop

How to outline an novel – a writing workshop by the Darling Axe

Next offering: March 2 to April 24

This course will lead you through the steps of drafting a blueprint for your next novel. By the end of eight weeks, you will have a solid outline, broken into either chapters or major scenes.

Darling Axe writing courses replicate the workshop-style curricula of many university MFA programs:  

  • Four workshops for every participant
  • Writing prompts
  • Craft resources and short-story discussions
  • Small supportive groups for exchanging feedback
  • Individual feedback from an industry professional
  • A user-friendly Moodle site for workshop hosting and forums
  • A tangible goal and final product (a ~4000-word novel outline)

Course summary

Participants will outline their manuscript in stages over eight weeks, with ongoing support from the instructor as well as other workshop members. Short story and craft discussions will inform the process, and there will also be a weekly writing prompt to help you situate scenes and characters within your developing structure.

  • Weeks 1 & 2: The running summary—your nutshell vision
    • Focus: Character motivation and reader immersion
  • Weeks 3 & 4: Balancing the beginning and end
    • Focus: Setting and exceeding reader expectations
  • Weeks 5 & 6: Fleshing out the dynamic middle
    • Focus: Character arcs and rising conflict
  • Weeks 7 & 8: Plotting by scene or chapter
    • Focus: Considerations of structure, voice, and POV

Reserve your spot today!

Participant expectations

  • Submit a growing outline every two weeks (adding ~1000 words)
  • Read workshop submissions and give feedback to 3-6 group members
  • Read bi-weekly resource articles and short stories
  • Apply insights from resources and story discussions to your workshops
  • Participate in ongoing discussion

To achieve all of this, aim to set aside 8 hours per week.

Your instructor

David Griffin Brown, Darling Axe senior editor and creative writing instructor David Griffin Brown is an award-winning short-fiction writer and Darling Axe senior editor. He has 20 years' editing experience, and has also spent 15 years working as a staff trainer, English teacher, and writing instructor. David completed his MFA in creative writing through the University of British Columbia, and he also holds an undergraduate degree in anthropology through the University of Victoria.  David's two debut novels, Sky to Sea and The Sparrow War, are both represented by the Donaghy Literary Group.

Limited workshop space

We keep our classes small to ensure that each participant has ample feedback from the instructor, and also to keep discussions focused.  Reserve your spot before the workshop fills up!

Reserve your spot today!