Best-laid plans: a novel outlining workshop

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

Next offering: March 2 to 27, 2020

This course will lead you through the steps to drafting a blueprint for your next novel. By the end of four 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:  

  • Weekly workshops for every participant
  • Weekly writing prompts
  • Weekly resource 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 four 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.

  • Week one: The running summary—your nutshell vision
    • Focus: Character motivation and reader immersion
  • Week two: Balancing the beginning and end
    • Focus: Setting and exceeding reader expectations
  • Week three: Fleshing out the dynamic middle
    • Focus: Character arcs and rising conflict
  • Week four: Plotting by scene or chapter
    • Focus: Considerations of structure, voice, and POV


Reserve your spot today!

Participant expectations

  • Submit a growing outline each week (adding ~1000 words per week)
  • Read weekly submissions and give feedback to 3-6 group members
  • Read a weekly resource article and short story
  • Apply insights from resources and story discussions to your workshops
  • Participate in ongoing discussion

To achieve all of this, aim to set aside 15 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!