Best-laid plans: a self-paced outlining course

Best-laid plans: a novel outlining course

This course will lead you through the steps of drafting a blueprint for your next novel. By the end of the fourth unit, you will have a solid outline, broken into either chapters or major scenes. Work at your own pace in our user-friendly Moodle site. 

  • Comprehensive guides on various craft topics
  • Directed activities and writing prompts
  • Supplemental resources and short-story reflections
  • A tangible goal and final product (a novel outline)
  • Optional mentoring for professional feedback (add-on)
  • Affordable access: only $30 USD ($40 CAD)

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Course outline

Unit One: outlining by the seat of your pants

  • Activity: "Pants" your plot in a series of freewriting summaries, leading to a 1000-word plot concept
  • Writing prompt: zooming in on narrative motivation
  • Resources on plotting, structure, and finding inspiration

Unit Two: the bridge

  • Activity: restructure and increase your plot summary into a 2000-word outline by balancing your narrative bridge: the inciting incident and the climax
  • Writing prompt: genre morph
  • Resources on POV, beginnings and endings, and the balance of story and backstory

Unit Three: the heart

  • Activity: fleshing out the dynamic middle—the outline grows to 3000 words
  • Writing prompt: moving from summary into scene
  • Resources on creating memorable characters, compelling arcs, and avoiding a "sagging middle"

Unit Four: the synthesis

  • Activity: plotting by scene or chapter—the outline grows to 4000 words
  • Writing prompt: every journey begins with a single step
  • Resources on finding your passion, plot twists, the hero's journey, and plotting with consequence

Unit Five: now what?

  • A few final resources and words of encouragement. The next step is to dive in and start drafting!

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Curriculum Design

David Griffin Brown, Darling Axe founder and senior editor, online 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 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.

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