A Novel Course

Posted by on May 4, 2014


The biggest challenge to writing a novel is enduring to the final two words—THE END. Between the first line and the last are questions, choices, doubts. Sometimes they get the better of us, sometimes and we quit before the draft is complete.

A Novel Course is here to help. Within these pages are insights, inspiration, maps and methods, answers to questions, and myriad tools to get unstuck. The undertaking is ambitious, but not impossible.

The articles, indexed sequentially, have been written to stand alone. While they often refer to concepts previously established, related content is linked. Use the site as it suits you: jump around, start with a category and work through it, or begin at the beginning—The Idea—and work on your novel as you progress to the end of A Novel Course.

The Idea

Story arises from the impetus that starts the imagination on a quest to create a world in which the idea can grow in a movement toward meaning. Learn how to generate, recognize, and test your story ideas.

Theme & Premise

Theme is the tangential force that unifies story elements and instills those elements with meaning. From theme, the writer weighs in with a premise, and the story gains its philosophical, psychological, or spiritual spine. A well-crafted premise forces the writer to identify a main character, a central conflict, and a general plot. Like a mini-outline, the premise illuminates the story’s best course.

Understand the dynamics of theme and premise, learn how to differentiate and utilize the two.

Plot Structure & Development

Story is a record of years, weeks, days, while plot derives and conveys meaning from a span of years, weeks, days. A hero wants something, goes after it despite opposition, and arrives at a win, lose, or draw. Unlike a chronicle of events (when someone says this happened, then this, then that) plot is dynamic. Plot is an interplay of forces coming together, pushing against each other, incrementally advancing while simultaneously coming to a boil, and ultimately achieving equilibrium.

Discover how to maximize the physics of drama.

The Outline

An outline provides milestones along a story’s route and makes sure the writer hits his plot points while steering clear of detours. Of course, some wrong turns amount to genius, but an outline can help to identify what is genius and what is superfluous.

Creating Characters

Knowing what your characters need from you to take on a distinctive persona is integral to their creation and the success of your novel. 

The Lead

What goes into a great first line—a line so promising that readers commit to the next two chapters?

The Ending

What goes into a great ending—an ending so satisfying that readers commit to buying your next novel? 


The dos and don’ts of writing dialogue that will move your story forward while establishing characters. 


Everyone enjoys a laugh, but some writers are better than others when it comes to getting a chuckle from their readers. As E.B. White wrote, “Humor has a certain fragility, an evasiveness which one had best respect.” But understanding the patterns and repetitions that breach expectations, writers are able to craft the benign violations that tickle the brain and add to the texture of any genre piece. 

Edits & Revisions

Editing is everything. Know what to look for and how to self-edit your novel.