How to Write a Novel: Structure & Outline

Provided by:
10/10 stars
based on  35 reviews
Provided by:
Cost $295
Start Date In Session

Course Details

Cost

$295

Upcoming Schedule

  • In Session

Course Provider

edX online courses
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be tau...
Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley, are just some of the schools that you have at your fingertips with edX. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) from the world's best universities, you can develop your knowledge in literature, math, history, food and nutrition, and more. These online classes are taught by highly-regarded experts in the field. If you take a class on computer science through Harvard, you may be taught by David J. Malan, a senior lecturer on computer science at Harvard University for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But there's not just one professor - you have access to the entire teaching staff, allowing you to receive feedback on assignments straight from the experts. Pursue a Verified Certificate to document your achievements and use your coursework for job and school applications, promotions, and more. EdX also works with top universities to conduct research, allowing them to learn more about learning. Using their findings, edX is able to provide students with the best and most effective courses, constantly enhancing the student experience.

Provider Subject Specialization
Sciences & Technology
Business & Management
17752 reviews

Course Description

Have you always wanted to write a novel? Have you started a novel only to run out of steam halfway through? Led by international best-selling authors and professors from The University of British Columbia’s world-renowned Creative Writing MFA program, this is part of a series of courses designed to take your novel from concept to completion.

Outlining is a crucial step in the novel writing process, one that fuels creativity and prepares the writer to stay on track and avoid common pitfalls. Through hands-on weekly exercises with a focus on craft and process, as well as insights from the real-world practices of accomplished authors, this course explores the core elements of fiction writing necessary to build an outline. You will learn the fundamentals of character development, world-building and the basics of storytelling architecture. You'll work intensively on your own creative project and hone your outline through feedback and d...

Have you always wanted to write a novel? Have you started a novel only to run out of steam halfway through? Led by international best-selling authors and professors from The University of British Columbia’s world-renowned Creative Writing MFA program, this is part of a series of courses designed to take your novel from concept to completion.

Outlining is a crucial step in the novel writing process, one that fuels creativity and prepares the writer to stay on track and avoid common pitfalls. Through hands-on weekly exercises with a focus on craft and process, as well as insights from the real-world practices of accomplished authors, this course explores the core elements of fiction writing necessary to build an outline. You will learn the fundamentals of character development, world-building and the basics of storytelling architecture. You'll work intensively on your own creative project and hone your outline through feedback and discussion with fellow writers.

In the tradition of the UBC MFA program, this course draws on the work habits of established authors to help writers move quickly toward creating a blueprint for a successful draft. Whether you’re seeking literary fame or working on a project to share with family and friends, this course offers the tools and skills necessary to plan a novel others will be excited to read.

The course is recommended for professional and aspiring writers, writing groups, participants in NaNoWriMo, teachers and anyone who has ever dreamed of writing a novel.

Reviews 10/10 stars
35 Reviews for How to Write a Novel: Structure & Outline

Ratings details

  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars
  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars
  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars

Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

Sort By
Johanna van Zanten profile image
Johanna van Zanten profile image

Johanna van Zanten

10/10 starsCompleted
5 months, 1 week ago
I thoroughly enjoyed the two courses, the excellent course materials, the friendly and knowledgeable instructors and the format. It was for me as a self-directed mature learning the perfect venue to come to an outline and a complete draft of my novel's manuscript. Am waiting with baited breath for the last part: editing your manuscript....
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
6 months, 3 weeks ago
I enjoyed the depth and expertise in this course. I've taken a lot of workshops and read a lot of books on writing, but this provided a real breakdown and I really enjoyed learning how to analyze other stories. That was an unexpected bonus.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Teresa Wasney profile image
Teresa Wasney profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
7 months ago
Enjoyable, informative, and practical course. You won't regret taking this course and applying all that you will learn here to complete your outline and learn about the structure of a good novel. The instructors are great. They are knowledgeable, interesting, provide practical and useful information and also impart their own wisdom based on their experience as successful writers. Recommended.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
7 months ago
If you are serious about committing to a novel project this an absolutely wonderful course to help set you in the right direction. The instructors are amazing and provide valuable insight. This is a great opportunity to look at your project holistically, taking it from a seed to a fully rooted tree.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Emily Gera profile image
Emily Gera profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
7 months ago
Amazing course, incredible teachers. I came in to this class with only a vague idea for a novel and having completed the course I now have a totally comprehensive outline. Now I'm completely ready to tackle my novel head-on and no longer feel terrified by the blank page. I Can't wait to take more classes from Annabel and Nancy (and Andrew)!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
7 months ago
This was a very worthwhile course for me. The content is excellent and the instructors are knowledgeable and personable. Instructors responded to questions in weekly hang-out sessions. My goal was to obtain practical knowledge that I can put to use right away, and all my expectations were met or exceeded. The homework assignments were challenging and thought provoking; they contributed greatly to my learning. Thank you!!!!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
7 months ago
This is an excellent course and I loved both of the instructors. I took this course without knowing too much about it but was delighted with the depth of the content and the delightful instructional videos. Both Nancy and Annabel have inspired me to begin something I have wanted to for a lifetime...write a novel! I taught high school English for many years but never thought I would put pen to paper and write something of my own.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
7 months ago
This course was highly recommended to me by a respected English 'Book Doctor' and it is really excellent. Although I have already published two books, my Book Doctor friend felt that learning the wisdom of outlining would improve my writing discipline considerably. He was right! Nancy and Annabel have immense knowledge, combined with a happy knack of imparting that knowledge with great charm and an infectious enthusiasm. Irresistible!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
7 months, 1 week ago
This was probably the best writing course I've ever done. It was so thorough and so pertinent to my writer's journey I wanted to hug both the fabulous staff and the clever writers from around the globe who attended. The penny finally dropped on how-why-when to plot for me, as it never has before.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
7 months, 1 week ago
This is well-designed and the course leaders are full of heart and warmth. I've already published two books, but learnt plenty which I didn't know. I'd highly recommend.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
10 months, 3 weeks ago
This course is well-designed and presented. The instructors, Annabel, Nancy and Andrew, are wonderful teachers with expert knowledge of how to structure your novel writing. The course assignments are sometimes challenging, but they are all achievable. The online module is user-friendly and easy to follow. I gained both knowledge and confidence from this course. Thank you so much!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
John Smith profile image
John Smith profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
10 months, 4 weeks ago
This course was exactly what I needed to kick my project back in gear. I began a novel (my 3rd actually) about a year ago and it started quite well. But I felt that it was scattered or disconnected. Nancy, Annabel, and Andrew help me set up an outline that helped me create a more solid, flowing base for my story. And I really appreciated the fact that they answered my questions in the hangout. It was almost like being in a real classroom. I highly recommend this course.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Sherine Elbanhawy profile image
Sherine Elbanhawy profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
11 months ago
I really loved this course and so much is packed into the 6weeks. The time flies by. You end up learning so much and realize all the holes/gaps in the novel that you needed to fill. Annabel and Nancy are amazing instructors, and really put so much time and energy to explain the process and reassure all your doubts.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
11 months ago
This was an excellent course. It provided practical tools for writing an outline and we immediately put these tools to work. Nancy, Annabel and Andrew give pragmatic advice and each has a great sense of humor, making the hangouts informative and fun. I can't wait to start the companion course!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
11 months ago
This is a great course for a first time writer and also for a more experienced one who has issues with the outline process. I learned a lot and now have great tools to write the best outlines possible. Thank you!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
11 months ago
I've now completed both courses in this series and I've enjoyed both immensely. The format works well for me and I appreciate being able to refer back to the tools and learning materials 'as needed'. That being said, i'm looking forward to the book (add me to the list of those wanting to receive an email when the book is available)!! Thanks. Great course.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

8/10 starsCompleted
11 months ago
Instructors are well put together and well spoken. I liked Andrew's R2-D2-esque presence; fun, silent, and fixing the tech. The downside was that I did not really know what an outline could be from the beginning so I did not really know what I was working towards. Images of other authors' outlines were posted in Week 6. Nice reveal, but this is a course, not a novel. My fellow Canadians, this a $400 course, not $300. Thank you, garbage Canadian dollar. I would value this course as CDN$300 with a couple tweaks, but I am having a hard time justifying the extra CDN$100 for a six week course. Feedback on assignments was minimal unless it struck a chord. The end of week 1-hour sit downs were nice. Getting interaction from the students and getting involved. Loved that. Didn't get too much out of them, but I did not participate as much as I could have. These sit downs are important to have to ensure the students this is not a cours... Instructors are well put together and well spoken. I liked Andrew's R2-D2-esque presence; fun, silent, and fixing the tech. The downside was that I did not really know what an outline could be from the beginning so I did not really know what I was working towards. Images of other authors' outlines were posted in Week 6. Nice reveal, but this is a course, not a novel. My fellow Canadians, this a $400 course, not $300. Thank you, garbage Canadian dollar. I would value this course as CDN$300 with a couple tweaks, but I am having a hard time justifying the extra CDN$100 for a six week course. Feedback on assignments was minimal unless it struck a chord. The end of week 1-hour sit downs were nice. Getting interaction from the students and getting involved. Loved that. Didn't get too much out of them, but I did not participate as much as I could have. These sit downs are important to have to ensure the students this is not a course on "re-run" mode and to answer many varied questions. Overall, this course has made my writing process concise and efficient. I recommend this if you have a few extra dollars lying around.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 stars
11 months ago
I've been thinking about writing a novel about war and peace in a distant land for more than 20 years. This is important to me, a means of working out my thoughts on experiences lived. But I could never get my thoughts in coherent shape. The content of the course is basic, but it helped me make a breakthrough and produce a detailed outline. I'm grateful to the instructors and highly recommend the course.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Linda Janice Phillips profile image
Linda Janice Phillips profile image
10/10 starsCompleted
  • 1 review
  • 1 completed
11 months, 1 week ago
My expectations were exceed by this course! I wasn't sure what to expect out of an online course, but I'm so glad I did this. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I've learned so much from this course and will continue with the next one. The instructors, Nancy, Annabelle and Andrew, really know about the subject of writing and communicate in an effective and helpful manner. Online responses to questions were prompt and good. I have no hesitation in recommending this course to anyone wanting to learn about creative fiction writing.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Blake Fitzgerald profile image
Blake Fitzgerald profile image

Blake Fitzgerald

8/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
This course was entirely successful in getting me to develop my ideas into a full scene-by-scene outline which I am now using to write the first draft of a novel. I am particularly thankful for the instruction on structure, detailing of major turning points in a classic three-act plot, and advice on creating and sticking to a writing plan. If you want to write a novel, but need to overcome creative inertia, this is a great place to do it. I will say that while I found most of the content very useful, the course was a little asymmetrical for my tastes. I would have preferred a week devoted to each act, rather than groupings of smaller, specialized topics in the second half of the course. It also would have been nice to get direct feedback from a TA on my outline, rather then rely on the required comments of peers, which more often then not seemed to be compliments made out of mere obligation and lacking in analytical advice. Still,... This course was entirely successful in getting me to develop my ideas into a full scene-by-scene outline which I am now using to write the first draft of a novel. I am particularly thankful for the instruction on structure, detailing of major turning points in a classic three-act plot, and advice on creating and sticking to a writing plan. If you want to write a novel, but need to overcome creative inertia, this is a great place to do it. I will say that while I found most of the content very useful, the course was a little asymmetrical for my tastes. I would have preferred a week devoted to each act, rather than groupings of smaller, specialized topics in the second half of the course. It also would have been nice to get direct feedback from a TA on my outline, rather then rely on the required comments of peers, which more often then not seemed to be compliments made out of mere obligation and lacking in analytical advice. Still, it is absolutely worth the price of admission, and you're liable to get a lot out of the course if you put a lot of effort in.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
Take this course! I have participated in a variety of workshops online and in person, and this one is the best by far. Amazing instructors, great content, and lots of laughs. I learned a lot and had fun while doing so.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
Content and Instructors (including technical help) were outstanding. I received both practical tools in writing my outline, and confidence with their encouraging, open approach -- truly a fantastic experience. I got out of it exactly what I needed as a writer.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
If you've got a jungle of story ideas and writings but been unable wrangle it into novel form, TAKE THIS COURSE! The instructors Annabel and Nancy, are, without exaggeration, absolutely fabulous. Talented, experienced, personable, enthusiastic, highly skilled and quite fun. Their behind-the-scenes team of Andrew and Raeanne is organized, professional and highly responsive. The online format was perfect for my needs and remarkably interactive. Course content is excellent. The instructors said they developed a course they wished they had had when they began their novel-writing careers. I honestly feel we got world-class instruction. Clearly, cleverly and creatively presented, each assignment and discussion encourages you to dig deep into your own brain to effectively develop characters, plot, structure and more, until, miraculously, your novel outline gains form. About half way through the course, i suddenly realized, maybe ... If you've got a jungle of story ideas and writings but been unable wrangle it into novel form, TAKE THIS COURSE! The instructors Annabel and Nancy, are, without exaggeration, absolutely fabulous. Talented, experienced, personable, enthusiastic, highly skilled and quite fun. Their behind-the-scenes team of Andrew and Raeanne is organized, professional and highly responsive. The online format was perfect for my needs and remarkably interactive. Course content is excellent. The instructors said they developed a course they wished they had had when they began their novel-writing careers. I honestly feel we got world-class instruction. Clearly, cleverly and creatively presented, each assignment and discussion encourages you to dig deep into your own brain to effectively develop characters, plot, structure and more, until, miraculously, your novel outline gains form. About half way through the course, i suddenly realized, maybe i really can write this @##$@@ novel. I had it in me, yet it took Annabel and Nancy to snake charm the beast out of my psyche. Already signed up for How to Write a Novel - Part 2. Gotta keep that momentum going and hammer out the first draft.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
As a novice novelist and first time on-line course participant, I didn't know what to expect.... HUGELY recommend these instructors, their course content, and EdX. It would not have been possible to take this course in any other way but on-line... and SO helpful to go back and rewatch earlier week materials once I had more context later on. The only criticism is the limited feedback on posts... with 100+ people in the class, there were way too many to read each week, so any given assignment couldn't get much airtime, Hangouts were fantastic and I appreciate that all questions were answered each week. THANKS!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
I would not hesitate to recommend this course to any aspiring or experienced writer. It provided great technical knowledge accessibly delivered and a useful toolkit of skills to take away. The lecturers - Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon - have great energy and provide well-considered answers to learner's questions on the hang-outs. The interactions with other learners on the forums helped add depth and interest to the topics being discussed. This course is well worth the investment: it far exceeded my expectations and I will be signing up for Part II for sure.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
I took this course expecting to learn something new in an area I knew little about, and I finished the course with a completed outline of my novel! The materials were clear, organized, and very accessible, much more so than a lecture in a lecture hall. I could re-play any lecture as needed, or even just read the transcript to find that one point I wanted to read over again. I am so very pleased with this course! The only thing better would be to have a personal writing coach sitting next to me as I write!
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsTaking Now
1 year, 6 months ago
This course far exceeded my expectations. The instructors, Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon (alphabetically) are very experienced writers and educators. They don't talk up or down to the students, they are not pretentious and are very forthcoming at length on the topics covered. The information given, to me, was like finding gold buried in the backyard! And it all makes sense so I can go forward and apply it immediately. The pace was very fast for the amount of material given, but worth it. It is expensive, and as shown on the first page of this section, we are told it is $295. This page was the first I saw and the amount I remembered. What a shock I had when my Visa statement arrived. I found the $295 was in US dollars, a significant amount greater than $295 Canadian. Living in Canada, just blocks from UBC, it never occurred to me that the cost would be in US dollars. But it was worth it. I'll be back for Part Two. Thanks so much for maki... This course far exceeded my expectations. The instructors, Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon (alphabetically) are very experienced writers and educators. They don't talk up or down to the students, they are not pretentious and are very forthcoming at length on the topics covered. The information given, to me, was like finding gold buried in the backyard! And it all makes sense so I can go forward and apply it immediately. The pace was very fast for the amount of material given, but worth it. It is expensive, and as shown on the first page of this section, we are told it is $295. This page was the first I saw and the amount I remembered. What a shock I had when my Visa statement arrived. I found the $295 was in US dollars, a significant amount greater than $295 Canadian. Living in Canada, just blocks from UBC, it never occurred to me that the cost would be in US dollars. But it was worth it. I'll be back for Part Two. Thanks so much for making this available to everyone.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
This was my first experience of online learning and I was extremely impressed. It worked on an individual basis as well as offering any degree of group participation an individual might want, from none at al to complete immersion. The content, presentation and technology were always excellent. I am a published writer of non-fiction and did worry initially that I might be wasting my money, that the course would not tell me anything I did not already know. This was absolutely NOT the case. In every module there was thought-provoking, ground-breaking (for me) material that will have a huge impact on my fiction. I had intended to spend 4 hours or so a week on the course but it was so good and there was so much to learn that I ended up devoting twice as much time as I had planned. I will certainly sign up for Course 2 in the series.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 6 months ago
I will not hesitate to continue with the rest of this series. This course has provided invaluable material that directly and immediately beneficially influenced and improved my writing. It exposed weaknesses not in a critical manner but by shedding light and asking questions that once asked the answers were apparent.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag
Student profile image
Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
1 year, 7 months ago
I absolutely recommend this course. It helped me to understand the stumbling blocks in my novel writing and I have acquired priceless tools to move forward. The great thing is that it is not academic: it's entirely practice-based and we immediately get to apply what we learned to our own novels, which develop substancially over the six weeks. The instructors, Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee are highly experienced, very good at relaying their knowledge in a lively, understandable manner, and - what a relief - both very intelligent, which makes the whole course even more enjoyable. They also work very well as a team, always as effective as they are fun. Two comments perhaps: 1. The instructors did intervene on the forum, but minimally. It is quite encouraging to get a comment from them occasionally and I would love them to be slightly more active in the future, if they can find the time. (I understand that the main interaction ta... I absolutely recommend this course. It helped me to understand the stumbling blocks in my novel writing and I have acquired priceless tools to move forward. The great thing is that it is not academic: it's entirely practice-based and we immediately get to apply what we learned to our own novels, which develop substancially over the six weeks. The instructors, Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee are highly experienced, very good at relaying their knowledge in a lively, understandable manner, and - what a relief - both very intelligent, which makes the whole course even more enjoyable. They also work very well as a team, always as effective as they are fun. Two comments perhaps: 1. The instructors did intervene on the forum, but minimally. It is quite encouraging to get a comment from them occasionally and I would love them to be slightly more active in the future, if they can find the time. (I understand that the main interaction takes place in the hangouts though.) 2. I had doubts about the course fee, which for some of us is not insubstantial. The positive effect, however, is that this MOOC doesn't have tens of thousands of students but probably around 250, which makes sense for a creative writing class that largely depends on interaction between students and with the instructors. Also important, there appeared to be very few "tourists", if any, in the course. Everyone seemed intent on writing their novel. This helped to raise the level for the entire class, a fact reflected in the inspiring discussions. BUT please don’t raise the fee. It would be against the spirit of MOOCS to make this course unavailable to students with limited financial means. Anyway, thanks for this outstanding experience.
Was this review helpful? Yes0
 Flag

Rating Details


  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars
  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars
  • 5 stars
  • 4 stars
  • 3 stars
  • 2 stars
  • 1 stars

Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.