You could spend $40K on an MFA—and hundreds more on books on craft—and still be in the dark with your novel.

Or you could complete this course and nail it.

The first, foundational course of the Workshops Against Empire alternative MFA program—
now available in a self-paced format for just $197!

Let's Do This

It’s a dirty little secret in the writing world: you can rack up $40K+ on an MFA, and/or read 40+ books on craft, and still have no idea how to write a publishable novel.

If you’re tired of wondering what you’re doing—and, frankly, tired of the BS—pull up a chair, crack open your laptop, and prepare yourself for a serious download. In just four sections, you’ll learn the fundamental principles of publishable fiction, regardless of genre, and gain the tools to recognize when your novel meets the standards of the marketplace. Period.


Frequently Asked Questions

Covered in this course

Section One: Character

Character is the muscular system of the novel—the part of the story that defines its shape, sets it in motion, and, ultimately, makes it feel real.

Topics covered in section one of this course include:

  • Why character arc is THE key to connecting with your reader and making them care about what happens in the story
  • Your protagonist’s backstory and internal issue
  • Problems, obstacles, and changes
  • Climax—the moment of truth
  • The “inside game,” and why it’s critical to creating an emotional experience for your reader
  • Best practices for POV
Section Two: Plot 

Plot is the skeletal structure of your novel, and it’s not just a series of events—it’s a series of events that connect via the articulation of cause and effect, giving the novel a solid, workable structure.

Topics covered in this section of the course include:

  • Ground situation and exposition
  • Plot points and reversals
  • Tension and stakes
  • Plot vs. subplot
  • The neuroscience of cause and effect, and why it matters
  • Best practices for narrative drive
Section Three: Goals and Motivations

Your characters’ goals and motivations are the nervous system of your novel, the part that connects plot to character. (It’s also responsible for sending those key signals to the reader that will allow them to follow the story.)

Topics covered in section three of this course include:

  • Motivation and stakes
  • Conflict, challenge, and pacing
  • Action and reaction
  • Lower-order goals vs. higher-order goals
  • The neuroscience of desire—how understanding your character’s goals and motivations is key to your reader’s understanding of the story
Section Four: Bringing Your Novel to Life

In the final week of this program, we'll bring these three critical systems of your novel's anatomy together into a single document, an outline that will bring it to life--whether you're settling down to write your first draft or headed into a developmental revision.

In this final section of the program, we'll cover:

  • How to create a fundamentally sound overall blueprint for your novel, regardless of what comes most naturally to you as a writer
  • Choosing the right plot for your character
  • Choosing the right character for your plot
  • Genre considerations
  • Multiple protagonists/POVs
  • Spontaneity vs. structure

Praise for Anatomy of the Novel

"This course is just tremendous!  When I started this story I had a character voice, some thematic ideas, and some snippets of scenes.  Now I have a clear path for a novel. I’m over the moon!"

—E. Carruthers

"This process is awesome. I feel like I’m digging deeper and getting to the story core - the structure beneath - at last. I’ve struggled to get this concept for so long, but I’m finally starting to understand and am actually looking forward to my revision!"

—A. Gunn

"Your course has helped me understand the rules of long-form fiction in a much deeper way. Your knowledge of the writing process—and your passion for sharing it—are exceptional."

—A. Kenyon

"About halfway through this course, I had that massive AHA moment, where everything fell into place and I've been on fire ever since. THANK YOU. You truly are a genius."

—J. Langdon

Praise for other classes

Story Medicine

"If you are a writer with a sincere desire to weave social justice issues and diverse characters into your fiction,  this course is highly recommended!"

- D.L. Diener

“I am finding myself bringing to light beliefs that I have about the world that I've never been able to express. You’re allowing me to see that that's exactly what I need to write about. That there are others who may see themselves in my work and be acknowledged. That my book may free them to go off and change the world in ways that I could not.”

- T. Thayer

“Getting all the feels from this Story Medicine course. I’m so glad to have found it!”

-E. Rice

“I registered for Story Medicine back in October and I'm LOVING IT!!! In fact, I submitted a short story for an anthology call. The story is very strong because of your course. I'm proud of it and hope it gets accepted. I'll keep you posted!"

-K.A. Phillips

About Your Instructor

An American of Indo-Guyanese descent, Susan DeFreitas is the author of the novel Hot Season, which won a Gold IPPY Award, and the editor of Dispatches from Anarres: Tales in Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin, a finalist for the Foreword INDIES. Her work has been featured in the Writer’s Chronicle, LitHub, Story, Daily Science Fiction, Portland Monthly, and High Desert Journal, among other journals and anthologies. An independent editor and book coach, she specializes in helping writers from historically marginalized backgrounds, and those writing socially engaged fiction, break through into publishing. She divides her time between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon.

Ready to bring your novel to life?

Register now