You could hit Submit and hope for the best.

Or you could unlock the full potential of your novel.

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

A solid story, compelling characters, and strong writing are a great start. But if you want your novel to stand out from the competition, it has to have something extra.

It has to have a sense of meaning.

In this 4-week class, I'll help you elevate your command of craft—

> by taking a stand on the issues that matter most to you

> by connecting with your reader on a deeper level

> by accurately reflecting the complex truths of our world (and avoiding harm to historically marginalized people in your work)

>>>And in the process, I'll help you cure your novel of some of THE most common ailments that keep otherwise great books from getting published. (See below!*)

If you're ready to break through with your first published novel, then it's time to embrace your true power as a storyteller.

What difference could your story make, if you took that power seriously?

Register for Story Medicine, and find out

Frequently Asked Questions

Covered in this course

Section One: Taking a Stand

A great story is a meaningful story—one that intersects with matters of justice, and leaves us with a sense of insight on the things that matter most in life.

Taking a stand in your work on the things that matter most to you is also a way of standing out on submission—a way of saying "this story matters NOW."

In Section One of this course, you will learn:

  • How to engage with the issues that matter most to you in your fiction without coming across as preachy or didactic
  • Strategies for engaging "big topics" in ways that feel artful and intimate
  • Strategies for touching on political and social issues in ways that matter, regardless of the focus of your novel

*Common problems in novels addressed by this module:

  • Lack of cohesion
  • Lack of depth

This section features a special guest interview with Aya de León, award-winning author of nine novels, including The Justice Hustlers series.

Section Two: Reflecting Reality

Writing historically marginalized characters with care and sensitivity isn't a matter of being "woke"—it's a matter of reflecting the reality of those characters' lived experience.

Moreover: Getting these things wrong in this day and age can keep you from getting published (which MIGHT just be preferable to the sort of backlash you'll face if you do…).

In Section Two of Story Medicine, you will learn:

  • How to write characters of races, cultures, and sexual orientations other than your own without falling into stereotypes, unconscious bias, or cultural appropriation
  • The critical role of power dynamics in fiction
  • Best practices for inclusive language

*Common problems in novels addressed by this module:

  • Sensitivity issues (race, culture, gender, orientation, etc.)

This section features a special guest interview with Suzanne Wertheim, author of The Inclusive Language Field Guide: 6 Simple Steps for Avoiding Painful Mistakes and Communicating Respectfully.

Section Three: Centering the Heart

The key to generating strong emotion in your reader is centering the truth of their emotional journey in your story. (It's also a key strategy for getting published, because, as more than one editor has put it, "you cry, you buy").

In Section Three of this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish a strong emotional connection with your reader from your very first page
  • How to maintain that connection, and deepen it, as the story unfolds
  • The key to an emotionally powerful climax

*Common issues in novels addressed by this module:

  • Emotional flatness
  • Pacing issues
  • Issues with plot

This section features a special guest interview with Jennie Nash, founder of the Author Accelerator book-coach certification program and author of seven books in three genres.

Section Four: Illuminating the Dark

Protagonists aren't all good, antagonists aren't all bad—and all of us, at some point, have been impacted by trauma.

Digging into that truth is the key to creating a sense of complex characterization in your characters, while leveling up both your craft and your social impact with your story.

In Section Four of this course, you will learn:

  • How to leverage the power of backstory to increase the sense of complexity in your main characters
  • The key role of your protagonist's past struggles in their internal journey
  • How to make your antagonists feel convincing and real by digging down to the level of their internal logic

*Common issues in novels addressed by this module:

  • Issues with characterization (lack of complexity, "relatability," etc.)
  • Agent feedback like "I'm just not in love with this story"

This section features a special guest interview with Reema Zaman, author of I Am Yours.

    Praise for Story Medicine

    "I registered for Story Medicine and I'm LOVING IT!!! In fact, I submitted a short story for an anthology. The story is very strong because of your course, and I'm proud of it."

    —K.A. Phillips

    “I thought the course was just terrific-- light-your-work-on-fire inspiring!”

    —J. Langdon

    “An invaluable how-to guide on conveying authentic emotion in fiction.”

    —A.S. Gunn

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

    —E. Rice

    Praise for Other Courses

    ~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

    "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

    "Can your story hold a reader’s attention for 300 pages? Even if you’re a terrific writer with a fabulous idea, probably not. What Susan has developed is as close as I’ve seen to the holy grail of a process for making that happen."

    —P. Kealey

    ~Being Scene~

    "This class is a revolution."

    —A. Burns

    "Sincerely, this has been the single best investment I’ve made in a craft class."

    —C. Wilcox

    "Thank you so much for how clearly you outline everything in these emails and on Teachable. Having the written material (and in a format that can be printed) as well as video and live lecture is super helpful. I’m finding the way you’ve organized all of the material very accessible for someone who normally struggles with the online format."

    —M. Clifton

    ~Voice and Vision~

    "Thank you so much for this class. It has been galvanizing for me, in many ways. I feel as though you've given me a map for revision. And I don't feel so overwhelmed - or solo - anymore."

    —L. Porter

    "Thank you so much for this, Susan. I've learned so so much from this course."

    - K. Saxby

    “This was a great class! I look forward to use what I've learned in future writing.”

    - A. Eberly

    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.

    “Thank you so much for Story Medicine! I got so much out of it.”

    - B. Necessary