These prequels will help you plot better, narrate better, and stay on track during the drafting process.
"Not all good writers are good teachers, but Daniel David Wallace (a talented, thoughtful writer himself) is a terrific instructor. Even when leading a class with multiple participants, he gives each student individualized attention.
Daniel is attentive to plot, structure, character, and other high-level narrative elements, but you’ll appreciate his ability to zoom in closely on language and sentence-level concerns.
If you can take a class with him, do it!"
- Julia Brown, writer and editor
"With Daniel's scene instruction workshop, I was able to write more quickly and competently. He created a path for writing my chapters. Using his scene maps, I understood the scene I was crafting and how it functioned within the framework of my novel. I could focus on both the narrative and character arcs simultaneously.
I wish I had taken a class like this sooner. I would've been a better novelist and my short story production would've been much larger."
- John Vurro, short story writer and novelist
"About a year ago, I enrolled in my first course with you. Back then, I was so shy and insecure. I did the prompts but I just couldn’t bring myself up to share anything. Today I realized how far I have come. How much I have changed.
You gave me so much more than just writing advice, support, and encouragement. You didn’t just teach me to write better sentences. You boosted my confidence and gave me the courage to call myself a writer.
PS I love both “The ABC Plot” and “The Perfect First Stage.” It fits perfectly with my way of outlining and planning. It’s subtle enough to allow for spontaneous and natural occurring changes along the way, but gets down the essential and critical parts of the plot where you need it, and especially helps you tackle the beginning in great depth."
- Yuan Sigel, fantasy writer
If you write novels, you know that the absolute worst thing is getting stuck.
If you get stuck with a short poem or a short story, maybe you can just leave it and come back later.
Maybe you can just force yourself to stay in the chair and finish the piece through sheer willpower, even though you know it isn't any good.
But that simply doesn't work for a novel: you can't just take a shot of espresso (or bourbon) and write the remaining 40,000 words in one sitting. The work required is just too great.
And once you've spent a year or more researching and dreaming up your characters, you probably won't want to put the manuscript away at the first sign of trouble.
Because you love this story and want to finish it. You've told your friends about it. And you've already invested a huge amount of time.
But how do you move forward? How to escape the feeling that it... it isn’t good?
After all, this is what you love to do — write — and yet you’re not doing it. You're not making progress on your book.
Or you are making progress, slowly, but it feels like a frustrating struggle, and you wish you knew how to make the process work.
I know from my own writing career how miserable getting stuck can be. You can spend months (even years) not sure where to go next with the story. Or you can finish the draft, show it to your literary agent and mentors, and find that they don't quite love it.
And then you can spend months (even years) re-writing, trying to figure out what parts of the book need to be fixed, and what parts need to be kept.
This, by the way, is what happened with my first novel-project, The English Teacher. That novel was about an English woman in Taiwan, getting in trouble with business ventures and ghosts.
I loved the characters. So did my agent. But despite months of rewriting, we never got the story, the plot, or the conception of the book quite to where we thought it was ready. And when we finally sent it out to the big publishing houses, they rejected the manuscript.
In other words, I know that many people say that you should just keep writing, no matter what. “A writer writes” and so on. This certainly sounds good.
But my experience is that to just keep writing, when a story isn’t working, often doesn’t produce a better story. And yes, if you just keep writing, you will improve. However, it might take you years of “just writing” to figure out what you should have done, what changes you should have made, five years before.
What would it be worth to be able to plan out and plot a story that you knew would work, a plot outline that you could describe to your friends and they would get excited, ask to read it?You could spend this year (and the next) writing at a much more fluent, happier level.
"Daniel respected my work and vision on a profound level but also had a keen editorial eye and a stroke of literary genius that took everything I’d written to the next level.
Daniel was immensely patient, comforting, and encouraging -- is it weird that I think of him as my literary midwife? Because I totally do."
- Tawni Waters, I.L.A. award-winning author of Beauty of the Broken, The Long Ride Home, and Siren Song.
There are a lot of ways to get help with your book.
I should know: I've studied with great teachers.
I’ve done an MFA and a PhD in the art of fiction.
Even so, despite all that training, this is the course I always wanted: this is the course I wish I could have taken back when I was starting my novel-writing journey.
Let me be clear: I had amazing teachers and colleagues. I am still in awe of my classmates and mentors. But I don’t think our classes were set up to provide a full training in plotting a novel.
In most of those workshops, we brought in chapters of our novel drafts. We gave each other feedback on those chapters. And the instructor tried to sum up everyone's advice and give tips on how to write the rest of the book.
It was a fantastic learning experience. But it wasn't really what I wanted, nor what most of my classmates needed.
The problem was this: it left the actual "writing" part of "writing a book" largely up to the student. The deal with the class was this: you produce the work, we will critique.
And there was a good side to this: the teacher let the student work guide each session. Everyone was free to submit whatever they wanted.
However, this approach had a serious downside.
It left the work of producing a good story something of a mystery.
The problem was, I wanted a class that taught me about writing.
How do I invent a story? How do I build tension? How do I learn how to make good decisions and avoid pitfalls?
How do I figure out what should be in my book and what was excessive, unnecessary?
"Daniel was as good an editor as one could ever wish for. In fact, he went way over what I expected, suggesting small revisions and cuts, helping me organize my book... I don't know how he was able to give me so much time and attention, but he did, and I am grateful. Daniel has a good eye and a very good ear."
- Bill Buege, author of Stumble into a Lighted Room
Hi! I'm Daniel. I help writers of all levels plan, draft, and revise their novels. I create simple, easy-to-implement techniques that help you master the craft of fiction.
This is the benefit of being a professional writing coach and a PhD researcher: I take complex ideas and present them in their clearest, most essential form. Thousands of writers have signed up for my free courses on style, plotting, and finding one's voice.
I'm a British writer living in Tennessee with three dogs, a cat, my brilliant wife, my very lively two-year-old son, and a Honda Odyssey mini-van.
My stories and essays have been published in many literary journals. I am the editor in chief of Burlesque Press, and I've co-hosted writing conferences such The Hands On Literary Festival in New Orleans and the Young Writers conference in Knoxville.
"Daniel truly has a gift. He’s one of the most patient and encouraging teachers I’ve had. He gives the type of feedback that energizes rather than discourages, the kind that makes you feel like you can rebuild your novel—and rebuild it stronger.
I came away from this course not only with an incredibly detailed novel plan but also the lifelong skills to talk about how and why stories work. I feel empowered to plan many more stories going forward."
- Allison Saft, YA author