Write Your Best Fiction and Get It Published
4.5 (25 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
178 students enrolled

Write Your Best Fiction and Get It Published

Learn the 10 essentials of fiction-writing mastery from a world-class teacher and Writer's Digest fiction expert
4.5 (25 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
178 students enrolled
Created by Jeff Gerke
Last updated 10/2016
English [Auto-generated]
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 7.5 hours on-demand video
  • 15 articles
  • 4 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Capture the ultimate story idea
  • Expand it into a story plan
  • Choose, create, and fully develop the main characters
  • Craft a brilliant inner journey for the hero
  • Examine that inner journey to find the story's theme
  • Find the perfect three act structure to externalize the inner journey
  • Select the perfect villain, setting, era, and backdrop to illustrate the theme
  • Master the craft: show vs. tell, point of view, dialogue, and description
  • Revise the rough draft into something that's ready for prime time
  • Understand the publishing process--the steps, the functions, and the power
  • Construct a brilliant fiction proposal that will wow agents and editors
  • Come with your dreams of the stories that must be written

It's your dream to write fiction and to write it to the best of your ability. 

Perhaps you've started and stopped a hundred times and can't seem to see these through to the finish. Possibly you have great ideas for characters but can't seem to find their story. Or maybe you've got the story, but your characters feel flat to you. Maybe you have completed manuscripts on your hard drive but haven't been able to break into publishing yet. 

I'm here to help you achieve your dream. 

For more than twenty years, I've been traveling the nation and the world teaching writers just like you how to put together excellent works of fiction, whether they be novels, short stories, or even screenplays. 

And my five fiction craftsmanship books for Writer's Digest have been successfully used by writers all over the world and in any genre you can imagine.

Fiction Academy is an eight-hour, 34-video download of my best teaching on writing fiction. We start with the kernel of an idea, flesh it out into characters and story structure, write the thing with skillful craftsmanship, and pave the way to publication. 

With my encouraging manner and humorous style, this series will leave you feeling equipped and motivated to not only write your stories but to do so at a higher level than you've ever before achieved.

Your dreams of fiction success lie inside Fiction Academy. Start your journey today.

Who this course is for:
  • Ideal for novelists at every phase of the writing and publishing journey
  • Aspiring authors who want to understand the full process of writing and publishing
  • Experienced fiction writers wanting to take their writing to the next level
  • Seasoned veteran novelists wanting to learn from a world-class Writer's Digest instructor
  • Not for the faint-hearted--writing long fiction will eat your lunch if you're not determined
Course content
Expand all 45 lectures 07:39:27
+ Fiction Academy Prep Skills: Planning Your Novel
16 lectures 02:45:33
Capture Your Story Idea and Begin To Turn It Into a Book

An exercise to put this material into practice.

Exercise: Develop Your Idea

In Part 1, you'll learn how to choose a core temperament for your main character. This is what will make each of your characters realistic and distinct from one another.

Once you pick your character's temperament, you'll learn:

  • The difference between plot-first and character-first novelists
  • How to add layers of customization to the core temperament
  • Create your main character "in a bottle," independent of how s/he is in any specific story

Special bonus: Enjoy "CharPick," Jeff's software utility that instantly creates minor characters for your fiction (Windows PC only)

Choose and Create Your Main Characters (Part 1)

In Part 2, you'll learn how to build your characters, layer by layer, over the core temperament. This is how you make each character distinctive even within his or her temperament. For example, an INTJ character who grew up in a wealthy British home will seem very different, even if the same at the core, from an INTJ who grew up in the trailer parks of Kentucky.

Master this for each character:

  • Physical characteristics
  • Internal attributes: birth order, aptitudes and gifts, religious zeal, love languages, etc.
  • Major life events/culture: divorce of parents, adoption, Italian or Jewish culture, etc.
  • What is likable and/or heroic about this character (even the villain)?
  • Impression management
  • The perception of others 

Special bonus: Enjoy Jeff's interactive character-creation system, "Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist," a $15 value.

Choose and Create Your Main Characters (Part 2)

In Part 3, you'll master the character's voice, which is the final culmination of this person's temperament, life events, culture, intelligence, and everything else.

The crown of your process is to synthesize these elements in the graduation exercises provided in the video. When these are done, you're ready to bring this character onstage for your story.

Choose and Create Your Main Characters (Part 3)
Exercises: Create a Character

Fiction is about someone who changes. Watching a person go through some difficult series of events and come through it changed is one of the main reasons we come to fiction in the first place. 

In Part 1, you'll gain an overview of the inner journey and you'll learn how to choose the main character's "knot," the problem that is hurting him and that the whole story has come along to make him deal with.

Preview 15:54

The culmination of your hero's inner journey is his or her moment of truth.

In Part 2, you'll:

  • Decide what your hero's moment of truth will look like, given that knot
  • Explore classic moments of truth: Darth Vader, Frodo, and more
  • Learn the first phase of the inner journey: the initial state
  • Come up with the inciting event that sends the hero on this inner journey in the first place
Craft a Master Inner Journey of Transformation for Your Hero (Part 2)

Part 3 culminates the inner journey and brings it all together. The focus this time is the escalation, the heart of the inner journey, and bringing the journey to a brilliant conclusion.

People don't change until it hurts too much to stay the same, so in the escalation phase of the inner journey, you'll bring the pain.

In Part 3, you'll also:

  • Climax the escalation phase by finalizing what you'll do in the moment of truth
  • Craft the last step in the inner journey: the final state
  • Learn what percentage of the entire plot is, in fact, the hero's inner journey
Craft a Master Inner Journey of Transformation for Your Hero (Part 3)
Exercise: The Inner Journey

A novel does not consist only of a protagonist and plot points. There are other tools and topics to take advantage of. 

You've got your main character ready, but into what sort of story are you going to put that person? 

In Part 1, you'll take hold of these ingredients that go into the stew for your plot:

  • Genre
  • Era
  • Setting
  • Social backdrop

You'll explore ideas beyond your original thought, until you find the one that best amplifies the hero's inner journey.

The Stew for Your Plot--Part 1

In Part 2, you'll learn how to take advantage of these ingredients for your plot stew:

  • Villain or obstacle
  • Stakes—the OR-ELSE factor
  • The ticking time-bomb
  • Theme (hint: It's the thing your hero is dealing with in his or her inner journey)
  • Crafting the scene in which you bring your hero onstage the first time.

The Stew for Your Plot--Part 2
Exercises: Pick the Ingredients for Your Stew

There's a single process you can do to make sure your story feels satisfying to the reader, hits all the waypoints a story needs, and moves to a thrilling conclusion. It's called three-act structure.

In Part 1, you'll learn: 

  • What Act 2 is all about and how, once you understand it, Acts 1 and 3 are instantly made clear
  • The purpose and power of Act 1
  • The four conditions that must be met in Act 1 before you can move to Act 2, the heart of your story
  • What to include in Act 2

Special bonus: Get your free copy of Jeff's plot-creation resource, "How To Find Your Story," a $15 value!

The Heart of Your Story: Mastering Three Act Structure (Prat 1)

In Part 2, you'll learn the components of a powerful Act 3. You'll identify the four components of Act 3 and learn how to bring your story to a thrilling conclusion.

The Heart of Your Story: Mastering Three Act Structure (Prat 2)
Exercise: Find Your Three-Act Structure
+ Fiction Academy: Master Level Classes
15 lectures 02:39:58

Possibly the single greatest aspect of fiction craftsmanship that will make your novel either publishable and powerful or unpublishable and ineffective is show vs. tell. You've heard teachers say show, don't tell, but my guess is you've never heard it explained this well or in a way that gives you this much success in actually applying it to your own fiction.

You'll learn:

  • The most useful definition of telling you've ever heard
  • Why showing trumps telling hands down
  • How to think with the showing part of your brain
  • How to make your reader lean forward and engage with your story
Don't Narrate--Illustrate! Finally Understanding Show vs. Tell (Part 4)

In Part 2, you'll gain:

  • The power of thinking of yourself not as a storyteller but as a filmmaker
  • The categories of telling
  • A powerful illustration for understanding what telling does to the reader
  • The understanding of whether description counts as telling or showing
  • And the ultimate secret weapon in knowing whether something is showing or telling
Don't Narrate--Illustrate! Finally Understanding Show vs. Tell (Part 1)

Once you understand what telling is and what it does, it's time to start figuring out how to spot it in your own fiction and in the fiction of others.

Part 3 is chock full of exercises that will give you mastery over this uber-important aspect of fiction craftsmanship.

You'll learn:

  • How to paint with the broader brush of showing
  • How not to try to convert telling to showing
  • What impact telling has on your story
  • And how to drop clues that keep the reader engaged and never, ever bored in your story
  • The power of action, scene, and dialogue to truly convert telling to showing
Don't Narrate--Illustrate! Finally Understanding Show vs. Tell (Part 2)

Part 4 reveals:

  • The dumb puppet trick
  • The power of the argument between characters
  • And the two conditions that can be met before readers can bear a bit of telling
Don't Narrate--Illustrate! Finally Understanding Show vs. Tell (Part 3)
Exercises: Show vs. Tell

Ponit of view (POV) refers to whose eyes we're seeing the story through. 

In Part 1, you'll learn:

  • The advantages and disadvantages of first-person POV
  • How to restrict yourself to one head per scene
  • The advantages and disadvantages of omniscient POV
  • The bizarre characteristics of second-person POV
That's One Point of View--Mastering POV (Part 1)

Point of view errors are one of the leading reasons agents and editors reject fiction manuscripts. Let's make sure that doesn't happen to you.

In Part 2, you'll learn: 

  • How and why to use third-person POV 
  • The power of the periscope
  • What things the reader can have access to in the mind of the viewpoint character
That's One Point of View--Mastering POV (Part 2)
Exercise: Point of View

Some agents and editors skip everything in your proposal and go straight to some dialogue passage in your sample chapters. If it's not fantastic, that may be the end of your opportunity.

In Part 1, you'll learn the four secrets of great dialogue. Great dialogue is:

  • realistic
  • layered
  • right for the character
  • right for the momen
He Said/She Said--Verisimilitude in Dialogue (Part 1)

Dialogue is where your strengths as a novelist will show. To make your dialogue great:

  • Read it out loud, preferably with others listening
  • Stick to "said" and "asked" most of the time
  • Use beats in place of some speech attributions
  • Keep your characters' dialogue and actions in dialogue silos

In Part 2, you'll learn these and more tips to maximize your dialogue's potential.

He Said/She Said--Excellence in Dialogue (Part 2)
Exercises: Dialogue

The central goal of any artist is to take the vision he had in his mind and use some medium--music, oil paints, dance, or fiction--to cause the same vision to be received in the mind of the audience. When it comes to fiction, your primary tool to make this happen is description.

Part 1 hits these points: 

  • Schools of thought in description
  • Is description a form of telling?
  • When should description come for a setting? For a character?
  • You probably don't include enough description
Picture This--Description That Paints Your Story (Part 1)

When you have any major scene, the reader needs to be able to picture it. For those scenes, you need to give "the full workup" to describe the setting.

The components of the full workup description for a setting are:

  • Generic descriptor
  • Establishing shot
  • Comparison
  • Lighting and weather
  • The full sensory sweep
  • Telling details
  • Placing the players on the stage
Picture This--Description That Paints Your Story (Part 2)

In Part 3, we cover some terrific exercises to improve your description:

  • Using vocabulary in your descriptions to set mood
  • Avoiding "generic narrator voice"
  • Understanding deep POV and how it impacts description
  • Descriptions in speculative fiction
Picture This--Description That Paints Your Story (Part 3)
Exercises: Description
+ Fiction Academy: Postgraduate Work
12 lectures 02:10:33

Anyone can start a novel, but it takes a real man or a real woman to actually finish one. Even the most seasoned novelists sometimes lose momentum halfway through. 

Here are some top tips to see the thing through to "The End":

  • Finding your balance between outlining and discovering
  • Set wordcount goals and rewards
  • WriteOrDie.com
  • Your to-do list to accomplish in any scene
  • Two reasons not to have for wanting to write a novel

Special bonus: Read Jeff's humorous piece, "The Horrific But True Phases of Writing a Novel."

Finish and Revise the Book (Part 1)

In Part 2, we'll cover the reasons to write a novel.

And once you've finished it, use these resources to perfect it:

  • Use beta readers
  • Find a critique partner
  • Join a critique group
  • Access articles and books on great fiction writing
  • Watch online training courses like this one
  • Go to writers' conferences
  • Hire a freelance editor (like Jeff!)
Finish and Revise the Book (Part 2)
Exercises: Finishing and Revising

For most people, publishing companies can seem like mysterious black boxes. They seem to make decisions according to no logic the outsider can discern. This can be frustrating to the writer trying to break in.

Conversely, understanding what goes on inside publishing houses can not only bring insight to the author but also give strategies for how to help those poor souls inside the publishing companies better do what it is they're trying to do.

To shine light into these black boxes, we'll cover the steps that a book goes through on its way to publication:

  • The author writes the novel
  • The author gets an agent
  • The agent presents the proposal to the acquisitions editor
  • The editor presents it to the editorial committee
  • Someone presents it to the publishing committee
  • The contract is hashed out, presented, negotiated, and signed
  • The first advance check arrives
Understanding the Publishing Process (Part 1)

The book then goes on the production schedule, and that's when the full publishing company is mobilized around this new title they're producing.

While many other things are happening simultaneously, the edit is going on:

  • The editor makes his or her first pass through the manuscript
  • The author is sent that edit and asked to make revisions
  • The editor does another pass, this time on the revised version
  • The editor hands the book off to the copyeditor
  • Meanwhile, the cover design process begins
Understanding the Publishing Process (Part 2)

Simultaneously with and/or following the edit, the publishing house's other departments are working on their own aspects of the book's development:

  • The marketing department develops a marketing and publicity plan and writes catalogue copy
  • The sales department learns how best to sell the book to bookstores
  • The production department finds the best arrangements for printing, shipping, and distributing the book
  • The finance department tracks costs and money owed to the author

Publishing houses are like any other company in the sense that they need to make money. They're like a factory, in that they move a "widget" (in this case, your book) through the whole production line in order to bring it to market. And they're like any other business in the sense that they're full of good but fallible people trying their best and making decisions that, if you were in their shoes, you'd probably make in exactly the same way.

Understanding the Publishing Process (Part 3)
Exercise: Understanding the Publishing Process

Before we get into what exactly goes into a great fiction proposal, we'll cover how a proposal is used within publishing companies and what mindset you therefore need to have as you prepare yours.

In Part 1, you'll learn:

  • What the purpose of a proposal is
  • Whether or not it's important to have a finished manuscript before pitching your novel
  • Who the "customer" is
  • How a literary agent fits into it all
  • What's going on inside the mind of an agent
  • What's going on inside the mind of an acquisitions editor
  • What an agent or editor is looking for.
Create a Killer Fiction Proposal (Part 1)

With all that understood, it's time to look at what goes into a killer fiction proposal.

In Part 2, we'll cover:

  • Front matter
  • Sample chapters
  • Formatting do's and don'ts
  • Wordcount tells no lies
  • What to (and not to) put into your bio
  • Simultaneous submissions
Create a Killer Fiction Proposal (Part 2)

In Part 3, you'll master:

  • How to get a handle on describing your story (hint: It's a different skill set from writing the book!)
  • Writing the synopsis
  • The sundry elements of a proposal
  • Why you include the first ~50 pages of the book and nothing more or less.
Create a Killer Fiction Proposal (Part 3)
Exercise: Creating a Killer Fiction Proposal
Indie, Hybrids, and E-Books--The Publishing Revolution We Find Ourselves In