Writing That Moves: Write Novels That Keep Pages Turning
4.3 (297 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.
3,041 students enrolled

Writing That Moves: Write Novels That Keep Pages Turning

Write novels with compelling plots. This writing course, on fiction writing, shows how to plot books that hook readers
4.3 (297 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.
3,040 students enrolled
Created by Sally Apokedak
Last updated 11/2017
English, Indonesian [Auto-generated], 3 more
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Current price: $12.99 Original price: $19.99 Discount: 35% off
8 hours left at this price!
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This course includes
  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 16 articles
  • 11 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Assignments
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Master seven important plot elements of commercially successful novels.
  • Plan new novels with plots that will keep readers engaged and turning pages.
  • Enhance your literary novels with plots that will make agents stop saying, "This story is a little too quiet for my list."
  • Please note that your experience will be enhanced if you join Sally's Facebook group for Udemy students. There are lots of warm, helpful writers in the group. Also, Sally has office hours there a few times a month.
  • If you are in my high concept course, much of this info overlaps. Please be aware that the section on short hooks is repeated in its entirety in the high concept course.

Writing Fiction that Moves: Write page-turning novels by learning to write compelling plots!

In this course on plotting, you'll learn to write compelling short hooks for your query letters, and you'll learn how to plot a satisfying story that takes a character from point A to point B while keeping readers eagerly turning pages all the way.

If you're unpublished and having a hard time breaking in or if you're published but having a hard time breaking out, this course should help you.

You'll also be able to ask Sally questions in the course or on the companion Facebook page where she keeps office hours a couple of times a month.  

Sally has over 3000 satisfied students on Udemy. Join those happy students by joining this course. (oh, OK, there are a couple of disgruntled folks in that lot--you can't please all the people all the time. Thank God for money-back guarantees!) 

Is this course for you?

  • If you have been trying to figure out how some writers are able to come up with plots that hook readers and keep them turning pages, this course is for you.
  • If you’ve sold  your first book to publisher but you're not sure how you did it and your agent keeps kicking back the new books you’re sending her, then this course is for you.
  • If you are a literary novelist you will scoff at this course, but you may be the one to get the most out of it because literary novelists are often great at character and voice and mood, but a little less great at writing page-turning novels with compelling  plots.

But . . .

  • If you’ve already read The Hero’s Journey and if you understand the three-act structure and if you’ve read a lot of books on plot, this course may not be for you. Sally has put this course together as an answer to the submissions she sees that aren't working, so if you’ve been to a lot of classes already, her plot ideas here will probably not be new to you. They still might help you identify weakness you haven't previously noticed in your own manuscripts, though.

WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING about Sally's courses?

  • . . .  I found the instructor's examples easy to follow, and I felt very engaged with the subject. Great course!  ~Geoff, (Udemy student)
  • We had so many wonderful comments about you and your class on our evaluations. We hope you'll be able to join us again next summer. . . .  ~Lindy Jacobs (OCW Summer Conference Director)
  • Sally's comments were specific and very helpful. It is such a gift to have a professional agent share how my pitch would be received. Sally is an oasis on the long, dry journey from writer to published author. Go ahead give her a try. You won't be disappointed. ~Maureen (Fiverr customer)
  • Not like any course I've taken. Sally teaches in her own unique way and it works! At first, I was taken aback, but the wealth of information kept me moving through and I'm glad I did.  . . . ~Curtis (Udemy student)
  • Thank you for your incredible class. It was a valuable, valuable learning experience. . . . ~Kimberly (Women on Writing student)
  • Thank you so much. I got a lot out of the class and it gave me a lot to think about. I'm grateful for all the feedback. . . .   ~Christie (Women on Writing student)
  • Thank you so much for your feedback . . . throughout the course. I appreciated how much you know about this field and your willingness to share your expertise.  ~Sandy (Women on Writing student)
  • Here's the thing about Sally: she's going to be honest and direct with you. As a writer, that's EXACTLY what you want. Each time I've worked with her, Sally has quickly spotted my story's flaws -- and provided multiple suggestions to make it a stronger piece. Excellent, as always!  ~Barbie (Fiverr customer)
  • This course is packed with practical advice from a professional agent. She knows what she's talking about. I see, now, what to look for when editing my manuscript. The added bonus of her laugh out loud examples made the time fly by. If you are a serious writer of fiction, you will do yourself a favor and take this course. There is too much information do take in in one sitting.  ~Kathleen (Udemy student)

And because Sally likes to be fair and balanced . . . 

  • While I'm sure this woman is a great writer and great editor, I, unfortunately, didn't find her to be a very good teacher. There was a lot of "look at this example of writing. See how crappy it is? Don't write crappy like this!" *insert slap on the wrist. But there was no depth. Nothing you couldn't learn in Creative Writing 101, which is possibly the point. ~ Britt (Udemy student)

And last, but not least, this gal who really hated one course so much that she left a half-star rating. She perhaps did not see the irony in her remark about the course, which was, simply

  • Too shallow.  -Mary (Udemy student)

Come on in if you dare. Step up. Invest in your dream. And in the end, if you hate the course, there is a 30-day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee. And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things will be well. 

What this course promises:

If you do all the exercises, you'll finish the course with a novel completely plotted. You'll also get a simple template to follow for writing your short hooks and you'll come away understanding what elements go into some of the most compelling plots. We'll cover:

  1. the normal life of the character
  2. the inciting incident
  3. the character's acceptance of the call to action
  4. the character trying and failing and trying and failing
  5. the dark night of the soul
  6. the climax
  7. the denouement

What this course does not promise:

  • that it will be fast and easy
  • that you will get a book contract at the end of the course
  • that you will actually write an interesting book (It depends on how hard you are willing to work at it)

Some questions this course answers:

  • What is one of the top reasons agents reject manuscripts?
  • How do I plot a commercial novel?
  • What are some plot elements that many bestselling novels have in common?
  • Where should I start my story?
  • What does it mean when agents say my book is too quiet?    
Who this course is for:
  • If you are in my high concept course, much of this info overlaps. Please be aware that the section on short hooks is repeated in its entirety in the high concept course.
  • beginners who don’t know where to start
  • intermediate writers who have trouble plotting
  • NaNo writers who want to go in with a novel that is already plotted
  • if you have studied the three-act structure and the hero's journey this course is not necessary for you unless you just want some reminders
Course content
Expand all 33 lectures 01:33:08
+ Introduction
5 lectures 08:19

This course will help you come up with a plot that contains elements that are found in many commercially successful novels, which, in turn, will help you do away with writer's block. It also should give you a better chance of selling your novel when you're done writing it because 1) you'll probably write a better novel after taking this course and 2) you should have a compelling short hook ready to go.

When you are done with this course, if you've done all the exercises, you will have a short hook and a solid plan for the novel, and you will be ready to write the book.

Whether you will write a compelling book or not, I can't say. That will depend largely on your imagination and your work ethic. 

Preview 02:16

What is the one element all good books have? I'll give you a clue: It starts with C and ends with T and has onflic in the middle. But what are the three parts that make up a conflict? If you can find a bestselling book that is missing one of these three parts, I'll give you a prize.

Take the challenge

Take a moment to tell me, in the Q and A section, which books you chose.

Your Turn: which books did you choose?

A quick outline of this course on plotting novels, and a short plea to ask you to join our writing community. 

Preview 02:32

Several ways to get help if you need it, and instructions for joining in the Facebook community for this Udemy course on novel writing. 

Preview 01:16
+ Two-Sentence Summaries
7 lectures 22:13

In this section of the course, you will work on your short hooks, which means you will come up with a character in conflict and you will add rising stakes.

The hook

First you need a character with a strong sense of self and a strong desire. 

Character (aka: the damsel)

Conflict happens when your character wants something she can't have. The stronger your character's desire, the bigger the conflict when she meets an obstacle she can't get around. 

Preview 05:45

Who is your character at her core, what does she want in this book, and what is standing in her way? 

Your Turn: what does your character want in this book?

Add in some tension to your two-sentence hook. 

Stakes: when the clock strikes midnight or the last petal falls

Some of the terms I use are fluid. Some of the lectures I give bleed over into one another. For instance, a character's core identity and her core desire are pretty closely related. Katniss Everdeen's core identity is "protector" and her core desire is to "protect her sister, Prim." 

This short article on "defining terms" should help to clear up any misunderstandings I've created by allowing concepts to bleed over into one another. 

Defining Terms

Write your pitch. 

Your turn: Write a two-sentence summary for your novel
+ The Beginning
8 lectures 24:21

There are three elements of a plot that you will write into the beginning pages of your novel. In this section you will discover what a day in the ordinary life of you character looks like, you will experiment with inciting incidents and choose the best one, and you will make your character stand up and fight back. 

In the Beginning

We need to know a character before we can love and root for a character. Here you will work on your protagonist's normal life. Even if your character lives in a sunny world and life is good (and therefore seems boring), you must resist the urge to jump right into trouble. 

Plot element #1.1: life is good! (It's a normal day in the life)

Sometimes your character lives in a harsh place. That's fine. You still need to show the daily life and let us know and love the character, before the inciting incident hits.

Plot Element 1.2: or . . . Life is bad! (But it's still a normal day.)

Plot out the scenes that will show your character's daily life, whether she is in a good place or a bad place, when the book opens. 

Your turn: introduce your world and your character

Your character is hit with something that tips her life over. Things get bad, all of a sudden. This is an incident that comes in fast and shakes her and makes her react.

Plot element #2: Life is the pits! (Complicate life with an inciting incident)

Look at your character's core identity and her strong desire to learn what incident can come at her and threaten her.

Your turn: What's your inciting incident?

You cannot have a whiner. Your character must fight back. 

Plot element #3: I'm gonna kick life's rear! (Accepting the call to adventure)

Imagine the scene where your character decides to fight back. 

Your turn: What's the plan, Stan?
+ The Middle
4 lectures 15:37

In this part of the story your character will try and fail, try and fail, try and fail, over and over and over again.

That Muddy Middle

Your protagonist has set off on an adventure. She's decided to fight back. Now you need to plot scenes where everything she does backfires. 

Plot element #4.1: Life kicks my rear--over and over and over as I try and fail.

Write novels that will keep readers skimming through the middle by making sure the character is moving toward the goal, but meeting defeat at every turn.

Plot element #4.2: I kick my own rear--over and over and over as I try and fail

We're looking at goals, action, and resolution for each scene. 

Your turn: Give me 50 sentences for 50 scenes
+ The End
8 lectures 21:07

In this section you get the last three elements--the dark night of the soul (and the choice that often follows that dark night), the climax, and the dénouement.

The best is yet to come

Yes, dear writer, you must be brutal here. You must plan a scene that will break your character's heart. 

Plot element #5: Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Imagine the scene. Get in touch with your protagonist's sense of despair. 

Your turn: Write a page to tell into which dungeon the character has plunged

Your book can be that much more gripping and that much more satisfying if the protagonist faces an awful choice and makes a great sacrifice. 

Plot element #5a: The sacrificial lamb

See if you can give your character an awful moment of decision where he has to choose between two good options. 

Your turn: Does your character face a hard choice? Does he make a sacrifice?

The last battle.

Plot element #6: I did, I did, I did kick life's rear!

Imagine this battle. Is your character able to win? Is she motivated to do whatever it takes?

Your turn: How does your character win?

In which we happily let the character end the story at a level that is better than the good level where he started. 

Plot element #7: Life is good!
+ The Junk Trunk
1 lecture 01:29

Here you'll find articles of interest, links . . . courses and coupons and discounts and deals and all manner of sale's pitches, offers, negotiations, and regurgitations. 

Bonus Lecture: Coupons for courses and warm woolen mittens