Craft focus: novel plotting workshop (advanced)

Course Dates: 08/07/20 - 02/08/20
Time: 17:30 - 20:00
Location: Online

If you have made a start on your novel, but need help getting it into shape, this course provides a flexible template that will help you to overcome the obstacles ahead.

This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.


What is the course about?

This course is designed for students who have begun work on their novel, but need support to fashion their ideas into a coherent narrative that flows naturally from beginning to end. You'll be provided with a flexible template for plotting a novel, which will give you the structure you need without compromising your vision or personal style.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

- Creating and developing primary and secondary characters
- Mapping out a three-act structure so that your novel follows a natural course of beginning, middle and end
- Reading like a writer (with reference to specific case studies) and absorbing the lessons you need to improve your own writing
- How to shape, organise, and if necessary discard your ideas for the good of the novel as a whole
- Tightening the plot structure of the novel during the editing process.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Create effective primary and secondary characters
- Demonstrate an understanding of the basic principles of a novel’s story arc
- Apply these structures to your own writing to improve the flow of your story
- Confidently begin to revise your own material into a workable whole.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

For students who have been writing on their own and would like support. Ideally, you'll have attempted to produce a first draft (in part or whole) of a novel and now seek guidance and objectivity. As a minimum, you should have an idea and some initial notes for a novel you wish to write.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Weekly homework will be set. There is a short reading list. In class, there will be writing exercises individually and in groups; discussions of principles of plotting; analysis of published work; group debate in a positive, challenging environment; reading and writing assignments; assessment of the work of your peers. Students are expected to participate in classroom activities.

All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.

For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Please bring a pen and paper.

Reading list
The Hound of the Baskervilles by A C Doyle
Night Train by Martin Amis
The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

These books should be readily available from libraries.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You may be interested in our full length Novel writing course, or our two-term course How to write novels, which offers an in-depth syllabus and opportunities to workshop your writing in a supportive environment. When you're ready, you can progress to one of our advanced workshop and receive more feedback as you work towards publication.

All creative writing students are invited to join us at City Lit Talks Back, our monthly performance night. City Lit Talks Back is usually held at Waterstones, Tottenham Court Road. All are welcome, admission is free and there is no need to book in advance. Contact if you’re interested in reading your work. For more details, visit

Students are also encouraged to submit their work to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of stories, poems and scripts by City Lit writers. For more details, visit

Stay in touch with the Writing Department at and

Tutor Biographies
Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes is the author of three novels. He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review and has contributed to the Arts pages of The Lancet. He is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University. He is also the author of several full-cast audio dramas from Big Finish Productions, featuring characters from Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein and Doctor Who.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.

This course has now started

Course Code: HW274

Full Wed+Sun, eve, 08 Jul - 02 Aug '20

Duration: 8 sessions (over 4 weeks)

Full fee: £199.00
Senior fee: £199.00
Concession: £80.00

Call us to check if you can still join the course 020 7492 2717 (depart num)

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.