How to Write a Novel

Take your novel from concept to completion with this series of non-credit online courses created by UBC Creative Writing professors Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee.

Hosted on Harvard and MIT’s innovative edX learning platform, these three courses are open to anyone. They’re not writing workshops – instead they are focused, craft-based courses aimed at giving you the tools to take your novel from an idea to a finished book.

Course Length: Six weeks each.
Cost: $400 CDN (approx) / $295 USD.
Schedule: Courses held twice a year in spring and fall, with the exception of “Edit & Revise” which is currently held each January.

Course 1: Structure & Outline

Learn the fundamentals of story structure complete a detailed, scene-by-scene outline of your novel idea.


Outlining is a crucial step in the novel writing process, one that fuels creativity and prepares the writer to stay on track and avoid common pitfalls.

Through hands-on weekly exercises with a focus on craft and process, as well as insights from the real-world practices of accomplished authors, this course explores the core elements of fiction writing necessary to build an outline. You will learn the fundamentals of character development, world-building and the basics of storytelling architecture. You’ll work intensively on your own creative project and hone your outline through targeted assignments and discussion with fellow writers.

Content goes here

This course was entirely successful in getting me to develop my ideas into a full scene-by-scene outline which I am now using to write the first draft of a novel. I am particularly thankful for the instruction on structure, detailing of major turning points in a classic three-act plot, and advice on creating and sticking to a writing plan.

Blake Fitzgerald

Course 2: Writing the Draft

Move from outline to draft writing with crucial craft lessons on scene design, dialogue, character development and plot.


The essential fiction craft toolbox for writers struggling with the common hurdles of first drafts.

Through writing exercises aimed at developing new skills, concrete examples from published novels, discussion with fellow writers and opportunities to identify and strengthen weaknesses in their own projects, learners will broaden their knowledge of fiction craft as they explore creating memorable characters, the art of scene design, tactics for managing unwieldy plots and steps for writing layered and meaningful dialogue.

Whether you’re beginning your novel draft or nearing the end, this course is a unique opportunity to learn the essentials of strong fiction writing from award-winning authors sharing their proven methods and approaches.

Content goes here

My writing has been jump-started by this course. I was worried about being able to bring my story to fruition, and now I know why! With the tools provided, and Nancy and Annabel’s gentle exploration of various pitfalls, together with humor and insight, I now have the means to finish my novel.

Wendy Jensen

Course 3: Edit & Revise

Discover story analysis strategies and rewriting tools, develop a concrete plan for creating a more accomplished draft and explore what it takes to attract agents, editors and readers.


Experienced writers understand that novels improve incrementally with each draft. This course teaches the skills of revision and the attention to detail it takes to make a good story great.

Explore the editorial process from macro to micro. From a far-reaching analysis of the three journeys every novel must take–internal, external, aesthetic–to a tight focus on the rigorous choices associated with prose style, learners will hone critical skills and develop a rewriting plan tailored to the needs of their individual projects.

Through self-evaluation and discussion with fellow writers, learners will build an autonomous writing practice and discover a community of peers familiar with the challenges and aspirations of novel writing.

Content goes here

Before doing the course I had a manuscript that I had worked on for years, it had no structure and I had paid to have it edited, yet it was going nowhere. It was a disaster and an expensive one at that! After the three courses I found myself with a decent manuscript that was well edited and elicited a publishing offer.

Jane Ryan
Author of Forty-Seven Seconds
On this page