EdX: Write Your Novel


Have you always wanted to write a novel? Have you started a novel only to run out of steam halfway through? Created by Annabel Lyon & Nancy Lee, international best-selling authors and professors from UBC’s world-renowned Creative Writing MFA program, this series of six week non-credit online courses is designed to take your novel from concept to completion.

Designed on Harvard and MIT’s innovative edX learning platform, these non-credit courses are open to anyone and run several times per year.

Structure & Outline

Next offered: Spring 2019 – $295 USD

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 feedback and discussion with fellow writers.

In the tradition of the UBC MFA program, this course draws on the work habits of established authors to help writers move quickly toward creating a blueprint for a successful draft. Whether you’re seeking literary fame or working on a project to share with family and friends, this course offers the tools and skills necessary to plan a novel others will be excited to read.

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

Find out more at edX 

Writing the Draft

Next offered: October 23, 2018 – $295 USD

While ideas and inspiration are often enough to ignite interest in writing a novel, writers can quickly lose confidence, especially when their best efforts have inadvertently produced flat characters, waning conflicts, tangled plots and weak dialogue. Reaching your goal of writing (and perhaps, publishing) a novel requires an understanding of fiction’s deeper mechanics and a familiarity with the specific craft elements that will help translate your creativity and imagination into compelling paragraphs, scenes and chapters.

Through writing exercises aimed at developing new skills, concrete examples from published novels, feedback and 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.

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 pit-falls, together with humor and insight, I now have the means to finish my novel. — Wendy Jensen

Find out more at edX (Enrolment open now)

Edit & Revise

Next run: January 2019 / $295 USD

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.

Do you have a complete rough draft of a novel? Do you know it needs more work, but are unsure what to do next? Bestselling authors and professors from The University of British Columbia’s renowned MFA program will guide you through a rigorous self-editing and revision process, a stage of manuscript development all successful writers undertake. Learn the necessary skills to polish your novel and better position you in today’s highly competitive and fast-moving publishing marketplace.

In this course we’ll 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.

Find out More at edX 

Course availability

We will be running courses twice each year, on average, with more subjects to come in future years.


Email Andrew Gray at andrew.gray@ubc.ca


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About the faculty

Nancy-headshot-sq Nancy Lee is an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at UBC. She is the author of the novel The Age and the collection of short fiction, Dead Girls, which won multiple book of the year awards. Her work has been published in seven countries.

annabel-headshot-sqAnnabel Lyon is an Associate Professor in Creative Writing at UBC. She is the author of the novel The Golden Mean, an international bestseller which was translated into fourteen languages, as well as seven other books.


About edX

edx_logo_finalEdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.

EdX was created for students and institutions that seek to transform themselves through cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy, and rigorous courses.

Through  institutional partners, the xConsortium, along with other leading global members, edX presents the best of higher education online, offering opportunity to anyone who wants to achieve, thrive, and grow. Find out more on their website: https://www.edx.org/