How to Write a Novel: Writing the Draft


Move from outline to draft writing with crucial craft lessons on scene design, dialogue, character development and plot. Take our six-week online course with international bestselling novelists, Annabel Lyon and Nancy Lee.

5starsMy 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.

About this course

Have you created an outline and now feel prepared to start writing your novel? Or have you started a novel draft only to find your interest or confidence waning?

In this course, we introduce 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, 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.

What you’ll learn

  • The elements of complex, dimensional characters
  • How to craft believable dramatic dialogue
  • Tactics for managing complicated plots
  • The demands of high emotional stakes from scene level to story level
  • Strategies for seeing your draft through to completion

View Course Syllabus (PDF)

What is it like to take the course?

You’ll learn at your own pace, in a user-friendly online environment. Each week, course material is made available in the form of video lessons created by UBC Creative Writing Professors Annabel Lyon & Nancy Lee, along with readings, video interviews with other authors, assignments and the opportunity to discuss your work with the other learners in the class.

Our instructors will hold office hours once a week during a Google Hangout video broadcast where they’ll answer student questions submitted in advance or live during the broadcast. Broadcasts are archived, and can be watched live or afterwards, depending on your schedule.

Sample video lesson: From “The Active/Passive Time-line” in week two of the course. Nancy Lee describes how to troubleshoot an overly passive character.

Sample interview: Paula Hawkins

In this interview, Paula Hawkins, author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Girl on the Train, talks to Nancy & Annabel about the difficulty of endings for a thriller writer.


Do I need to complete “How to Write a Novel: Structure and Outline” to take this course?

No. As long as you are in the process of writing a novel, this course will be valuable to you. Of course, we strongly recommend starting with an outline, as your novel writing process will be much more efficient, but it’s not required.

Is this course related to an existing UBC writing class? 

This is an entirely new course, created by instructors with years of experience teaching the art of fiction writing to undergraduate and graduate university students as well as members of the community.

What are the other courses in the series?

How to Write a Novel: Structure and Outline explores the core elements of fiction writing necessary to build an outline: a blueprint for a successful draft of your novel. How to Write a Novel: Edit and Revise, is suitable for students who have completed a full draft of their novel.

Why is it in US dollars?

The course is hosted on the edX learning platform, hosted in the United States. UBC is a partner in edX, a non-profit learning consortium founded by Harvard & MIT. edX runs the software and billing, so all charges are in US funds.

I have more questions about the course content!

Contact us with your questions, and we’ll be happy to answer! Email

Also review the edX course page for more details.

Starts October 22, 2018
$295 USD (approx $395 CDN)

Enroll Now

Starts October 22, 2018
$295 USD (approx $395 CDN)

Enroll Now

About the Faculty


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:

Also review the edX course page for more details.


Great course – the exercises were beneficial and informative and the course content very relevant and useful. Somehow I had stopped giving myself permission to experiment with my writing and this course has helped me to be a bit more playful … particularly given I am writing a first draft.
 5stars I was half-way through the first draft of my second novel when I signed up for this course. At the end of it, I not only understood what hadn’t worked in the first novel, I had completely restructured and re-conceived the second one. The course addresses the major issues that every writer faces. Topics such as voice and theme, which can potentially be overwhelming, are simplified and clarified. The combination of video and text is engaging and the delightful instructors do a wonderful job at conveying their passion for writing.


Subscribe to our mailing list for updates

By providing your email address on this form, you agree to allow The University of British Columbia to send you updates and information about its How to Write a Novel courses. For this purpose, your name and email address will be stored in a secure database located in the United States. You may unsubscribe from this mailing list at any time. View our Privacy Policy.