This online course is ideal for: Fiction writers looking to improve the framework and pace of their stories
Explore narrative structures used in contemporary fiction
Dive deeper into the classic three-act structure
Gain skills in planning and plotting, including subplots
Develop techniques for controlling pace, tension and resolution
Learn structures for multi-book stories (e.g. trilogies or series).
“This course exceeded my expectations. It enabled me to plan the novel I am trying to write in a more considered way. If you have never been taught about story structure, or need a more in depth explanation than you have had previously, then this is a fantastic course.”
– Penny Andrews, Fiction Essentials: Structure graduate
A strong, well-balanced structure is the backbone of a good story – yet creating such story structures is an area that many fiction writers struggle with. While most are able to conjure great characters and scenes, far fewer can control pace and structure over a longer story.
With story structure, we are often told what to aim for, but not how to achieve that aim. That’s where this self-paced course can help!
Across four lesson modules, you will learn the narrative structures used most frequently in contemporary fiction, with concrete, practical methods to achieve a coherent, satisfying narrative arc in your stories. The course also includes a Bonus Module on structures for multi-book stories such as series or trilogies.
This course will help you to do the following:
There are a lot of books about story structure out there – but applying the principles to your own writing can be hard. Narrative tension is supposed to rise: but HOW do you do that? Pace is supposed to pick up towards the climax: but HOW can you make that happen?
In this course, you’ll explore core story structures and develop the skills you need to create and shape your story so that it engages readers and leaves them satisfied. It’s about understanding the very framework upon which you will drape EVERY piece of fiction you ever write. And that’s why this course is essential!
“I finally ‘get’ structure! Everything was explained so clearly with real practical information that I can use to build a solid structure for my new novel.”
Amanda Willimott, Fiction Essentials: Structure graduate
This is one of AWC’s 35+ “self-paced” online courses. But what does that mean? Allow us to explain:
Q: I'm a complete beginner. Will this course suit me?
A: We recommend absolute beginners start with Creative Writing Stage 1. It covers the core skills and knowledge you need to become a great writer. This course will help you hone structure once you have those foundation techniques under your belt.
Q: I've only just started writing my novel. Will this course be helpful?
A: Absolutely! In fact, the more you know about structure, the easier your writing will be – so it makes sense to get the knowledge early. And even if you don’t know how your story will end, thinking about its structure will be very helpful in the writing process.
Q: I've already written my manuscript. Will I have to rewrite it after doing this course?
A: Probably – but that’s not a bad thing! Remember, most books go through several drafts before they are ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent. In fact, publishers often tell us that the most common problem they have with manuscripts is that they’re not ‘cooked’ enough – i.e., they haven’t gone through structural edits to improve them. So short answer, YES – but by doing so, you’ll almost certainly increase your chances of being published!
Also take a look at our course called Cut, Shape, Polish – it focuses on self-editing a manuscript, with a step-by-step, global approach to improving your draft.
Q: Will this still be useful to me if my story structure is set? (i.e. a 3rd or 4th draft)
A: Well, are you HAPPY with your current draft? Are your beta readers enthusiastic? Have you been ruthless in your editing and careful with structure as you reworked things? If the answer to any of those questions is “no”… then this course should be useful. Also of course, it will be essential if you ever plan to write ANOTHER story!
(And just like the last question, also check out our Cut, Shape, Polish course if you’d like a step-by-step guide to self-editing a manuscript.)
Q: I’ve done several of your courses. Will this course teach me anything new?
A: Great to see you again! Sure, there will be concepts in this course that you’ll recognise – like the three-act structure. But this course goes into waaay more detail about plotting, structure and storytelling than any of our other courses, and there are some concepts (fugue structures, for example) that are not found elsewhere.
Remember though, this course is intended for students struggling with story structure. If you feel confident about this area of your own writing, it may not suit. (But it WILL be here waiting if you decide to experiment with structure in the future.)
Q: Will this course give me the right formula to follow for a bestseller?
A: Well, no. There is no ‘right’ formula, or every book would be a bestseller! However, what it WILL do is inform you about the structures which have been shown to work for many successful writers in the past. It’s up to you to choose the right structure for your story, and then to tell that story in a way which people want to read. Sorry, no shortcuts, but hey – the process is very satisfying, and many of our students HAVE had bestselling books!
Q: I think I understand structure, but I’m not sure about pace. Is there a course just about pace?
A: No, sorry. Pace, structure and narrative tension are so closely entwined that we’re not sure you can (or should) learn about one without learning about the others.
Q: I know about a three-act structure. I’d like to learn about more complex structures, like non-linear structures. Does this course do that?
A: While this is one of the four common structures we look at, this course does not discuss non-linear structures in too much detail. The main reason is that non-linear structures, by their very nature, are infinite in form – making it impossible to fully cover. However, by understanding the basic principles of narrative tension and pace detailed in this course, you’ll be able to apply that knowledge to ANY structure you choose, including non-linear.
“Extremely comprehensive and great for getting you thinking about different aspects of the writing craft and how it can be applied to
current and future works.”
Tegan Hamilton, Fiction Essentials: Structure graduate