Fiction | Novel | Master Class

2-Week Novel Master Class: Story Structure

“A story tracks what a person wants, what he’ll do to get it, and what costs he’ll have to pay along the way.” - John Truby

In this two-session master class, learn what an MFA program won’t teach you: how to structure your literary novel around a strong, propulsive plot that is truly satisfying for your reader.

Through practical writing exercises, engaging in-class discussion, and non-boring homework assignments, we'll show you how to:

- Distill the plot of your novel down to its essential conflict

- Name the strengths and weaknesses of your story—before you even begin drafting it

- Find the designing principle of your book that makes it unique from all others

- Identify your best characters by exploring their weaknesses, desires, and needs, and then map their relationships to one another

- Outline your entire story in order to strengthen its internal logic and understand where you’re headed

This master class is perfect for writers at the early stages of embarking on a novel-writing project, as well as for writers who are already deep into drafting a novel but are running into structural, pacing, or plotting roadblocks. The tools we provide will help you not only streamline your writing process but also pitch the project to agents, publishers, and readers.

Note: this craft master class does not include any workshopping.


- Be able to describe your novel in a succinct and compelling way

- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your story

- Intimately understand your main characters and what’s driving them

- Complete an outline of the major turning points in your story arc

- Access to Catapult's list of writing opportunities and important submission deadlines, as well as a 10% discount on all future Catapult classes

Leigh Stein

Leigh Stein is the author of four books, including the satirical novel Self Care, forthcoming from Penguin in 2020, and the memoir Land of Enchantment. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, ELLE, Allure, BuzzFeed, Slate, and Poets & Writers

Julia Phillips

Julia Phillips is the debut author of the internationally bestselling novel Disappearing Earth, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A Fulbright fellow, Julia has written for The New York Times, ​The Atlantic, and The Paris Review. She teaches at the Randolph College MFA program and lives in Brooklyn.