Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Online Fiction Seminar: Structuring Your Story

This class will be focused on structuring your novel or short fiction around a propulsive plot that will satisfy your readers. Through in-class discussion, writing exercises, and independent reading, we’ll identify techniques for building a compelling, coherent narrative. Please note that this class does not involve any workshopping. In collaboration with your classmates, you will distill your own story down to its essential conflict. You will then create an outline of your story in order to strengthen its internal logic and navigate through any structural, pacing, or plotting roadblocks.

This class is perfect for writers at any stage of a project, whether you are first contemplating a new work or deep into your umpteenth revision. No matter where you’re at, this seminar aims to help you gain clarity. After all, the more you understand your work, the better you'll be able to advocate for it. The class is intended to help you not only develop and deepen your existing project but also more effectively pitch it to agents, publishers, and readers in the future. Getting a firm grasp on your story’s structure will serve you through the entire life of the work.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- Create and refine your story’s one-sentence elevator pitch

- Clarify your story’s shape and characters’ motivations

- Develop a comprehensive plot outline identifying your story’s major turning points

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


To prepare for class each week, students will read up to 50 pages of a craft book and/or a fiction excerpt. They will also complete or revise one writing exercise. Students will be getting verbal feedback from the instructor and other students, but there will be no written feedback in this seminar.


Week 1: Premise: How do we distill our story down to its essential conflict?

Week 2: Character: Who drives the conflict in our story forward through action?

Week 3: Change: What happens by the end of our story—and why does it matter?

Week 4: Design: What about our story’s structure sets it apart from all others?

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.


“Mesmerizing. . . . It’s the strength of Phillips’s writing, her careful attention to character and tone, that will grip you right up until the final heart-stopping pages.”


“Superb. . . . Brilliant. . . . Phillips’s deep examination of loss and longing . . . is a testament to the novel’s power.”


"I've felt so much growth while being your student which has been a direct result of your patience and kindness and keen eye. You never pushed me away from what I was trying to do and always tried to help me better understand what I am trying to say."

former student

“Elegant, ingeniously interwoven. . . . Phillips never stops tracing DISAPPEARING EARTH'S arc, tilting her tapestry toward a singularly satisfying ending.”


"Julia Phillips is at once a careful cartographer and gorgeous storyteller."

Tayari Jones