Online | Novel | Seminar

4-Week Online Novel Seminar: How to Structure a Novel

Whether you have an idea for a novel or are on your nth revision of one, this workshop will help writers of all experience levels learn both basic and more advanced approaches to structuring the novel, as well as build a deep understanding of the ways structure helps writers build emotional resonance in the reader. We'll break down three- and five-act structure, the differences between premise and plot, reinforcing theme with form, and building out an amorphous idea into a solid premise, as well as touch on non-Western and experimental approaches to structure.

This four-week course will include a mix of lectures, readings, exercises, and generative prompts designed to get you to ask the right questions of a novel idea, premise, or draft in order to let your ideas guide your structural approach, maximizing your ability to turn an idea into a concrete outline before you start drafting or revising and to carry that awareness forward into the chapter, paragraph, and sentence level. Students will also receive handouts with key takeaways and more in-depth prompts for further exploration.

Two full-ride scholarships will be awarded for this class to queer or trans BIPOC writers. To apply, please send [email protected] your bio and a brief (100-word) statement on why taking this class is important to you by Nov. 1st, with the subject line "Zeyn Joukhadar Class Scholarship.

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.


- Practical approaches to structuring the novel and advice for how to build out an idea into a premise

- Understanding of premise vs. plot, and how to structure a character-driven novel

- Questions to ask when figuring out the form that will best reinforce a novel's theme

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students in this class will not submit their writing for feedback from the instructor or their classmates. Reading assignments are recommended but optional. Students must be able to view a shared slide presentation for the duration of the class. All class exercises can be taken home and completed later.


Week One: Introduction to Novel Structure

Week Two: Premise, Plot, and Character

Week Three: Nonlinear Structures

Week Four: Preparing to Draft (& Revise)

Zeyn Joukhadar

Zeyn Joukhadar is the author of the novels The Thirty Names of Night, winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award, and The Map of Salt and Stars, which won the Middle East Book Award and was a finalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards and the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. His work has appeared in the Kink anthology, Salon, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, and has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He guest edited Mizna's 2020 Queer + Trans Voices issue and is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers as well as a mentor with the Periplus Collective.

Photo credit: Sara Deidda, 2020.


“An affecting, multigenerational coming-of-age story about a young Syrian American artist’s discovery of self and the truth behind his mother’s mysterious passing. Featuring alternating perspectives that weave the past into the present, this novel embodies the epistolary not just in form and address, but in the way it reads like a love letter to New York City, especially the immigrant, working-class, and LGBTQ underground of New York. A book with a heartbeat, despite all its ghosts.”

Serena Morales Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY (on THE THIRTY NAMES OF NIGHT)

“Gorgeous and alive.”


“Quietly lyrical and richly imaginative, Joukhadar’s tale shows how Laila and Nadir live and love and work past the shame in their lives through their art. This is a stirring portrait of an artist as a young man.”