Online | Novel | Workshop

6-Week Online Novel Workshop: From Idea to Outline

This 6-week course is for people who want to write a novel and are wondering how best to shape it.

In this course, we’ll consider the novel comprehensively. You’ll take the pieces you have so far (maybe it’s notes, character sketches, a few chapters, or maybe it’s just an idea for a scene) and build on them to create an outline of the basic plot. The initial stages of writing a novel include making a lot of foundational choices about character, voice, pacing, and structure. Along with your outlines and a short piece written in the voice of your novel, you’ll be asked to articulate how all of these elements will function in your novel project. Time in the weekly Salon will be used to discuss these elements in detail. Each week, students will be given reading assignments and prompts designed to help you think about your novel--both in manageable parts and as a completed project.

By the end of this class, you’ll have a template or outline for your novel, plus the first page. My hope is that by creating a map of the story, you’ll feel confident to begin writing.

This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.


- A comprehensive outline of your novel

- The first page of your novel

- Samples of dialogue from each of your characters

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


Week 1: Introductions + Basic Elements of the Novel

Reading: From David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife: “Three Uses of the Knife” (p. 66)

Week 2: Character

Who are the actors and what do they want?

Reading: Excerpt on people from EM Forster’s Aspects of the Novel

Week 3: Plot

Reading: Excerpt on story/plot from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction

Week 4: Mapping the Arc

Reading: Excerpt on story form from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction

Week 5: Time & Structure

Reading: Excerpt from Stephen King’s On Writing

Week 6: Narrator & Dialogue

Reading: Excerpt from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones

Swan Huntley

Swan Huntley is the author of The Goddesses (2017) and We Could Be Beautiful (2016). She earned her MFA at Columbia University and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ragdale Foundation. Her writings have appeared on Salon, The Rumpus and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, among others. She lives in California and Hawaii. Photo by Cindy Lin.


"Huntley is adept at deploying Catherine's good fortune as a fulcrum of suspense... Huntley deftly establishes Catherine's tendency to rationalize and repress... Lively... Huntley writes with wit and verve, excelling at economically hilarious descriptions... The book's strengths lie... in the zippy social satire, in the portrait of a dysfunctional family (Catherine's relationship with her sister turns out to be especially affecting) and, most of all, in Catherine's voice—strange and funny and engaging to the very end."


“As in her first book, Huntley is a keen social observer, empathetic and biting at once… [A] gripping psychological portrait of a woman at a personal crossroads. A haunting story of betrayal and forgiveness that packs an unexpectedly emotional punch.”


“An addictive fictional saga in which a jilted wife goes to the mat to save her marriage and her morale.”

O MAGAZINE "10 Titles to Pick Up Now" on THE GODDESSES