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The 4 Foundational Pillars of Novel Structure

A course for novelists that want to build a solid story that will stand the tests of time and scrutiny.

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Writing a novel is a daunting task. Few succeed at creating a story that holds together. Even those who have taken countless classes and read dozens of books on novel writing still don't have a clue how to construct a strong novel.

Why is it so hard? Isn't it just a matter of laying out an interesting plot and crafting empathetic characters?

No. It's not. Most novels are seriously flawed, despite careful planning and creative ideas. Why? Because the structure won't hold up the story.

Novels, like buildings, need to conform to time-tested structural principles. And while many great books on writing craft teach helpful skills, if a writer doesn't first build the four key pillars needed for support, his story will collapse. It's that simple.

Just as a solid framework is needed for a building to support a heavy roof, a novel needs a strong foundation to support a plot. And this foundation can't be built in separate pieces.

Most writing craft books, bloggers, and instructors teach about the important elements that go into a novel. But few, if any, take a holistic approach. What does that mean? That, similar to a builder who has to envision the finished structure at every stage of the building process, a novelist must construct his story by working on all the primary foundational pillars together.

Just as corner pillars that support the Parthenon must be perfectly placed and identical in size and strength, the four corner pillars of novel construction must be solid and in place before a substantial story can be built upon it.

Once a writer builds those 4 solid pillars, his story will have a base to stand on.

This course will help writers test and develop the foundational elements of their story so that they can ensure they have what's needed to build a solid novel.

Here's what this course will cover:

Concept with a Kicker: Novelists need to understand the difference between idea, premise, and concept. A great idea does not make a novel. Ideas have to be taken to a higher level; they have to have a kicker. Premise is plot with a hero, villain, and stakes. Concept transcends plot and premise by adding that one intriguing “what if?” question. Concept empowers and drives idea, plot, and premise. Without a riveting concept, a novel’s support will be flimsy, like a house built with twigs.

Conflict with High Stakes:Conflict creates plot. Your protagonist wants something. Someone prevents him from immediately gaining that thing. Conflict ensues, and a story is born. Too many novels have minimal conflict—internal and external. Conflict needs to involve high stakes—both personal and public—in order for the story to propel forward with the necessary tension. Concept and conflict go hand-in-hand, for without conflict the concept won’t have momentum.

Protagonist with a Goal: All too often protagonists of novels are aimless, just reacting to events as they happen without having a specific plot goal. But a novel needs a clear objective for its hero—and each major supporting character also needs a goal, including the antagonist. Protagonists’ goals are tied in with the concept and premise and so must be set up right away in a novel, and the protagonist’s journey to achieve that goal drives the plot and is decided at the climax of the book. It’s not enough to create an intriguing main character; protagonists must have a core need that drives them.

Theme with a Heart: Even if writers don’t have a conscious theme in mind for their novel, there is a reason they are writing it, and a theme or themes being implied by the premise. Why bother writing a book if you are not passionate about something in this story? Theme is an essential pillar because it gives a novel focus and depth. And the way the theme is presented throughout the story should show the “heart” that underlies the plot.

This course is meant to help you fashion the blueprint for a terrific story. While there are 12 key pillars of novel construction that are essential to get under your belt, these first 4 pillars are key. Once you have your 4 corner pillars strong, you can move on to your 8 supporting pillars.

Why this course will help you in a way no other will:

You'll learn how to build each of these 4 corner pillars so that they will stand up to scrutiny and the test of time. To build a timeless, memorable novel, you need a killer concept, a unique protagonist with a compelling goal. You need conflict and high stakes oozing from your pages. And you need theme with a heart to make your readers love your book.

In addition, you'll get worksheets and questions and checklists to help you brainstorm your ideas and solidify your story.

If you purchase the critique package, to ensure you've built the most solid foundation possible, once you're ready, you'll submit your four completed worksheets to me to critique. Included in your package is an in-depth written critique of your four pillars. And you also get a one-hour phone or Skype session with me to work through your ideas and hammer out any cracks or flaws that might weaken your story.

So what are you waiting for?

Get ready to put your ideas through the wringer. You'll come out the other side with a terrific foundation to support your story. A story you can build that readers will love and that you can be proud of.


Your Instructor


C. S. Lakin
C. S. Lakin

C. S. Lakin is the award-winning author of twenty-two books and blogger at Live Write Thrive, a top-ten site for writers. She works as a copyeditor and writing coach in the book publishing industry, specializing in manuscript critiques. Her writing craft book series, The Writer's Toolbox, teaches aspiring and experienced novelists how to write terrific stories. She loves nothing more than to help writers craft stellar novels and experience success and joy in their writing journey.


Frequently Asked Questions


When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.

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