8 Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel

A Course to Help Novelists Write Masterful Best-Selling Books

Get ready for an 8-week deep dive into the 8 essential elements that will help you write commercially successful novels!

This unique method of scene analysis, revision technique, and nailing genre will fast track you to success when you apply them to your book.

Fiction writers need to go beyond the obvious: compelling characters, masterful writing that nails genre, scenes that “show, don’t tell,” an engaging (preferably riveting) story, and meaningful conflict that creates tension. Hugely successful books have specific elements that set them apart and cause them to rise to the top of the pile and get readers enthusiastically telling their friends to read them.

While there are plenty more elements that novelists must master—a cast of great characters, masterful plot and structure, for example—the 8 specific elements we are going to dive deep into are often ignored or minimized. Yet, if writers nail these brilliantly, their novel will stand high above the masses published every day.

The focus of this 8-week course is on scene structure because scenes make or break your novel. Though we will be discussing the big picture of your novel’s structure, this is not a course centered on teaching you how to plot a story.

During these 8 weeks you will learn what it takes to write purposeful scenes that are carefully constructed to accomplish the important work of advancing your plot, creating and building meaningful tension, revealing crucial character bits, and manipulating your readers’ emotions so they will feel what you want them to feel.

You will also see how to use these 8 elements to revise your scenes in a targeted way. These techniques will save you time and eliminate guesswork, and help you identify what is missing in your scenes and others’.

Here's what you'll be mastering:

1. High moment and character change: You have to know the specific purpose of your scene, build to a key moment at the end (last lines) of your scene, which creates change in your character.

2. Microtension on every page: All points to the secrets and twists to come. What are you not saying simmers under the surface of your scenes. This will make or break your story. Discussion of critical action-reaction cycle.

3. Nuances of deep POV: including unique voices for every character. It's important to establish character mood, mind-set, and motivation right from the start.

4. Sensory detail: Going beyond five senses, using specific wording to set mood and tone for the scene. What the character processes through her senses should reveal important things about her and not merely convey information.

5. Emotional manipulation: You must know how you want your readers to feel and how to get them there. And you need to masterfully learn how to show emotion in three key ways.

6. High stakes: High, believable personal and public stakes that ramp up to the climax.

7. Purposeful backstory: In the right amounts and the right places.

8. Tight, distilled dialogue: It makes or break a scene. We'll look at "on the nose" dialogue and discuss dialogue mechanics. Characters rarely say what they mean, but what they need seeps through.

This course is not about learning how to write and structure a novel. If you aren't informed about novel structure, it's recommended you first do some studying! Read books like Layer Your Novel and The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction so you'll understand where your key scenes fit into your story.

Here's what's included in your course:

  • Weekly Zoom Q&A meetings with C. S. Lakin
  • Downloadable course PDFs: worksheets, articles, and dozens of sample scenes from best sellers
  • More than 12 hours of intensive video instruction on the 8 essential elements for novel success
  • 4 bonus videos on deep edit and analysis, scene types, and genre markers
  • Optional weekly critique group (no extra cost!) to immediately put into practice what you're learning
  • Lifetime access to revisit videos or download materials anytime you need them!

Hear what previous students say about this course:

“Out of the many writing courses I've taken, this is one of the two best. And I learned as much in these 8 weeks as I learned in 2 years in the other course.” —Richard Thomas Lane

“This course skyrocketed my writing to the next level! I learned so much from Susanne about using sensory detail, microtension and deep POV that I feel much more confident in my craft! Well worth the time and money to take this class!” —Lisa Burchett

“Susanne’s course teaches how to write a scene by breaking down into its elements–– High Moment, Character Change, Micro tension, Deep POV, Sensory Detail, to name a few, and then discusses and analyses them using excerpts from published writers. She has sharpened my understanding of scene construction. Before attending her course, I didn’t notice these elements when reading other writers’ work or that all are necessary, though in varying quantity depending on genre. I highly recommend this course for any fiction writer who wants to write as powerfully as possible.” —Christine Dreier

“This course has been tremendously helpful for my development as a writer. I am now equipped with several tools that I can use as I revise my current novel-in-progress. I am working on my first novel attempt and now have far more confidence in my writing and the future of this project!” —Olivia Bedford

“Susanne is an expert and it shows in her lectures, resources and teaching style. The course covers so much in-depth structural advice I could never have discovered myself. I was floundering with my manuscript but now feel I have a guide to assist me with every aspect of the writing. It will take me a while to go through all the components covered by the course, but the way Susanne has organized the content makes it easier to apply. I can now see what’s needed for a more commercial book and am more hopeful of publication sometime!” —Jean Healey

“Susanne Lakin is extremely knowledgeable of industry trends, effective pacing and structure protocols for creating successful commercial novels in today's environment, and devotes her time, energy and support to her students. I would recommend her course to both beginning and experienced novelists.” —Kendrick Smith

“Wow, what a great class! Susanne is a terrific teacher. And this content is so valuable to me. I am a new writer and a member of an Authors Lab mentoring program. In that program, we work on plot and character and structure all the time, but never these concepts. I suppose it’s assumed that I should know how to write, but writing doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me, and my scenes often feel flat because I’ve never learned how to craft purposeful prose like you are teaching. Thank you for offering this class so I can learn how to do it.” —Joan Ruark

“Before this class, my scenes were plot driven, but lacked character emotional detail and tension. Susanne presents information that transcends most craft classes. She encapsulates elements in scene development that focuses on the character, her actions and her perceptions. Taking this class elevated my writing from bland to interesting and engaging.” —Aimee Kluck

“I completed the first draft of my novel before taking this course with Susanne. In eight weeks, I have learned more than I've learned in any other writing class about techniques to create a better novel. She has given me a new perspective on what's involved in producing a commercially successful novel.” —Maureen Duffy

“I was hesitant about taking this course, because I was unsure if there would be anything new that I hadn't received from another course or a book. I signed up and it was one of the best decisions I've made in my new writing career. Susanne has a unique viewpoint on writing that I haven't encountered anywhere else, and my writing improved drastically after listening to her first insights in week one of the eight-week course. There is so much depth and nuance that I will be revisiting her lessons to continue to work on these skills. She is an amazing teacher and uses numerous examples to help her students understand the concepts she teaches so they can apply them to their own work. Don't hesitate. She is worth her weight in gold!” —Lauren Gesslein

Your Instructor

C. S. Lakin
C. S. Lakin

C. S. Lakin is the award-winning author of thirty books and blogger at Live Write Thrive, a top-ten site for writers. She works as a book copyeditor and writing coach, specializing in manuscript critiques. Her writing craft book series The Writer's Toolbox teaches aspiring and experienced novelists how to write terrific stories. More than 5,000 writers have taken her online video courses over the last 10 years. 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 this class meet?
Each week on Zoom: Monday 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. No worries if you can't make the lecture; it will be recorded and uploaded to the week's modules. You can email your questions in advance if you can't make the session.
How long will I have access to the recordings and all the course materials?
You will have lifetime access!
Can I be refunded if I don't like the course?
All my courses in my online school offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. If for any reason you want to drop out of the course, you will get a full refund so long as you put in the request within the first 30 days.
What if I want to be in a critique group?
Just let me know when you enroll. You'll also be sent a questionnaire about that before the class begins. You do not have to be in a critique group, though, to take this course.
How much fiction-writing experience do I need to have to take the course?
This course is for any level of fiction writing. Beginners to seasoned authors will greatly benefit from this unique method and all the materials.
Will you be critiquing participants' work as part of the course?
In a word: no. However, I may on occasion want to use a student's scene as an example (and only with permission).
What is required to participate in a critique group?
You must have at least half a manuscript written and be willing to write and submit one scene a week AND critique two other writers' scenes.

I'm excited you are committed to taking your book to the next level and participating in this intimate, intense learning experience!

This course is closed for enrollment.