8 Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel

A Course to Help Novelists Write Novels That Will Sell

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, as well as critique others’ scenes using the same lenses. These techniques will save you time and eliminate guesswork, and help you identify what is missing in your scenes and others’.

How This Course Works:

  • Students will meet weekly on Zoom, where you'll get instruction on the 8 essentials for commercial success. Sample scenes from best-selling novels will be shared and dissected and serve as teaching examples, focusing on fiction-writing elements writers struggle with. If you can't make the meeting, no worries—all lectures will be recorded and uploaded to the week's module.
  • Each week, you'll have assignments—scenes to study and mark up and handouts to read.
  • Writers will be put in small critique pods of no more than 8 people, grouped based on experience and genre (where possible).
  • Each week, you'll submit one scene to be critiqued by two writers in your pod (up to 15 pages, or two shorter consecutive scenes totaling no more than 15 pages). You will critique two other writers' scenes each week.
  • Dozens of handouts, worksheets, and charts will be posted on the Resource pages for lifetime access
  • Critiques will be done in rotation within the group so that every writer will have different critiquers each week. This helps give a wide range of helpful feedback.
  • Weekly forum discussions will be held via Disqus on each week's module. Any questions you want to ask your group or the instructor about the weekly discussions or issues pertaining to your manuscript can be voiced in the discussion threads.

While all participants in the group are expected to work diligently on their own books and aim to achieve the milestones they set for themselves, they are also expected to be a support for all the others in the group.

The techniques you will learn will help you tremendously not only in writing a great novel but to effectively revise in a targeted way. Instead of guessing what isn't working in your scenes, by using these 8 lenses for commercial success, you'll know exactly what needs to be fixed in your scenes (and others') to make them effective and advance your plot.

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.


Hear what previous students have to say about this course:

“The master critique group has been amazing. Since starting this group, my writing skills and grasp of story mechanics have improved exponentially due to Susanne's guidance and direction as well as input from members of the group. I was stuck writing on my own, and this has given me the push and tools I needed to accomplish my goals.” —Jenny Perry, PhD

“Susanne's Master Critique Group was very useful for receiving external feedback on my work. I learned a lot by doing this course and improved my ability to critique and see what needs revising in my own work as well. Susanne is a great teacher, full of energy and enthusiasm and can edit a writer's scene without offending but illuminating where it can be improved. It wasn't easy but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.” —Samantha Ridgway

“Susanne's Master Critique Groups show you how to develop and polish every aspect of your scenes. Her wealth of experience and compassionate teaching will help you keep your readers hooked on every page.” —Will Wraxall

“I had hit a brick wall and not written anything in six months. This workshop was a much needed kick in the pants. I found the commitment to submit a scene a week for critiquing, and critiquing two other writers' scene every week, fleshed out the helpful basics Susanne teaches. What I learned about writing gave me a fresh evaluation of my work and more importantly the motivation and the tools to enjoy writing again.” —Gene Quinones

“I have learned SO much in such a short space of time. It was a big commitment to make, but it was so, so worth it. I won’t ever regret it—at the very least, my writing will be so much better than before. The very best outcome is beyond exciting and I feel far more confident about making that dream a reality.” —Liz Thompson

“This is the second course I've taken with Susanne and, like the first, I see real, material improvement in my writing as a result. She has an incredible way of breaking down and explaining the mechanics behind what it takes to build an incredible story.” —Brooke L. French

“As someone who has only really started writing about a year ago, I can say without doubt that this course has made my writing 1,000 times better. Not just simple things like not putting in so many speech tags or formatting. The structure of my novel, the POV, sensory detail. While I had some of these things already, learning what works and what doesn't has improved my writing tenfold. I honestly did not know what to expect when I joined this course, but it has changed my writing and my joy of writing for the better. I cannot thank Susanne enough, and I look forward to continuing to learn from her in the future.” —Joshua Bruce

“Susanne has an amazing ability to analyze scenes and point out the subtleties of what works and why. As an instructor, she is encouraging and patient. You’ll love working with her!” —Dana Killion

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 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.


Note: The curriculum will be released in weekly chunks once the course begins. But, for now, take a look at the syllabus and how this course will work!

Frequently Asked Questions


When does this class meet?
Each week on Zoom: Monday 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time. No worries if you can't make the lecture; it will be recorded and uploaded to the week's modules.
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'm not happy with the critique pod you've put me in?
Just let me know and I'll reassign you to another group, but you'll need to do so before week 3.
How much fiction-writing experience do I need to have to take the course?
You don't have to be a published author, but you need to have written at least half of a novel draft and understand basics of novel structure. Beginning writers to experienced, published writers will benefit from both the unique intense instruction as well as the feedback via critiques by other participants during the course.
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).

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.