How to plot a novel, create conflict, and write an unputdownable story

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Writers’ HQ’s ONLINE CREATIVE WRITING COURSE allows you to learn the fundamentals of plotting your story. Designed to fit around everyday life and a busy schedule, you will start with a simple idea and finish with a comprehensive outline of your novel ready to be first drafted.

They say everyone has a novel inside them – the tricky part is getting it out without painful invasive surgery. This in-depth online plotting course contains everything you need to plan out your story from start to finish so that you're rip roaring ready to get that first draft out.

Over the six weeks of the course we’ll help you build a practical understanding of story structure and plotting. By the end, you’ll walk away with a comprehensive outline of your story and a plan for what to do next (clue: write!).

Exercises, examples, group discussion, swearing and crying will enable you to grow your fictional world and build your story plan, taking it from ‘idea in your head’ to ‘actual real story that’s ready to be properly written’.

You’ll learn the fundamental elements that make up every good plot and the basics of story structure; explore who is in your story, what their roles are and how to make compelling characters; how to add tension and conflict to your story; how good beginnings, middles and ends work; how to break your story down in chapters and scenes and more; and what to do with your outline once you have it.

See the full course curriculum here


Get daily online classes and exercises to lead you, step-by-step, towards a comprehensive chapter-by-chapter, scene-by-scene outline of your story, ready and waiting to be first drafted.

Lessons from brilliant authors who are at the top of their game, including Costa Award winning Emma Healey, Polari Prize nominated Paul McVeigh, and Bridport Prize winner Vanessa Gebbie.

Lessons on story structure and how to make your story fit or break the rules.

Find out how to turn big picture chapter ideas into unputdownable scenes with believable and complex characters.

Join in the private student forum to discuss ideas, techniques and get advice from your tutors and fellow writers.

Get dedicated support by email from Writers HQ founder and all round lovely person Sarah Lewis.

Have access to the course materials for 12 weeks.

Get access to our super sekrit and utterly lovely social media community.

Weekly inspiration, whip-cracking, writing exercises and prompts.

Optional extra: Sarah or Jo to critique your final outline and give solid, constructive feedback.


A complete chapter-by-chapter outline of your novel that's ready to be first-drafted. 

A plan of how to proceed next. 

A great big gold star.


You'll get to join our lovely little online community to support you through the submission process, including peer and tutor feedback, gold stars, and all the pep and shoulders to cry on you need. And plenty of gifs, natch.

Waahhoooooo pep pep let's go... 


The next course starts on Monday 7 August September


Plotstormers: just the course please!


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Plotstormers: the course with a synopsis review please!


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  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    A solid foundation 5

    At the beginning of this course I had an idea for a novel that I could have comfortably written down on a single sheet of paper. Six weeks later I have a detailed narrative structure, with subplots and well-drawn characters. I have the confidence to take this outline forward and begin the actual novel writing process.
    Mark Sadler
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    I am converted 5

    Before the course, I was a solid pantser, but now I have truly seen the light. The way Sarah & Jo take you step-by-step through each stage, they make it impossible not to understand the theory of story structure and help you to put it into practice. So, after 6 short weeks (ARE THEY REALLY OVER?!), I can scarcely believe it, but I have a well-structured plan, with all the sub-plots in place, and I know what I want to happen and when. I just need to write the darned thing, now. If only they had a course for that... oh, wait a minute...
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Amazing journey of discovery 5

    I was a bit hesitant about doing an online course but I liked Writers' HQ's approach and the programme for plotstomers looked like the business. Over the last 6 weeks I have made such huge progress with novel. Really getting to grips with where story was going, characters' motivation, that thing everyone mentions called "conflict". The teaching material was excellent: just right amount and level. Support was good though I didn't really get too involved with forum discussions as my head was buried in doing the plotting homework. Feel massively more confident now about actually writing the bloody novel. Will be going on to the next stage with Writers' HQ.
    Colette Batterbee
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    The scales have truly fallen 5

    I had an idea. I wrote it out for 60k words. Someone said it was more like a short story. I was stuck. Then I discovered Writers HQ... I've found my people. This course has literally transformed my work. I now have something that actually reads like the outline for a novel. The teaching methods, materials and support (both from Sarah and Jo, and my fellow plot-a-trons) has been superb. Sensible, practical, intense, with a good splosh of anarchy. I now feel more confident about the actual writing and am also happy that the original idea holds up. Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to the next course (9 month...). It'll be AWESOME!
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Highly Recommended 5

    I came to this course with the complete first draft of a novel I had already written, but which (after a year of failing to rewrite it on my own) I knew needed more than just a bit of editing to make it work. Plotstormers has been a great way of completely deconstructing what I had to begin with, and then building it up again from scratch into first four, then seven, then sixteen units. The early weeks give you a brilliant introduction to various theories of plotting, soundbites from successful authors, and links to useful blogs and resources; this part is huge fun, and the video of Kurt Vonnegut explaining the shapes of stories is absolutely priceless. When it came to the actual writing bit, Sarah and Jo provided excellent support, encouragement and incisive feedback throughout (though be warned: the swearing is contagious. You'll know you have a problem when your 2 yr old starts effing at random people in shops). In the latter weeks of the course the forums (fora?) became indispensible for sounding out ideas and identifying problems as well as helpful cameraderie. I lagged behind towards the end, but nevertheless this course has given me the boost I needed to get my novel back off the ground, or at least back onto the runway. I highly recommend it, and look forward to taking more Writers HQ courses in the near future.
    Rosemary Sgroi
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Useful Course 4

    I found the planning method taught in this course a bit of a straight-jacket in terms of developing an outline for a new idea. That said, I think it will be a useful tool to diagnose problems once I have an outline in place, so I can confidently say that this course has improved my novel planning process. I think I would recommend it to writers who have an outline they want to knock into shape, rather than idea they were trying to outline though. Using the forums was problematic, as the threads quickly became walls of text when people shared their work, which made it difficult to do a quick check-in, or participate in discussion (something I had limited time for). This was addressed part way through the course, when we were asked to make a new thread if we wanted work critiqued, and hopefully will be something that they look to improve for future offerings.
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Good stuff 5

    Excellent course. I have to say I never got the hang of the forums. But I'm probably getting old and not very online-attuned. I prefer classrooms with real people. But that's my problem, not the course's. Overall, a very good course, beautifully thought through. Recommended, even if like me you aren't too hot on the virtual side of things.
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Plotstorming is Rough....but I loved it. 5

    It took me a while to get through the course materials. Mostly because of the huge monster in my head telling me I couldn't, wouldn't and shouldn't get through it. It is a testament to Sarah and Jo's skills, encouragement and general awesomeness that despite all this I kept finding my way back and eventually emerged the other side with a not just a plot, but a passion for my story that I feared was lost. The course is worth every penny, every bead of sweat and every tear. I feel like a better writer in a better position. Can't thank you guys enough!
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel


    Top notch course and the exercises are really challenging. It is hard work but it helps build a habit of writing too. I am really enjoying it a lot and surprised by how much I managed to do within those few weeks. Sarah has been an absolute brick really supportive and verifying or checking things in such a gentle and encouraging way. Go for it, you'll love it.
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Top notch 5

    I started with a beginning and an end then changed the end, twice, got the middle and finally understood what plotting is all about and what a story arc truly is. Now I see holes and have an idea of how to fill them. Great attitude to teaching from WHQ crew.
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    When there's something weird (in your story idea) and it don't look good...Who ya' gonna call? PLOTSTORMERS! 5

    Superb materials, featuring advice, ideas, exercises and tips from both Sarah and Jo, as well as a plethora of published authors, all contribute to making Plotstormers the course to take if you just don't know how the hell your hero is going to find their mentor, or which character should die next, or who should kiss who and when (bleeeurgh!) - whatever kind of novel you're wanting to write, whatever style you've had previously, the course will help to amplify, hone and refine your ideas into a coherent and detailed road map, directing you through the asteroid belt of your story! These guys rock, I had a blast and would recommend with reservation.
    Stuart White
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    Plotstormers 5

    Took me from vague idea to specific novel plan in six weeks. I don't have any writing time, but guess what - it's still possible. Supportive and clear - highly recommend.
    Stephanie Hutton
  • Plotstormers: How To Plot Your Novel

    7 Ideas in 7 Days 5

    A mysterious benefactor gives you a task a day and - shazam! - by the end of the week you're a-fizzing with ideas. Tis witchcraft. Do it.


When does the course start?

Our courses run at set times throughout the year. Check at the top of the course pages for the next start dates.

How long can I access the course for?

You can access material for all our six week courses for 12 weeks from the start date.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

We have an active and lively community on our private Facebook group and in-course forums. We encourage peer support as we believe critiquing other people's work is one of the best and fastest ways of learning. We coach students on giving constructive feedback in a positive way because anything else is pointless.

Course tutors are also on hand on the forums to chat and answer questions. We'll comment on most course-related topics. We don't want to be the kind of place that says 'you'll get 5 forum comments and 2 emails and NOTHING ELSE CURSE YOU STUDENTS'  but in order for that to work we need you to be reasonable in return. You can't slip the first 10,000 words of your novel in a forum post and then get grumpy if we don't read it. Equally, if we've already commented on one draft of your work, it's unlikely we'll comment on the next iteration. If a topic is for peer review only, we'll make it clear in the course and on the forums.

Does it matter that I write genre?

Nope. Come one come all. We have YA, MG, supernatural horror, romance, lit fic, fantasy, not-sure-what-fic, you-name-it-fic, wizards, vampires, accountants, hackers, and occasionally dogs . Everyone is welcome in our house (except cats, because they're wankers).

Something's happened and I'M NOT HAPPY

Aah no! We want you to be happy. We really do. I mean, not all the time because that's just a bit weird like Cat from CBeebies. Seriously Cat, doesn't your face hurt? STOP SMILING.

Whatever the problem is it's most likely a small technical cockup (we have a lot of those. The Internet Gods really hate us) so just email sarah@writershq.co.uk and we'll sort the problem tootsweet. But pleeeease do talk to us. We can't help unless we know there's an issue. Don't sit and stew, just give us a yell and we'll jump into action with keenness and speed.  Ok? Okay. Good stuff.

Content copyright Writers' HQ ©. Please don't use our stuff without asking, but do ask and we'll probably say yes because we're nice like that. Email hello@writershq.co.uk.