September 10 - October 19, 2016
This crash course in structure will help you transform your ideas or rough drafts into a cohesive, compelling manuscript.
Every book makes its own shape in the world, just like a body. As Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” We’ll chisel deep into the foundations of great storytelling to find the shape that works best for you.
Each week, I’ll send you tools and exercises that you can put to work now. You’ll spend the week exploring, applying the new ideas to your own work, and workshopping your results with your classmates. You’ll also receive personalized feedback from me. You’ll end up with an organic form and an action plan that gives you full freedom to sculpt your story whole.
You may use this course as the perfect setup for National Novel Writing Month: the challenge of writing 50,000 words this November. (Join me: I’ll use these very tools to create my very own workplan for NaNoWriMo!)
In six weeks, you’ll learn:
- The top five successful book structures
- How to create your own organic structure (a.k.a., this is not your grade-school teacher’s outline)
- What you most need to know about plot and narrative drive
- How to sort out overlapping timelines
- How to let your characters’ motivations drive the story
- How to get crystal-clear about your themes (i.e. What the heck is this book about?)
- The strengths and unique qualities that others see in your project — even when you might not
- How to structure your time and your support system
- How to deal with your inner critics
- How to strike the balance between form and freedom, to create a form that lets you write everything your book needs to say
You’ll also get:
- Insightful, personal critique from me on the work you generate in class
- Encouraging, thoughtful workshopping from peers
- Dozens of easy, 15- to 30-minute writing prompts to bring out the book that’s in you
- A personalized action plan to drive your project all the way to completion
- Yearn for a clear plan to help you make progress on your manuscript
- Wrestle with character arcs, plot, and theme — but can’t imagine reducing your gorgeously complex story to a mere “outline”
- Want a solid foundation to get you started
- Are halfway through and need a jolt of clarity to propel you to the end!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the time commitment?
The assignments are flexible and each week, you’ll be given a choice of things to do. You’ll probably want to allot at least 2 hours a week to read the materials, try out a few of the exercises, and participate in the workshopping. If you got excited and did everything on the list, you could spend up to 10-12 hours a week — or even more, if you decide to write, write, write!
Q. Can I get a sneak preview of the syllabus?
Of course! Here you go:
Week 1: Time. Timelines, flashbacks, cause and effect, time period research, chronological and non-chronological elements of storytelling.
Week 2: Place. Maps, memories, geographical research, world-building.
Week 3: Shape. Arcs, acts, mysteries, suspense, tension/trauma points, narrative drive, post-outlines, emotional maps.
Week 4: Character. Development, motivation, interviewing, interactions, quest/journey.
Week 5: Theme. Image, metaphor, symbol, central argument, throughline, core meaning.
Week 6: Writer’s life. Support circle, critique, inner critics, calendaring, goals, action plan.
Well, not exactly. I’m going to offer you all that —because that’s what makes this a crash course.
Then you’re going to choose what you most need right now — because that’s what makes you the writer in charge of your own process.
The truth is, I’ll give you way more than you can possibly do in six weeks. Somewhere in there will be the gems that will transform your writing, right where you are now — so you won’t waste time doing anything irrelevant or that doesn’t resonate.
Remember, the purpose of this course is to set you up to finish your book. Use the tools you need now. Keep the rest for when you need them, weeks or years later. (Blueprint students from 2009 tell me they’re still using the tools I shared with them!) You have a lifetime ahead of you as a writer, and your book has a whole life cycle ahead too.
The wealth of material guarantees that you’ll get exactly what you need at this stage, as well as a box full of toys/tools to play with as your book grows up.
Q. What stage should my book be in to join this class? I’m not sure what my book is about… I’m not even sure I’m writing a book … I’ve already finished a first draft, can I still learn from this class?
All of the tools and exercises are designed to use prior to new writing OR prior to a major re-write/revision. Here’s the rundown:
If you want to write a book but you’re not exactly sure what, this class will be awesome for you. You’ll get prompts, questions, and tools that will help you to shape your project. You’ll be able to move forward from the cloud of vague ideas that you have now, to focus on a clear, specific, actionable project. And a plan for getting it done.
If you are at or near the beginning of your book, this class will be fantabulous for you. You’ll get a bunch of new tools and a head start on a lot of stuff that will save you time and hair-pulling in the writing process. Go sign up, ok?
If you’re partway through your book, or have a draft or two done, but you sense that there are major issues with structure/theme/plot/character, this class will offer you huge relief. We’ll sort out the things that are confusing you, and get you revved up with a bunch of new strategies so that you can finish your manuscript with confidence. Sign up!
If your book is almost finished and you know exactly what it’s about and you don’t really need to sort out any issues, congratulations! This class would probably be most helpful if you want to get a headstart on your next project. Or you might want to ask me about my manuscript review services, because I am a fantastic editor. Or, you know, maybe you want to get a glass of pinot noir and pin some stuff on Pinterest instead.
Q. What’s your connection with NaNoWriMo? Actually, what is NaNoWriMo?
Besides being what Mork said to Mindy (OK, now I’m totally dating myself), NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s actually international, and it’s a month (November) when a whole lot of
fools courageous souls sign up to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
I don’t have any official connection to NaNoWriMo, but it’s a fantastic tool that I recommend to my writing students. And I wrote a pep talk for it.
The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I wrote 50,000 words of a novel. I just freewrote like mad, which was fantastic AND had the result that lots of things didn’t end up connecting. I realized that I’ll get even more out of it this time if I do some good planning ahead of time. I’m going to make specific plans for what I’ll be writing. It’ll probably change along the way, which is perfect — I just want to have a working structure (not a straitjacket) in place so that I can keep going instead of wasting time wondering what to write about. I figured some of you might like to join me in that process, so I’m excited to share my toolbox/toybox with you.
Q. My question is about payment plans, online course technology, or something else…
Cool. Answers to more Frequently Asked Questions about courses are right here.
What other writers say about Blueprint Your Book
“Hands down, one of the best investments you can make as a writer! Minal’s insights and arsenal of prompts/tools — EPIC.”
“I loved Blueprint your Book! Minal’s materials alone — the prompts, the explanations, the ideas for tracking time — were amazing. Each week we received a handout and several exercises. Months later, I still refer to these materials, both for inspiration and instruction. I still read Minal’s responses to my writing. I still refer to the timelines I produced in class, and because of the class, I’ve uncovered the major themes in my book. During the six weeks, I traveled a lot and I was still able to keep up with the work; in fact, having to check in regularly and do the assignments forced me to focus and get work done in less than ideal conditions. And as a bonus, I met two writers who are doing similar work, and nearly a year later, we still check in every week.”
Jessie Daniels, writer and scholar:
“Minal’s Blueprint Your Book course was great experience for me. She really listened to my concerns about my project, offered encouraging feedback and made suggestions that helped me significantly improved the manuscript. More importantly, her guidance gave me new confidence about my choices about structure, voice and character development. I highly recommend Blueprint Your Book for anyone who wants to take their book project to the next level.”
“It was a pleasure and honor to participate in Minal Hajratwala’s Blueprint Your Book workshop. I had admired Minal’s brilliant book Leaving India for its scope, ambition and beauty. It was a gift to learn from Minal about her own process in writing what she calls ‘intimate history.’ Her personalized feedback was insightful and generous, and it has helped me plan the next stages of my research and writing. The Blueprint course materials and writing exercises are very helpful and can be catered to a writer at any stage of his/her process, and revisited in months and years to come as a project deepens or as new ones arise. Minal offers a safe, supportive and empowering environment for writers to discuss their works.”
Alex Gurevich, speculative fiction writer:
“I took the class Blueprint Your Book at a perfect juncture. I had a build-up of raw material, episodes, and ideas for a project I hoped to turn into a novel. The exacting exercises in that class requiring to build structure, timeline, and character tables, provided me with a matrix for the novel. During the NaNoWriMo that followed, I was able to write the bulk of the text. In the subsequent months, as I was editing and adding material, I kept referring to the tables created during this class. It saved a lot of time and discrepancies. Without this class I doubt that I would have been able to create such a precise structure.
I think there are three very good reasons to take Minal’s classes:
- To get introduced to new approaches to writing.
- To get excellent critique from your teacher and peers.
- To get energized with your project and overcome procrastination.”
Want to see more testimonials? Click here.