Begins Monday, September 6th, 2021

This is an on-demand video course that includes a series of 8 modules as well as a Live Weekly Zoom Meeting.

*This course includes a series of 8 Weekly Video Modules as well as a Live Weekly Zoom Meeting.

**Once the class starts the weekly Zoom meeting will be determined by what time slot works best for the group.

Led by C. S. (Susanne) Lakin, award-winning novelist and writing coach, freelance book copyeditor, and workshop instructor. Lakin is the also the author of the popular nonfiction series of books in The Writer’s Toolbox—aimed to help writers of fiction and nonfiction master their craft.

8 Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel

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.


Week 1: High Moment and Character Change
Week 2: Microtension
Week 3: Deep POV
Week 4: Sensory Detail
Week 5: Emotional Manipulation
Week 6: Backstory and High Stakes
Week 7: Dynamic Dialogue
Week 8: Wrap-up!


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.

The techniques and exercises are meant for a range of writers -- from beginners to seasoned writers with books under their belt.

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. You'll also learn how to create and build meaningful tension, revealing crucial character bits, and manipulating your readers’ emotions so they will feel what you want them to feel.

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 Also Includes:

  • Weekly Zoom meetings with C.S. Lakin

  • Downloadable Course PDFs

  • 4 bonus videos on deep edit and analysis, scene types, and genre markers

Testimonials from Writers Who've Worked with Susanne

“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


“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. 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


“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


Writing Coach, Author, Workshop Instructor

C. S. Lakin

C. S. Lakin is an award-winning author and blogger at Live Write Thrive ( She has twenty novels and ten writing crafts books published and works full-time as a copyeditor and writing coach. Susanne is also the fiction track coordinator of the San Francisco Writers’ Conference and facilitates intensive online critique groups for successful commercial fiction writing.