fullscreen background
Skip to main content

Fall Quarter

Fall Registration Opens Aug 22
shopping cart icon0


« Back to Creative Writing

NVL 36 W — Building a Young Adult Novel: Plot and Structure as the Blueprint of Your Story

Quarter: Fall
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 26—Dec 9
Refund Deadline: Sep 29
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Ann Jacobus
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class the week of November 21
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Sep 26—Dec 9
10 weeks
Refund Date
Sep 29
3 Units
Ann Jacobus
Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: No class the week of November 21
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Do you have an idea for a young adult novel? Maybe you've already done some writing, come up with a great protagonist, and thought up some of the problems that will arise, but can't figure out how to make the pieces fit together into a satisfying whole. Telling a good story is crucial to the success of any young adult novel. As with the architecture of a house, the underlying structure of a novel's plot must be sound in order to support the dramatic events that flummox and transform your protagonist. In this course, we will break down plot into its essential elements—motivation, stakes, obstacles, and tension—and you will create a “blueprint” for your project. In the second five weeks, you will use that blueprint to construct up to 2,500 new words of your novel for instructor and classmate feedback, while we also do a deep dive into the transformational crisis and climax of your story. We will read and discuss work by such YA authors as Elizabeth Acevedo to inspire our writing prompts and in-class exercises, and also refer to the story craft wisdom of Martha Alderson and Hollywood story coaches Lisa Cron and Christopher Vogler. You will complete the course with a blueprint and new tools to use as you keep writing to your novel's satisfying conclusion.


Ann Jacobus is the author of Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, which received the Housatonic Book Award for Young Adult/Middle-Grade Literature, and The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent (forthcoming in March 2023), as well as short fiction, poetry, and essays. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (ISBN 978-1440525889)
(Required) Aisha Saeed, Amal Unbound (ISBN 978-0399544699 )
(Required) Elizabeth Acevedo, The Poet X (ISBN 978-0062662811)
(Recommended) Blake Snyder, Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (ISBN 978-1932907001)
(Recommended) Leah Johnson, You Should See Me in a Crown (ISBN 978-1338503296 )