How to Write a Good Novel

Learn how to write a good novel by watching movies.

I once heard Garrison Keillor say: “Writing is simply completing one tiny task after another.” The trick is to know which tiny task to complete and when. That’s what you’ll learn in the How to Write a Novel email course.

GarysFacebookPictIII spent a large chunk of my life writing novels nobody wanted to read because I didn’t know any better. Finally, after years of study and dozens of failed attempts, I figured out how to write a good novel and published Some Glad Morning. Reader’s loved it.

With the success of Some Glad Morning, I was approached by independent authors who wanted me to write a review of their novel. Most of these novels were unreadable for the same reasons my earlier novels had been unreadable.

Apparently, many aspiring novelists believe, like I once did, that typing hundreds of pages of made up stuff is writing a novel. It’s not.

On the contrary, a novel is a precisely structured mechanism of emotion. In other words, a novel is structured and a novel is emotionally engaging.

A good novel isn’t written, it’s built, one scene at a time, on a three act skeletal frame.

how to write a good novelMany aspiring novelists fail to write a successful novel simply because, like my younger self, they don’t know how. This is why I wrote the How to Write a Novel email course.

Once you’re enrolled, you’ll get the first training module instantly. Then you’ll get an additional training module every two to four weeks. All at no cost. This is my gift to you.

In each module, I do my level best to show you all I know about writing novels so your journey to success is short and swift.

Your job will be to read the training modules, plus the books I recommend, watch some popular movies, make notes as you plan your novel and ask me questions when you’re stuck or confused.

We start with the absolute basics so you’re well grounded in the fundamentals of storytelling. Then we build from there until you have all the skills you need to write a successful novel. Throughout the course, I use popular movies to demonstrate the elements of a good story.

Once you are familiar with story fundamentals, writing a good novel will be much easier and faster.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Module I: Story Fundamentals & Structure.
  • Module II: Learning from the Movies – More Structure.
  • Module III: The Essential Moral Premise.
  • Module IV: Scenes & Transitions.
  • Module V: Analyzing Novels – Stealing the Genre Formula.
  • Module VI: Planning Your Novel – The Storyboard.
  • Module VII: Story Mechanics & the Writing Process.
  • Module VIII: Grammar, Style & Editing.
  • Module IX: Copyright, Publishing, Agents & Marketing
To enroll, enter your best email address in the form at the top of the page.

As much as possible, I use popular movies to demonstrate essential story elements. The fundamentals of a good story are the same whether it’s told verbally, through film, on stage or in a novel. Learning how to write a good novel by watching movies is easy, fun and fast. You’ll see what I mean when you’re working on the assignment in Module I.

Now that you know the approach I’ll use, let me tell you a little more about the subjects we’ll cover.

Two Girls in QuarrelModule I: Story Fundamentals & Structure.

Module I is an introduction and overview of the essential elements of a good novel. A good novel entertains. That has to be the first rule of writing fiction…entertain. Otherwise, no one will read it. A good novel also proves an enduring psychological truth and is emotionally engaging.

It’s properly structured too and contains precise story beats. Once you understand how a novel is structured, the process of planning a novel gets much easier. It’s like you know what questions to ask your imagination.

Module II: Learning from the Movies – More Structure.

We start with the three act structure and then subdivide it into key events such as the catalyst and offering of grace. These key events, otherwise known as story beats, are universal and easy to spot in popular Hollywood movies.

At this point, it’s not a story formula. It’s just detailed story structure. A good novel is entertaining because it contains universal story beats that speak to the reader’s psyche. A reader may not realize the story beats are there, but they will surely know when they’re missing.

Module III: The Essential Moral Premise.

On the surface, a novel may appear to be little more than a main character who is driven to achieve an objective but faces conflict as someone, or something, attempts to stop her.

Many writing teachers, and books on writing, teach that the main character drives the action. This is true, but it’s not the whole truth. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that something drives the main character.

In the most compelling and emotionally satisfying stories, the main character is driven by a moral dilemma, a conflict of values. The story is actually the physical manifestation of the main character’s inner struggle. How the main character solves, or fails to solve, this inner conflict proves a psychological truth about how to be more fully human.

This psychological truth is also known as a moral premise. It’s seen time after time in successful movies and novels.

In this module, you’ll learn that the true seed of your story is the moral premise and how to use it to create every character, scene and line of dialogue.

Module IV: Scenes & Transitions.

A scene is a story unto itself. Each scene builds on the scene before it. This is where we leave the movies and get into the nuts and bolts of writing.

In this module, you’ll learn precisely what a scene is and how make each one count. You’ll learn how to manage the pace of your novel by how you use conflict in your scenes and when you don’t need a scene at all.

Plus, you’ll learn how to properly apply the old, and horribly misunderstood, writing mantra “Show Don’t Tell,” because sometimes telling is the only sane thing to do.

Conflict by Scott ContiniModule V: Analyzing Novels – Stealing the Genre Formula.

Module V builds on the previous modules. You’re ready to analyze any novel once you understand story structure, the moral premise, scenes and transitions.

I’ll show you how to deconstruct the novel of your choice to see just what makes it tick. It’s like looking behind the curtain to see all the pulleys and levers.

If you want to know the formula of a genre, this is how to do it.

Module VI: Planning Your Novel – The Storyboard.

By now, you might be thinking this is a lot of stuff to think about it. It is, but I have a bag of tricks that make it all manageable.

My secret weapon is the storyboard and I show you exactly how I set up mine so planning a novel is as easy as daydreaming. Once you complete this module you’re ready to start writing.

Module VII: Story Mechanics & the Writing Process.

Here we cover how to create memorable characters, write dialogue, action and description to keep your reader riveted to the page. Plus how to keep the pace of your story just right.

Module VIII: Grammar, Style & Editing.

I’ll introduce you to my grammar and style secret weapon, plus my tricks for getting the deadwood out of your story.

Module IX: Copyright, Publishing, Agents & Marketing.

You’ll learn the fastest and least expensive way to copyright your novel.

I’ll also discuss self-publishing and traditional publishing, when you need an agent and how to get the best one, what really makes a bestseller, how to sell the film rights to your self-published novel, building readership and the right way to market your novel.

I’ve put everything I know about writing, publishing and marketing a novel into this course. Plus, I’m available to answer your questions. Now, it’s your turn…

To enroll, enter your best email address in the form at the top of the page.

I look forward to being your guide.

All the best…

Gary Signature 150px




Desk with pencil case by Nicola Sapiens De Mitri


Photo Credits: Lamp, typewriter and specs by John Levanen, Conflict by Scott Contini, Desk with Pencil Case by Nicola Sapiens De Mitri



  1. Hello, I found your website very inspiring. I have always loved writing and subscribed to your training. In high-school I wasn’t good at much, but every English teacher that I have had has always told me I should focus on writing and I think I might give that a try. Thanks for your site it is extremely helpful.

    • Hi Ananomyx!

      Thanks for stopping by. I glad you enrolled in the course. It definitely sounds like your strength is writing. There is so much you can do with your writing ability.

      All the best…


  2. This is not only an in-depth post, but it sounds like a very in-depth novel writing course. I’m a writer myself so I found this very interesting. I can totally relate to what you say about writing novels when you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve done that so many times myself.

    The first book I ever wrote was way back in 1984. It was a horror novel as horror was massively popular in the 80s. Of course, at the time I thought it was an awesome attempt and promptly shipped it off to some publishers. needless to say it wasn’t greeted with open arms. Now when I look back on that first attempt I totally cringe. Still, it was a good first effort and it was practice.

    I wish I’d done a course like yours 30 years ago, as it really would have sped up the process with honing the craft of writing, plotting, structure, and that all important emotion you mention in your post.

    • Hi Darren!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Yes, my first attempts at writing a novel were horrid, but t the time I couldn’t see it. I actually went to several writing workshops to learn how to write novels and they really didn’t help.

      It took studying story theory and screenwriting, plus working with a top of the line editor for me to understand how all the parts went together.

      When I created the course, I had my younger self in mind. I know there are beginning writers out there and others who have a novel in them but just don’t know where to start. I hope my course will show them the way.

      All the best…


  3. Gary,
    I couldn’t agree with you more that writing is a superpower. Most people never consider the complexity and difficulty of the writing process. I believe that writing is an essential job skill.Ultimately, the number of job tasks that require writing is countless. Since writing is used in all fields and jobs, it is a skill that we all should learn and become better at. I really enjoyed reading you post.

    • Hi Juan!

      Thanks for commenting. We take writing for granted because it’s seems so common, but, like you mentioned, it is truly complex and powerful, even magical.

      Years ago, I saw a movie about Jesuit priests in the Canadian wilderness during the 1700’s. Indigenous men were their guides. The guides did not have a written language. A priest kept a journal and wrote in it each day. Eventually, a guide saw the priest writing in the journal and asked what he was doing.

      The priest tried to explain, but the guide could not understand. The concept of writing was beyond anything he had experienced.

      So, the priest thought to show him what writing was and said to the guide, “Tell me something the other priests do not know about you.”

      The guide said, “My mother died last spring.”

      The priest wrote this on a piece of paper, handed the paper to the guide and said, “Take this to the other priests.”

      The guide took the note to the other priests who were on the far side of their camp. When the guide handed the note to the first priest in the group, the priest read it and said, “I didn’t know your mother died last spring.”

      The guides were awestruck as though they had just witnessed magic. And, perhaps they had.

      All the best…


  4. Awesome post. I always wanted to write a biography on myself when I was younger. I don’t know why I didn’t have much to write about. But it would have probably been pretty interesting since it is coming from a kids perspective. Now that I am older I am actually thinking about going forward and trying to do it. Now I just don’t know what to write about, have a few topics in mind but its hard to limit it to just one.

    • Hi Brandon!

      Thanks for taking time to comment. Don’t abandon you’re biography just yet. I’m sure you’ve had a unique life. Readers are fascinated by what it’s like to live in another’s skin. So, I’m sure your biography would have a market if it was well written. I encourage you to begin making notes about what you might write in your biography. Have a notebook dedicated to just that.

      Also, start a separate notebook devoted exclusively to your novel idea. My free How to Write a Novel email course will walk you through, step-by-step, how to write a novel. It begins with story theory which you will learn by reading a couple of books I recommend and then watching popular movies.

      As you come to understand story theory and structure you will have many, many ideas for a novel.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      All the best…


  5. Wow your post was so informative! I never knew this is what went into writing a novel. I have always had an interest in writing a novel. I am an avid reader and enjoy reading novels. Thank you for the great information. You are very knowledgeable in the subject! It is also great that you offer a free email course. I am sure you put a lot of time and effort into creating that course and it is very generous of you to share it for free. Good luck with continued success!

    • Hi Jenette!

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your kind words. Yes, I have put a lot of work into my free How to Write a Novel email course, but it’s been a labor of love, for sure. I remember how I struggled for too many years to understand what made a good novel worth reading.

      Back in the day, I even went to novel writing workshops until I realized that many of the instructors didn’t know either. There are many people out there who are just like I was 30 years ago. The course is my gift to them. In a way, I feel like I’m saving myself by creating the email course and offering it at no cost.

      Writing a novel is difficult at best and the process of editing can be insanely expensive. Plus, marketing a novel and trying to make a profit with it is very challenging too. Learning how to write a novel shouldn’t be expensive.

      In my course, there are several books I recommend the student purchase and read. They’re very affordable. Most are $10 to $15 and written by pros who have devoted their life to teaching story theory. Many of their ideas are proprietary so I can’t include them in the free course.

      Thanks again for your kind comments.

      All the best…


  6. Hi Gary,

    It gave me a new perspective when you said a good novel is not written, it is built.

    I assume your course will be totally online. How do we communicate with each other, especially when I have questions to ask, and how long the entire course will be?


    • Hi Yuko!

      Thanks for stopping by. When I realized that novels were built instead of written, my skill as a novelist took a giant leap forward.

      The course is 9 modules. The moment someone enrolls, they are sent a link to download the first module. Additional modules are sent every 2 to 4 weeks. I also send a couple of emails each week. Plus, there are 6 books I highly recommend you purchase and read.

      It will take about 5 months to get through the entire course. At the end of the course, if you follow along, you will have a novel fully planned out on a storyboard and have a solid foundation of understanding about what it takes to write a good novel.

      I appreciate your comment.

      All the best…


  7. Wow, Gary, there is an awful lot of content in your email course for writing novels. Thanks so much for making this. Novel writing is a great skill that can be applied to any kind of storytelling in general, whether it’s face-to-face with a person, over the phone, or through text. It’s very important to develop the skill of turning situations and thoughts into words. I think even people who don’t write for a living could reap massive benefits from this course. Thanks again.

    • Hi Paul!

      Thanks for commenting. Yes, I’ve poured all I know about writing a novel into the course.

      You are so right. Storytelling in any form is a powerful skill. Learning to write a good novel will not only enhance a person’s writing skills, the methods I teach are useful in managing any large and complex project.

      All the best…


  8. Hello Gary
    l love reading have always enjoyed reading since a very young age, l read when sitting on the train in the evenings,before bed………..
    l just never knew so much work goes into writing a good book that people read but after reading your post,l now understand why you say a good novel is not written it`s made.
    Some time ago (many years gone by to be precise) l fooled around with the idea that some day l will write a novel, but as time went by, i realized l prefer to read what other people have written than to produce my own work.
    l guess this was just as well, l do not think l could even devide it in modules, my mind do wonder and l get bored fast.
    Thanks for a very informative post.Everything very well explained and a reader can see the passion you put into it.

    • Hi Roamy!

      I appreciate your comment. Yes, writing a novel is a lot of work, but, for me, it’s a labor of love.

      Thank goodness you love to read. I wish more people did. Sometimes I suspect there are more writers than readers.

      In time, you might decide to try your hand at writing a novel. Your mind just might wander into a full length story worthy of a three hundred pages. Maybe one day, you’ll realize you can write a better novel than you are reading. Keep it in mind.

      All the best…


  9. Thanks for the insight. I have always been kicking around the idea of writing something. Now more than ever. I am going to have to check out your email course, so I signed up. I am guessing that the course will get me off on the right foot. I really am looking forward to writing a good novel. Thank you again.

    • Hi Marc!

      Thanks for stopping by. Good to hear you enrolled in my course. The course starts with the fundamentals and builds from there. You’ll learn how to take your ideas for a story and weave them into a full novel readers will enjoy.

      All the best…


  10. Hey Gary, so glad I landed on your site! The article itself was so engaging I can’t even imagine what the email course will be like : ). Several years ago, I had a dream of publishing a book. I paid someone several thousands of dollars to learn how to become an author and speaker.

    But the process did not teach me how to write a compelling novel so that I could become a successful author. Thank you for rekindling my dream of becoming an author and a writer. The information you provided in this one article is so valuable. I look forward to reading your other blog posts.

    I just signed up for the email course. I am looking forward to learning about the process and perhaps I can write a great novel!!

    For sure writing is a superpower and a power that I definitely want to possess.

    • Hi Winn!

      Thanks so much for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed my article on How to Write a Good Novel and have rekindled your desire to write.

      I’ve put everything I know about writing novels into the course and broken it down step by step exactly how I imagine and plan a novel.

      I’m pleased you enrolled and look forward to guiding you along your writing journey.

      All the best…


  11. Adeel Shafqat says:


    I love your article – it’s very well written and easy to read due to the well thought layout.Very professional looking website and filled with unique and helpful contents.

    Indeed, writing is a super power and good writing always inspire and encourage people to keep moving on. I like the title of your content that we can write by watching movie.

    Thank for you writing success a nice content and I like all the information in your website because it’s really informative.

    I wish you best of luck and keep coming up with unique and creative content and success is just on your way.

    God bless you

    • Hi Adeel Safqat!

      I appreciate your comment. If people knew how powerful writing is, I think more people would concentrate on mastering it. Anyone with at least modest intelligence can become a good writer if they apply themselves. And they don’t have to go to college or invest a nickle. There is a ton of free information online on how to write well. The trick is to practice, practice, practice.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      All the best…


  12. Riaz Shah says:

    Hey gary,
    Excellent post, I always see you as a great novelist. Your writing style is something I’ve always wanted to have, you make long stories become readable.

    Out of curiosity, how long does it take you to finish a book? I was writing on a book myself and it took me over a year and now I feel so demotivated to continue because its too long for me to proofread and continue.

    • Hi Riaz,

      Thanks for commenting. And thanks so much for your kind words.

      It takes me about three years to get a novel from concept to publication. There is a lot of editing and rewriting in the process. Some people seem to be able to spit a novel out over the weekend, but that’s not me.

      I offer a free novel writing course which you will find here . The course will answer a lot of your questions.

      Taking a break from a novel is sometimes a good idea, but don’t give up on it. I wrote a ton of junk that will never see the light of day before I was a competent writer. I su’ggest you get a copy of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print,” by Renni Browne and Dave King. Read and you’ll many ways to improve your writing.

      Another book I recommend is “The Elements of Style,” by Strunk and White. If you apply the principles of “The Elements of Style,” you written will improve dramatically.

      Also, I’m a big fan of Grammarly. I haven’t used it on a full novel manuscript but will in a few weeks.

      Also, find someone who will read and comment on your writing to help you improve. Once you think it’s ready to publish, find an editor. Hire the best editor you can afford, because you will learn a lot from a good editor. When you get to that point, I can recommend someone.

      And, of course, I’m always available to help.

      All the best,


      • Lots of great advice in the comments. Am involved in completing the courses at WA, but feeling I need to improve my writing skills so:
        1. signed up for your course,
        2. booked out the two books on editing that you recommended.
        You are much appreciated!

        • Hi, Roger!

          It’s great to hear from you. Let me know what you think of the novel writing course. The books I recommend will help a lot. “The Elements of Style” is the foundation for all of my writing. If you absorb most of what is in that little book, you will know more about writing than most people.

          Thanks for stopping by,

  13. Tried to enter email and it says email service not active, contact you.

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