Nailing the 4 Essential Pillars of Novel Construction – Talk and Q&A | Mechanics' Institute

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Nailing the 4 Essential Pillars of Novel Construction – Talk and Q&A
With C. S. Lakin

Cover of the book 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction

This event has been cancelled. 

This is a class co-sponsored by MI and San Francisco Writers Conference/San Francisco Writers Foundation.

Smart writers will take the time to learn how to structure strong pillars that will hold up their stories. If these 4 essential pillars are weak, your novel will collapse. This 2-hour slide talk and discussion will go deep into your concept with a kicker, protagonist with a goal, conflict with high stakes, and theme with a heart. At the end of this session you will thoroughly understand how to build your corner pillars and be given worksheets to help you brainstorm and solidify these essential elements of novel construction. Attend the afternoon session if you’re ready to workshop your pillars!

Build smart! Over and over, struggling writers make the same fatal mistakes in their manuscripts. Even writers who have studied all the “best” writing craft books and taken workshops and followed writers’ blogs still don’t get the structure.

Build strong! Structure is crucial for writing a solid story, and smart writers will take the time to learn how to build strong corner pillars—the foundation that must be tackled first—that will hold up their novels. This talk and workshop goes deep into structure, explaining not just what the key elements are that support your story but giving examples and suggestions on how you can turn your ordinary idea into a killer “concept with a kicker.”

In this talk and hands-on workshop, you’ll learn:

  • what the four primary support pillars are and why and how you need to build these first
  • how to determine if an idea has the potential to become a riveting concept with a kicker and how to transform the idea into a stunning concept
  • what high stakes really are and why they matter—and how to ensure your novel is exploding with them
  • the secret to creating a compelling protagonist and the two goals he needs to be pursuing
  • why theme is so important and how to find your theme and the heart of your story

In the morning session, you’ll learn all about these pillars via a slide talk and Q&A discussion. You’ll be given worksheets for your pillars so you can start brainstorming. After lunch, be ready to share your ideas, ask questions, and get feedback from your instructor and fellow writers, as well as offer your feedback and helpful suggestions on others’ pillar ideas.

We writers mostly work alone. It’s time to get out of the cage and see how fun, inspiring, and productive it is to have a village join in on the process!

C. S. Lakin is the author of twenty novels of various genres, a freelance copyeditor and writing coach, an award-winning blogger at Live Write Thrive, and the fiction track director at the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. She teaches workshops and plotting boot camps around the US and critiques more than two hundred manuscripts a year. Her Writer’s Toolbox series of writing craft books provides intense instruction on all aspects of novel writing. Read about C. S. Lakin at her blog and check out her books on her Amazon Author Page.


For each class, we reserve the right to cancel at any time and issue a full refund. If you are unable to attend your class, please email at least ten days prior to receive a refund. All fees must be paid at the time of registration.


Members $39
Public $49
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4th Floor Board Room
Taryn Edwards - 415-393-0103
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