IFW - Shape, Write & Sell Your Novel

Are you an advanced writer?

This intensive novel writing course is designed for you.

Shape, Write and Sell Your Novel is our celebrated advanced training program specifically designed for selected IFW or ICL graduates and for qualifying non-graduates. You will receive advanced training with one-on-one instruction to increase your prospects for success as a writer in the genre of your choice.

You will learn the entire process of crafting a novel, including:

  • starting with the solid foundation of a salable idea;
  • finding the genre that matches your idea;
  • creating a plot summary outline;
  • writing and revising your first three chapters;
  • researching and identifying your market;
  • developing a submission package targeted to an appropriate editor or agent, which includes a synopsis of your entire novel.

The most important feature of this course is the in-depth involvement and participation of an experienced book author as your instructor. You will always have a guide and mentor as you learn the process and begin to write your manuscript.

One-on-one instruction is what you get throughout Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel. It is the only method of instruction we use. We train all of our instructors in this process. In addition, we've given only a few hand-picked instructors intensive course-specific training in this advanced course. One of these specially selected instructors will be your personal guide and mentor from the first through the last assignment.

Your mentor will also teach you:

  • how the book publishing industry actually works,
  • where your particular interests belong among the many genres of fiction,
  • how to find the appropriate market for your novel,
  • how to create a submission package that clearly comes across as professional.

Submission requirements vary from publisher to publisher but you’ll finish this course prepared to satisfy a wide variety of submission guidelines.

Start Your Enrollment Here

Course Plan

The course plan will take you from where you are now to a fully envisioned novel with at least your first three chapters completed, along with a professional submission package. Here is a brief summary of the steps you’ll take on this extraordinary journey.

Assignment 1: Begin at the beginning... with an idea. You’ll probably bring at least one idea with you and we’ll help you to shape and strengthen the best one until it’s big enough to sustain your first novel. But if you don’t have a fixed idea, or if you decide to explore a new one, or change the genre you originally had in mind, don’t worry. Relax. We’ll give you the techniques to find new ideas, whether you use them now or with your next novel. Ideas are everywhere; but it takes a certain skill to see them. You’ll identify the genre in which your idea belongs. (Is it a mystery, young adult, a mainstream story, or something else?) You’ll also write an introductory letter, telling your instructor how much writing experience you’ve had, what you’re writing goals are, what you enjoy reading, and even what you worry about. That will help your instructor help you.

Assignment 2: Infuse your novel idea with a soul – create your main characters. Real characters, as we all know, are critical to a powerful story. But how do you create a real character? You’ll find out just what it takes to bring a made-up person to life. As you complete your character worksheet, this character will begin to take shape before your eyes. You’ll give your character a voice and learn how to make dialogue sound like real speech, and how to imbue your character with emotions readers can share.

Assignment 3: Plan your plot – create conflict. With your sound idea and vivid character ready, you’ll begin to plan your plot. Conflict – both internal and external – drives a novel. You’ll learn how to create and use conflict to keep your story moving strongly from beginning to end. You’ll learn about the dramatic arc and how to give your story a powerful ending. When you complete this assignment, you’ll have a rough outline of where you want your story to go.

Assignment 4: Work with the mechanics of novel craft – write your first chapter. How do you create a powerful beginning? What makes a good scene? How long should a chapter be, and how do you transition from chapter to chapter? You’ll learn techniques to imbue your story with vivid detail that will keep your reader glued to the page, beginning with that all important first chapter that hooks the reader into your story.

Assignment 5: Create Chapter 2. You’ll learn how plot, character, and setting work together, and how to use detail to bring your scenes to life without losing forward momentum. You’ll build a dynamic and realistic stage for your story, as setting becomes part of the drama rather than a painted backdrop. You’ll learn how to read novels with a writer’s eye toward what they can teach you.

Assignment 6: Write Chapter 3. Use subplots to carry your story through that desert of the middle. Can you have too many subplots? When should they resolve? What kind of role will strong secondary characters play in your novel? This is also the time to start thinking about a title.

Assignment 7: Revise your early chapter. Revision is a critical part of the novel writing process, and learning how to revise effectively will save you time and rewrites. You’ll learn strategies to simplify the process and help you focus on specific issues as you work through your novel draft. You’ll discover the fine points of character filtering––increasing the effectiveness of dialogue––and how to tighten your prose. You’ll also take the first steps towards choosing a market for your novel.

Assignment 8: Look beyond the end of your manuscript to the business of selling and publishing your novel. You’ll learn about the many options available in today’s publishing universe. You’ll research the type of publisher that suits your goals and select the best one. You’ll learn how to interpret submission guidelines and prepare a professional package for your chosen publisher. You’ll read about agents and find out how to acquire one. You’ll also write a synopsis of your book, as well as a query letter to the editor or agent of your choice. You’ll also think about sequels and how to plan ahead if you want to turn this first book into a series. You’ll have everything you need to submit to a wide variety of publishers: a dynamic synopsis, a strong query letter, and the first three chapters of your novel.

For more detailed information about the course outline, please contact Student Services. Admission to the course is conditional on our review of a writing sample, or on the recommendation of your instructor if you have previously taken one of our courses.

 Course Materials

All of your course materials and textbooks are included with your tuition for Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel. They include IFW's road map to a finished novel, the 328-page Course Manual. You'll also receive The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, and the Novel and Short Story Writers Market included in your course materials.


The tuition for the complete course of instruction, if paid in full at the time of enrollment, is US$895 plus $19 shipping (US only; other countries will vary). With our monthly payment plan, $85 is due upon enrollment, with $85 payable per month for 10 months, for a total of $935 plus shipping. Tuition is all-inclusive: texts and sales taxes, where applicable, are all included. Overseas students may contact Student Services for shipping costs to their country.

When you graduate, you'll receive the Institute's coveted diploma.


Step by step, with your instructor at your side, Shape, Write and Sell Your Novel will lead you through the process of writing a novel. And this process will work for your first novel as well as any other novel you write. 

Start Your Enrollment Here


IF YOU ARE A GRADUATE of our other courses and are interested in this advanced program, visit the Student Center to learn if you qualify for admission into the program.

IF YOU HAVE NOT TAKEN A COURSE WITH US, begin your enrollment process here.


The CT Board for State Academic Awards recommends that graduates be awarded five college credits for completing this advanced course through Charter Oak State University for a fee. If you are a teacher, transcripts can be sent to your local school board at your request. Full information is available from the Institute to help you take advantage of this opportunity.

If you want to complete our course in six months, it’ll just take about 10-11 hours per week. Our course is estimated to require approximately 223 hours of study, but you can work as quickly as you want. We allow you up to two years for completion.



Writers, teachers, and others whose business skills are enhanced by the writing techniques developed in our program may qualify for a tax deduction. Consult your tax advisor to learn if you qualify.

Our promise to you:

Shape, Write, and Sell Your Novel will teach you the entire process of crafting a novel starting with the solid foundation of a salable idea; finding the genre that matches your idea; creating a plot summary outline; writing and revising your first three chapters; researching and identifying your market; and developing a submission package targeted to an appropriate editor or agent, which includes a synopsis of your entire novel.

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