Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Fiction Seminar: Writing Plot

In this course, we isolate one element of craft—plot—to figure out what it is and how it works. What counts as action? How do plots either satisfy or thwart our expectations as readers? Why do some stories and novels move, while others stagnate? To help us explore these questions, we will read and discuss short fiction by Curtis Sittenfeld, Danielle Evans, Annie Proulx, and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, examining each author’s unique approach to storytelling.

We will also learn how to write plot. In addition to weekly reading assignments, students will complete three short writing exercises. In the fourth week, students will submit a completed short story or novel excerpt. I will provide written feedback on everything you turn in for this course. This course won’t take the form of a traditional workshop. We'll spend our class time engaged in conversation about craft; we'll also use our time together to write. In class and outside it, you'll practice making things happen in your fiction.

Writers will leave this class with a better understanding of how to write an absorbing, propulsive story that surprises and satisfies its reader. You will also have the chance to discuss a diverse collection of short stories in a supportive, relaxed environment. This course is appropriate for both new and experienced writers looking to grow their skills and their community. 

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.

Check out this page for details about payment plans and discount opportunities.  


- Receive detailed feedback from instructor on three exercises and one story or novel excerpt

- Learn to write a propulsive, plot-driven story

- Contribute to weekly discussions about craft, technique, and storytelling

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will complete a reading before each class, write a short exercise (under 1,000 words) before each class, and submit a final short story or novel excerpt (up to 3,000 words) to the instructor for feedback.



Reading assignment: "Show Don't Tell" by Curtis Sittenfeld

Short writing exercise due before class

In-class discussion of reading assignment

In-class writing exercise


Reading assignment: "Anything Could Disappear" by Danielle Evans

Short writing exercise due before class

In-class discussion of reading assignment

In-class writing exercise


Reading assignment: "The Half Skinned Steer" by Annie Proulx

Short writing exercise due before class

In-class discussion of reading assignment

In-class writing exercise


Reading assignment: ""Nondisclosure Agreement" by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh"

Final assignment (full short story or novel excerpt) due before class

In-class discussion of reading assignment

Instead of an in-class writing exercise, we'll have an open forum Q&A during which students can ask me about publishing: finding an agent, pitching a magazine, working with an editor, etc. Students will also have a chance to share their own publishing experiences and advice. 

Emily Adrian

Emily Adrian is the author of Everything Here Is Under Control and The Second Season, as well as two critically acclaimed novels for young adults. Her work has appeared in Joyland, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Granta. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Emily currently lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her family.


“Filled with compelling characters…Full of texture and authentic human ambivalence.”


"I'm a goner; I will read anything she writes.''

Rufi Thorpe Author, THE KNOCKOUT QUEEN

"She writes as engagingly and insightfully about basketball and broadcasting as she does about work, love, friendship, ambition, motherhood, aging, and the power and frailty of the body."

Chris Bachelder Author, THE THROWBACK SPECIAL

"Emily can take any piece of writing from good to great with her ability to hone in on the heart of the story and her deep understanding of what makes a novel engaging and believable."

Kerry Winfrey Author, WAITING FOR TOM HANKS

"Emily is a careful reader and a skilled editor. She has been invaluable in turning my writing into the best possible version of itself."

Former editing client