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3-Month Novel Mentorship: From Idea to Outline with C. S. Lakin, Starts September 1st, 2021
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3-Month Novel Mentorship: From Idea to Outline with C. S. Lakin, Starts September 1st, 2021

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**Applications are Required**

Program Will Start September 1st, 2021

Early applications are encouraged. Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis.

Click HERE to Apply by August 25th, 2021.

IMPORTANT: Please do not pay for the mentorship until you receive an acceptance notification via email.

Any questions about this mentorship? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.

Application Process: Complete Application Questionnaire by August 25th, 2021.

We are very excited to offer a limited enrollment 3-Month Novel Mentorship: From Idea to Outline with C. S. (Susanne) Lakin, award-winning novelist and writing coach, freelance book copyeditor, and workshop instructor. Lakin is the also the author of the popular nonfiction series of books in The Writer’s Toolbox—aimed to help writers of fiction and nonfiction master their craft.

This is an immersive program designed to shepherd hardworking writers from concept to completed outline for their novel and identify next steps for the project as well as weak areas that need special attention. 

The ideal applicant:

The ideal applicant has the discipline to be an online student and the desire to complete a detailed and multilayered novel outline during the program.

This one-on-one mentorship is not about bringing a few general ideas for a story to the table and expecting the mentor to come up with a viable story. Mentees need to be prepared to hammer out their plot—with assistance and suggestions—and create a solid scene outline.

Writers will best benefit by this mentorship program if they have written at least one draft of a novel. However, writers who have studied novel structure extensively and haven’t yet completed a draft are also welcome to apply.

Applicants need to have a good working knowledge of novel/story structure. They can begin this mentorship once they have a rough plot worked out and a strong premise. They also need to do their homework and determine the niche genre their novel fits into (provide at least two current best sellers as comparables).

Whether you are still working on your idea or are well into writing it, this mentorship will meet you where you are and motivate and inspire both beginning and advanced novelists.

By the end of the 3-month program, mentees will have a well-crafted full novel outline that satisfyingly addresses these key elements:

  • The overall plot
  • The character arc
  • The central conflict and rising stakes
  • The theme at the heart of the story
  • The roles all the characters play to either help or hinder the protagonist from reaching the goal.

 How this mentorship works:

  • At the start of the mentorship, mentees will have a one-hour phone consultation to discuss their project. The overall story premise, stakes, and genre will be examined.
  • This mentorship includes two one-hour phone chats a month (total of six over the three months), and these will be tied in with specific milestones set at the start of the mentorship.
  • The mentee will move from idea to laying out a rough synopsis to creating a 10-key scene chart (identifying the 5 key turning points), then nailing a 20-key scene chart.
  • From there the full outline will take shape and be tweaked until perfect.
  • Documents and correspondence will be exchanged via email.

This mentorship process is invaluable to developing a professional, responsible, and logical method to bring order to creativity. Writers often have a cauldron of ideas simmering, but the challenge comes in turning all those great ideas into a masterpiece that is beautifully and solidly structured.


“Without Susanne Lakin's expert editing, expertise on how a book should be put together, and her special literary insights, I would not have my newest novel, Love, Sometimes, with an agent and a film option, and now sold to Simon & Schuster for publication. I can’t wait to give her the rest of my books. Not only is she a great writer, but she's a rare combination, also knowing how to edit.” —Barbara Rose Brooker

“Susanne went above and beyond, making important plot suggestions and pointing out holes in the story, along with providing an excellent job of line editing and proofreading. Nice job, quickly and effectively done.” —Richard Mabry MD, award-winning author

“Susanne doesn't change the mood of your work, she smooths out the wrinkles. She taught me things to spice up and improve my style. Her help resulted in my first novel winning the CSP Book of the Year Award for fiction. The publisher could not have made a better choice.” —Pola Muzyka, award-winning author

“Susanne is more than an mentor and editor; she cares about your book as if it were her own. As a first-time author, I appreciated Susanne's help, which was essential to me publishing a quality book.  I simply can't thank her enough. My book went on to win first place in the Feathered Quill Book Awards!” —William Lawrence, author

“Susanne's critiques are top-notch. I love the fast but thorough work that she does every single time. My book I Won't Cry hit three best-seller lists right away, and I could not have done it without her.” —Shaquanda Dalton, author

Tuition Payment:

Full tuition for the 3-month program is $1,900. Accepted writers must commit to the full three months and meet all assigned deadlines. You can pay the tuition in full or opt for equal monthly payments by selecting Affirm at checkout. If you decide to create a monthly payment plan using Affirm, you can do so once you add "Full Tuition" to your cart, enter your contact information, and are on the payment page.

Starting Date:

Upon acceptance of application, the mentee can begin right away by setting up the first phone consultation. The three months officially starts with the first phone consultation. Whether the participant’s outline is completed before or after the three months ends does not affect the period of mentorship. Additional mentoring can be arranged if more time is needed. And if the outline is finished early, the remaining time can be used to go deeper into individual scenes.

Mentor C. S. Lakin is an award-winning author and blogger at Live Write Thrive ( She has twenty novels and ten writing crafts books published and works full-time as a copyeditor and writing coach. In addition to teaching and speaking at workshops, she offers online courses for writers and editors at Susanne is also the fiction track coordinator of the San Francisco Writers’ Conference and facilitates intensive online critique groups for successful commercial fiction writing. Check out her blogs and websites here: Live Write Thrive, The Self Publisher, and Critique My Manuscript.

More Testimonials

“I hired Susanne this year to content and copyedit a novel of mine, and her expertise and insight have proven the most valuable I have come across in my experience with mentors and consultants. Susanne's advice whipped my writing into perfect shape and I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to recommend her. Not only is she brilliant at her work, but she is also kind, caring, and enthusiastic. She has motivated me to produce the best work possible, and this has made me realize that rewriting isn’t as daunting as it seems.” —Jessica Bell, author

 “Susanne Lakin, already a gem of a novelist, shines with extra brilliance through the facets of her superb editing and critiquing services. Susanne took our good work and made it great through her remarkable ability to find and fix subtle problems that would nag at a reader's subconscious, yet in her editing never stole the heart or the voice of our work. Some editors rush a job when it comes in with a short deadline. Susanne did not. Above all, Susanne is lovingly blunt, but not confrontational. I don't want an editor who glosses over trouble just to keep my business. Her commitment to good writing is always the first focus in her reviews. I'll go back to Susanne Lakin often—for quality work, for quick work, for a helping spirit, and for exacting honesty. She's a diamond in the world of editors and critiquing services.” —Austin Boyd, author

“Susanne made the difference between my being unpublished and moving on to publication. Within months after her stellar edits, a publisher sent me a contract for my Middle Grade novel, and now my first book has been published. Thank you, Susanne, for making my dream come true.” —Jeanne Williams


“Susanne Lakin is a prolific writer and an exceptional instructor. Her knowledge, skill, and in-depth teachings have helped other writers succeed in their careers. Susanne is a mentor every writer needs. “ —Geraldine Solon, bestselling author

“As the coordinator/director of the volunteers for the Central Coast Writers’ Conference, I’m in the unique position to be at the center of any feedback.  Susanne Lakin comes with a long list of glowing comments.  Repeatedly I heard ‘welcoming . . .competent . . .professional . . .capable . . .helpful . . .insightful . . .and most often, encouraging.’  She addresses weaknesses while putting the emphasis on the positives.  While this makes her especially good with new or inexperienced writers, I can personally say she’s equally effective with well-published and veteran authors. Feedback regarding her as a presenter contain similar comments, with ‘dynamic and engaging’ added to the list. Susanne was always inclusive in her interactions with everyone—other presenters, attendees, and even the volunteers.  She didn’t put herself or her position as above anyone there. Susanne Lakin is a genuinely warm and wonderful person, as well as an insightful and professional editor.” —Anna Unkovich, Coordinator/Director of Volunteers Central Coast Writers’ Conference, San Luis Obispo, CA

Testimonials from Lakin’s Mastermind Critique Courses:


“The master critique group has been amazing. Since starting this group, my writing skills and grasp of story mechanics have improved exponentially due to Susanne's guidance and direction as well as input from members of the group. I was stuck writing on my own, and this has given me the push and tools I needed to accomplish my goals.” —Jenny Perry, PhD

“Susanne's Master Critique Group was very useful for receiving external feedback on my work. I learned a lot by doing this course and improved my ability to critique and see what needs revising in my own work as well. Susanne is a great teacher, full of energy and enthusiasm and can edit a writer's scene without offending but illuminating where it can be improved. It wasn't easy but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.” —Samantha Ridgway

“Susanne's Master Critique Groups show you how to develop and polish every aspect of your scenes. Her wealth of experience and compassionate teaching will help you keep your readers hooked on every page.”  —Will Wraxall

“I had hit a brick wall and not written anything in six months. This workshop was a much needed kick in the pants. I found the commitment to submit a scene a week for critiquing, and critiquing two other writers' scene every week, fleshed out the helpful basics Susanne teaches. What I learned about writing gave me a fresh evaluation of my work and more importantly the motivation and the tools to enjoy writing again.” —Gene Quinones

“I have learned SO much in such a short space of time. It was a big commitment to make, but it was so, so worth it. I won’t ever regret it—at the very least, my writing will be so much better than before. The very best outcome is beyond exciting and I feel far more confident about making that dream a reality.” —Liz Thompson

“As someone who has only really started writing about a year ago, I can say without doubt that this course has made my writing 1,000 times better. Not just simple things like not putting in so many speech tags or formatting. The structure of my novel, the POV, sensory detail. While I had some of these things already, learning what works and what doesn't has improved my writing tenfold. I honestly did not know what to expect when I joined this course, but it has changed my writing and my joy of writing for the better. I cannot thank Susanne enough, and I look forward to continuing to learn from her in the future.” —Joshua Bruce

“Susanne has an amazing ability to analyze scenes and point out the subtleties of what works and why. As an instructor, she is encouraging and patient. You’ll love working with her!” —Dana Killion

“Susanne's Master Critique Groups are an amazing way to accelerate your writing. You'll quickly learn techniques on plotting and craft that normally takes writers years to develop. I was stalled on a manuscript and after only a few sessions could see exactly what I needed to do to continue with revisions. I highly recommend any of Susanne's courses to both new and experienced writers.” —Jean Grabow

“Susanne Lakin's Master Critique group has been the single most helpful workshop/class that I have attended. She covered topics that are imperative to writing an excellent novel.  She presented excerpts from published novels as examples and created charts and templates to strengthen characters, dialogue, scenes, plots, etc. to draw in readers. The course is intense but not overwhelming. Weekly critiques from group members focused on the material Susanne had covered in the workshop. Critiques from Susanne during the workshop were the most valuable aspect.  I learned more from Susanne in her Master Critique group than I have from any craft book or workshop.” — Elyse Garrett


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