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How Bestselling Authors Write The “Bones” Of Their Novels.

Will the “bones” of your novel hold up? Or will they crack under the pressure?

All great novels get these 3 things right. But most first-time novelists get them wrong.

Dear Fellow Writer,

Because you’re visiting this page, I’m gonna guess a few things about you:

  • You’re working on a novel right now.
  • You aren’t quite satisfied with what you’ve written so far.
  • You don’t know how to fix what’s wrong. You know you need to change something, but you’re not quite sure how...

I’ve been in your shoes before, so I know exactly how you feel.

When I was first starting out as a writer, I’d write the same sections over and over again. But they never came out the way I wanted them to...

The words didn’t feel right. But I couldn’t figure out exactly what was wrong...

It was the most frustrating feeling in the world. I had all these great ideas in my head... I just couldn’t get them onto the page.

Is that happening to you?

The good news is, after 7 years of working with David Farland — plus 5 years working with other award-winning novelists — I don’t have that problem anymore.

Today, I know the “ingredients” of a good story. That means when I look at a paragraph, or a chapter, or an entire novel, and it feels wrong to me, I know how to fix it.

This is something most bestselling authors can do. When they read their first drafts, they can pinpoint all the flaws — which means it’s a lot easier to fix them.

This is a game-changing ability for novelists. Not only does it make your writing better, it drastically cuts down on the time you spend editing. 

Further down this page, I’m gonna tell you what the “ingredients” of a great novel are.

I’ll give you a hint: when your readers put your novel down, these are the 3 things they’ll remember most.

But before I tell you about that, I need to tell you why the deck is stacked against you...


Imagine you sent your novel to a publisher today. 

Would they like it?

Would they publish it?

(Would they even read it?)

Writing is a tough business. When you send a book to a publisher, the odds are against you. 

Unless your story totally knocks their socks off, you’re probably gonna get a rejection letter. 

Right now, there’s a great novel in your head. It could knock a publisher’s socks off. It could get you a book deal.

But a great novel isn’t worth squat sitting inside your head. You have to get it onto the page. That’s the hard part.

Maybe your characters fall short. Your readers don’t care about them, because they just don’t feel real.

Maybe your scenes fall flat. They don’t hit your readers in the heart, and they don’t take the plot anywhere interesting.

Maybe your book doesn’t feel meaningful. There’s no message in it that your reader can take home. When your readers finish the book, they feel empty... and maybe even a little bit cheated.

So, how do you get your novel “right”?


I haven’t read your novel. 

That means I don’t know exactly what’s holding it back. I can’t tell you exactly what the problem is.

However, I’ve read a lot of writers’ debut novels. And in my experience, there are 3 crucial things that first-time authors get wrong.

If your story seems off, then 9 times out of 10, the problem is in your story’s “bones.”

Here’s a helpful analogy: imagine if your body didn’t have any bones. What would that be like?

Well, you wouldn’t be able to stand up. You’d just be a puddle of goo on the floor.

Novels are the same way. If they don’t have “bones,” they don’t hold up.

When you send your novel to a publisher, one of two things is gonna happen. Your story will either hold up under the pressure, or it’ll fall flat.

And it all comes down to your “bones” — these 3 key elements that every story needs.


The 3 most important elements in any novel are:

Your characters. Do your characters feel like real people? Does your reader want to root for them? Or against them? Do you bring them to life with personality and internal conflict and backstory? Or are they just lifeless props you’ve set up to make the plot work?

Your plot. Does your story take people on a journey? Is there a sense of progress and change? Do you have a good story arc? Are you keeping people on their toes? Do people want to keep reading?

Your theme. Does your story say something meaningful? Will the reader learn something? Will they walk away feeling like they’ve changed? Will they remember the story for years to come, or just forget it?

If you get these 3 things right, it’s usually enough to push your novel over the edge. Sometimes, it can even get you a book deal.

In fact, if you have good “bones,” it can make up for other mistakes in your novel.

But, if you get just 1 of these 3 things wrong, your novel will probably end up in a publisher’s “circular file.”

(Or in other words, the trash can.)

If you don’t believe me, let’s go over some famous novels...



Let’s take a look at an all-time classic novel series, The Lord of the Rings. How are its “bones”?

  • Characters. When you read The Lord of the Rings, you meet a wide variety of characters. Frodo is a simple Hobbit, an ordinary hero: he’s brave, and he tries to be good and honorable. Gandalf, the seemingly all-powerful mentor, helps where he can, but it’s ultimately up to Frodo and Sam to figure things out with the Ring. 

Gollum creeps us out, and we’re a little afraid of him, but he plays a critical role. And Sauron is the powerful evil villain who rules over Middle-earth, who they must defeat.

  • Plot. The Lord of the Rings is a harrowing tale of adventure. There’s always some new obstacle that the characters have to get over. You’re on the edge of your seat nearly all the way through.
  • Theme. For decades, people have been changed by the themes of power, death, and immortality. Plus, Middle-earth reminds you of our world in subtle ways...

Without good bones, The Lord of the Rings would’ve been lost to history. If Tolkien had told the same story, but with dull characters, a less interesting plot, and a theme that people didn’t relate to, then we might not be talking about it today.

Instead, The Lord of the Rings holds up over half a century later. It’s even become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time!


Okay, so The Lord of the Rings has good “bones,” but that was written over 50 years ago. How about The Hunger Games?

  • Characters. In The Hunger Games, you root for Katniss, a resourceful young girl who wants to save her sister. The evil, cunning Capitol wants to kill Katniss, for sport. So she has to be on constant lookout if she wants to survive. She teams up with Rue, the strong, brave young girl, and Peeta, the semi-trustworthy love interest. And she has to take on the cunning Careers, who are out to get her. Nearly everyone in The Hunger Games feels real, interesting, and a little bit dangerous.
  • Plot. When Prim’s name is called at the Reaping, Katniss makes a brave, selfless move: she volunteers to go in her place. Katniss is thrust out of her familiar life of District 12 to the lavish world of the Capitol, and then the harsh arena. There is danger at every turn–if cold nights and dehydration don’t get you, the Careers will. 
  • Theme. The Hunger Games isn’t just a thrilling story about a young girl. It’s a commentary on politics and sacrifice that is relevant to today. Should we sacrifice ourselves to save others, like Katniss? Or sacrifice others to benefit ourselves, like the Capitol? 

When you put The Hunger Games down for the last time, you don’t just feel like you’ve survived the arena. You feel like you’ve learned something. 

The Hunger Games is a dark book to read, especially for teens. In the wrong hands, it would have been a total flop.

But the characters, plot, and theme are so fantastic and thought-provoking, it was not only a highly successful book, but it was made into a highly successful movie.


And how about Harry Potter? It might just have the best bones of all time.

  • Characters. We love rooting for Harry Potter because he’s the underdog — but also because he’s brave, he’s relatable, and he has a special “gift.” We love Dumbledore, the wise sage who shows Harry the road. 

Meanwhile, Voldemort makes a perfect villain, because he terrifies us and he seems like pure evil, but also because he’s multidimensional. And even the secondary characters seem full of life (think the Weasley twins, for instance...)

  • Plot. There’s never a dull moment in the Harry Potter series. Just when you think you’re safe, something bad happens (like when the Death Eaters show up at the Quidditch World Cup...)

The stakes are high, and our heroes are usually one wrong move away from disaster... or detention. It’s easy to get lost in Harry Potter and read it well into the night (or even into the next morning). 

  • Theme. Harry Potter resonates with us because of its meaningful messages: love is the most powerful force in the world, our choices matter more than our abilities, and those who have passed on never really leave us. We finish each book armored and ready to face our own challenges

You can do this for any novel you’ve ever read. I dare you to find a classic novel that doesn’t have great bones.

My point is, this is the number one thing you have to get right as a novelist. 

You can’t mess this up and still write a great novel — or even a “just okay” novel.

If you think your novel’s falling short, it means your bones probably aren’t good enough.

So how do you write better bones? Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix. 

You can’t log into ChatGPT and tell it to make your characters more compelling, or your plot more exciting.

There’s only one way to get your bones right: you have to learn to write mind-blowing, knock-your-socks-off, bestseller-quality bones...


Starting on March 7, I’m teaming up with MyStoryDoctor to teach a brand new course.

It’s called “The Triarchy Method” — and it’s all about writing great bones.

Over the course of 12 weeks, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop characters that feel real. They come to life on the page, they take shape in your readers’ minds, and people root for them.
  • Write thrilling scenes that put your audience on the edge of their seats
  • And add the cherry on top with a brilliant theme.

The course is designed to add those “missing pieces” to your novel — so you can be proud of the end result, and so you can confidently submit what you’ve written to publishers one day.


Hi! My name’s September C. Fawkes, and for 7 years, I was David Farland’s assistant. That meant when his students submitted work for review, I was usually the one reviewing it.

As I worked with David, I earned his trust... and eventually, he had me editing his own work!

Today, I’m a professional editor. Novelists from all over hire me to look at their own work — and give them tips on how to improve it.

I also blog about writing... In fact, my blog won a Writer’s Digest award.

(Oh, and I’m part of a bunch of panels at the FanX Comic Convention... the 2nd largest comic convention in the world!)

After David passed, the folks at MyStoryDoctor and I decided to team up and do a course together. It’s a perfect fit, because teaching a course is awfully similar to my old role with David. 

Whenever David taught a creative writing class, I was doing all the behind the scenes work holding everything together. 

Now, for the first time ever, I’m coming out from behind the curtain, and I’m teaching the class myself!

“More and more, I’ve had her editing work for me—looking over novels and writing assignments and offering critiques. Very often, the authors that we work with tell me, ‘Thank Fawkes for all of her valuable suggestions. I was just simply blown away by her insights and her thoroughness.’ And they’re right. She is a fine editor. That’s why I ask her to look over just about everything that I send out for publication.“

– David Farland, New York Times best-selling author and acclaimed writing instructor

“The changes she made were so spot on that I knew she really cared about the story and wanted it to be the best it possibly could be. The book became a best-seller and has garnered a large newsletter/mailing list for my other books.”

– JK Cooper, Amazon and Audible best-selling author of Awakening

"I am so thankful for the editing work that Fawkes did on my first novel, The Feather and the Moon Well. Not only did I receive great edits, but she also offered terrific suggestions to improve my story. Working with Fawkes also taught me ways to improve my writing that I will forever carry with me. I would eagerly recommend her for any writing venture."

-Shawn Pao, author of The Feather and the Moon Well


The Triarchy Method is for you if:

  • You have a great novel idea in your head.
  • You’re determined to bring it to life.
  • But you’re struggling to shape your vision into a solid, unforgettable story. For whatever reason, it’s not coming together the way you want...


  • Recordings of every session. That means you can go back and rewatch our classes as many times as you need to. This helps when you’re dealing with writer’s block, or when you’re going back and rewriting old sections.
  • Feedback from me personally. You’re gonna get feedback from me on all your in-class assignments. (This is the same kind of feedback that pro novelists pay me for...)
  • A live “teardown” of one of your scenes. At some point during the course, we’re gonna workshop one of your scenes in class. I’ll tell you exactly what your scene is missing, so you can write it the way it deserves to be written.


When you sat down to write your novel, you thought you were ready. 

You thought the words would flow from your fingertips. You thought your story would come to life on the page.

After all, you’ve taken a few creative writing classes. And you’ve read plenty of great novels.

So... why are you getting stuck?

Here’s the thing. Creative writing classes aren’t something you just take once. If you want to be a great writer, you have to constantly get better.

That’s why Brandon Sanderson — and plenty of other bestselling novelists — took David Farland’s creative writing class at BYU twice

That’s also why it feels like something’s missing from your novel. If you’re writing and rewriting the same sections over and over again, it means you don’t quite have the skills to write a bestseller. (But you’re getting closer...)

Now, I can’t promise you that The Triarchy Method will make you write like Brandon Sanderson.

But I can tell you this: after taking The Triarchy Method, you’ll be one giant step closer to getting a book deal.

Oh, and, by the way: the average advance for a debut novelist is $5,000. And they can get as high as $50,000.

From there, the sky’s the limit. If people love your book, then you can make a career out of writing — and maybe even more.

Brandon Sanderson is worth $6 million. George R.R. Martin is worth $120 million. And J.K. Rowling is estimated to be worth over a billion dollars today. 

I’m not saying you’re gonna hit those kinds of numbers. But it’s possible — and if you wanna get there, you’re gonna need the tools.

And worst case scenario, even if your novel never gets published, you’ll have created a work of art — something you can always be proud of, and something that will have your name on it forever.

Now, you’re probably wondering: how much does a seat in The Triarchy Method cost?

I’m not gonna ask for your whole advance. I’m not gonna ask for $50,000, or even $5,000.

In fact, you can get a seat in The Triarchy Method for only $1597.

Taking this course can give you the tools to put your debut novel over the edge... so you can be proud of it, and so you can get paid for it.

And after that? Anything’s possible.


The Triarchy Method will start on January 9th.

After that, we’re gonna meet twice a week for 12 weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 PM Mountain Time.

(If you can’t make the live sessions, don’t worry. We’ll be recording them. And you’ll still get feedback on all the class exercises. Watching recordings will be 95% as good as being there in person — at least.)


There are only 10 seats in The Triarchy Method.

That’s because teaching a course like this is a lot of work. Everyone in the class is gonna get one-on-one attention from me. And I don’t have the time to do that for everyone.

That means I have to cap signups. Not everyone who wants a seat will get a seat.

It’s first come, first serve. As soon as we get signup number 10, the doors to this course are gonna close — and if you’re not in by then, then you’re gonna be left behind.

The good news is, if you’re reading this page, signups are still open. But if you click away and come back tomorrow, I can’t promise that the course won’t have filled up.

So if you’re serious about the novel you’re writing, and you want to “take your shot” at launching a career out of this, then you should sign up for a seat right now.

Just click below, and I’ll see you there!

P.S. I assume you’re not gonna give up.

I assume you’re not gonna leave your novel unfinished.

You’re not gonna go to your grave with a half-completed manuscript in your computer.


In that case, you have 2 options.

One option is, you can keep writing your novel on your own.

You can write and rewrite each section over and over again, hoping this time it’ll feel right.

But the problem with that is, if you can’t tell what’s wrong with your novel, then how are you gonna fix it?

Blindly rewriting sections of your novel hoping it’ll get “better” is kinda like throwing dice.

You might get lucky. But it’s gonna take forever... and there’s no guarantee you’ll get it right in the end.

Option 2 is, you can figure out what the problem is — and then fix it.

When your car breaks down, you don’t try to fix it yourself. If you tried to go under the hood and fix it, you’d have no idea what you were doing.

Instead, you go to a mechanic — someone who knows how to fix cars. Then, they figure out what the problem is, and they fix it.

It’s the same thing when you’re writing a novel. You don’t want to guess what the problem is. You want to know for sure.

Except taking this course is even better than going to a mechanic. 

That’s because you won’t just get help with the novel you’re writing now. 

You’ll be able to diagnose — and fix — the issues with every novel you ever write. For the rest of your life.

If you’re serious about the book you’re writing, then you should stop scrolling right now, click the button below, and sign up for a spot in The Triarchy Method.

Just click the link below:

P.P.S. The average advance for a debut novelist is $5,000.

Imagine if a publishing house put $5,000 in your bank account tomorrow. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

And your advance is just the tip of the iceberg.

Some of David Farland’s former students are millionaires today. And the stuff you’re gonna learn in The Triarchy Method is some of the exact same stuff those guys use to write bestsellers.

Of course, this isn’t really about money. 

It’s about creating a great work of art — something that you’re proud of, something that gives people joy, and something that people will talk about at your funeral.

Any money you make is just an added bonus.

But you’re not gonna learn this stuff on your own. There’s little “on-the-job training” to be a novelist. It’s better to work with pros who know what they’re doing.

The novel in your head could be a bestseller, if you write it correctly. It’d be a real shame if you didn’t do it justice — or, even worse, you left it unfinished.

Now — you’ve reached the end of the page, so it’s time to make a decision.

Are you in, or out?

Don’t put off the decision until tomorrow. If you come back tomorrow, I can’t promise the course will still be open.

If you want a seat, the link is below:
If you’d like to sign up for The Triarchy Method, but you’d like to split your tuition into multiple payments, email the team at MyStoryDoctor: [email protected]

September C Fawkes