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This class is closed. Check out Literary Agent Sally Apokedak's current course, Narrative Voice for Novelists.


START DATE:  This class is currently closed.

DURATION:  4 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION:  When I look at queries and proposals I’m looking for four things in the first chapter of every manuscript: voice, plot, character, and theme. We’ll look at one of these items each week. I’ll give you my four lectures on first chapter essentials—plot, character, voice, and theme—and I’ll also give critiques on your first three chapters (limit of 7500 words) and your synopsis.

You will come away from the class with an understanding of how to carry what you’ve learned from the first three chapters on, so you can use it while you revise the rest of your manuscript, and with an idea of what it’s going to take to make your proposal work.

Students will work one-on-one with me, via email.

Online Students are Saying:

I loved this class so much that I took it twice!

Sally . . . is very clear in what works and what doesn’t, what sells and what doesn’t, what's objective and what’s subjective.

The class will transform your whole writing for the better.

. . . I can wholeheartedly recommend this class to everybody who’s willing to take a critical look at their own work and, if needed, de- and reconstruct it.

~ Franziska



Thank you so much. I got a lot out of the class and it gave me a lot to think about. I’m grateful for all the feedback.

~ Christie


Hi Sally,

Thank you so much for your feedback on my chapter. Your suggestions make so much sense . . ..

Again, thank you for your feedback on this final chapter and throughout the course. I appreciated how much you know about this field and your willingness to share your expertise.

~ Sandy


Sally’s Four First-Chapter Essentials class made me work hard to get a first chapter that I can be proud of. In Sally’s video lectures, she made me think about writing like I hadn’t before, especially the weeks about voice and theme. I also enjoyed working with my classmates and the freedom we had to interact in the forum. The great thing about this class is that you work on the first chapter of your novel, but you can take the skills you learn and apply them to the rest of your manuscript.

~ Margo L. Dill


Helpful Tips for Revision

Sally’s course is comprehensive and extremely helpful in pointing out problems with my manuscript as I am revising. Her teaching and sometimes humorous manner made learning delightful and memorable. I highly recommend this course.

~ Jarm Del Boccio


Comprehensive and Challenging Course on Voice

Sally not only covers all the basics of narrative voice, but challenges students to take their writing to the next level. I'm already seeing a difference in my work.

~ Chanda Griese


Great Course

Sally does a fantastic job and helping the student to make their writing much, much better.

~ Darlene Wolfe


Hi Sally,

Thank you for your incredible class. It was a valuable, valuable learning experience. I’m glad I took it early in my creative writing. It sharpened my writing skills in a short time and will help set the course for [my novel] and additional works.

Thank you also for your insightful critique. All great, enlightening recommended changes. I will definitely implement these . . ..

Do you plan to offer a next-level course for folks who have taken the “Four Essentials”? Please consider it. I’ll sign up!

~ Kimberly



Thank you so much. I got a lot out of the class and it gave me a lot to think about. I’m grateful for all the feedback.

~ Christie


Dear Sally,

I really wanted to thank you again for a fabulous weekend. I left encouraged and energized, as well as satisfied that I’d been very productive. Your help was exactly what I needed, and . . . the group only added to the successful weekend. I enjoyed learning from them as well!

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the time you gave me to help me become a better writer.

Conferences are invaluable, and I’ll continue to attend them, but you can’t get the one-on-one time like you can at a Writer’s Retreat with a skilled professional. That's why I was willing to invest the money. It was a wise investment and fun.

~ Jean Wilund


Hello Sally,

I hope you realize how much wisdom and knowledge you imparted during your time at the wik13 conference in Birmingham. I was just processing the evaluations and thought you might like to see some of the comments that were specifically about your sessions. These were in response to the questions that asked what their favorite session was or what session they benefitted from the most: 

  • The one-on-one session with Sally Apokedak.
  • Sally Apokedak, Part I and II were incredibly valuable with wonderful insights.

Thanks for sharing that with our attendees and helping us to create better books for kids!

~ Heather L. Montgomery
Assistant Regional Advisor
Southern Breeze SCBWI


Week One: Plot

All great plots have some points in common. They all have active characters who are trying to get something. Even in quiet books, the characters have to be actively seeking something. I’ll talk about what makes plots interesting, using opening chapters from successful books for demonstration.

Assignment: Using what your learned in the lecture, write a two-sentence synopsis, a two-paragraph synopsis, and a three-page synopsis and send those to me for critique.

Week Two: Character

Biggest mistakes I see in characters? Whiney, inactive characters. Yes, if we faced what our characters are facing we'd be overwhelmed. But readers don't want to read books about people like us. They want to read books about people who get up, brush themselves off, and move out to set things right. This week we'll talk about character attributes that attract readers and character attributes that repel them.

Assignment: Using what your learned in the lecture, rewrite Chapter One, adding in three attractive character traits and taking out most unattractive character traits, and send it to me for critique.

Week Three: Voice

The first thing I notice is voice. After reading one paragraph, I know whether I want to go on to the second paragraph or not. I’ll lecture this week on the things that shape your voice—word choices, figures of speech, and sentence variation etc.

Assignment: Using what you learned in the lecture, rewrite Chapter Two, looking at word choices and adding in picturesque prose, and send it to me for critique.

Week Four: Theme

Every great book has a great message. If you want to write books that are still on the shelf ten years from now, theme is not optional. But readers don’t want to be beat over the head with the author’s agenda. In this class I’ll talk about how to weave the theme in so that it adds to the story instead of detracting.

Assignment: Using what you learned in the lecture, give readers a hint to the theme, somewhere in the first three chapters of your book, and add theme into your synopsis. Send your synopses and your first three chapters for a final critique.

Materials needed:  A completed novel you want to revise would be nice but you can get by just the first three chapters, as long as you know where your novel is going. Each week I’ll give a list of novels that demonstrate the points I'm making, and students may want to buy the novels and study them.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR:  Sally Apokedak ( is an associate agent with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency. She’s been studying, reviewing, and marketing children’s books, as well as giving writing instruction for a dozen years. As the manager of the Kidz Book Buzz blog tour she was privileged to work with best-selling and award-winning authors such as Jeanne DuPrau, Ingrid Law, and Shannon Hale. She is a frequent and popular instructor at general market and Christian Writers’ conferences across the country.

COST:  $379, which includes four hour-long taped lectures, weekly assignments, virtual one-on-one coaching from your instructor, with an in-depth critique of your proposal by your instructor.

BUY NOW:  ONE-MONTH COACHING: WHIP YOUR PROPOSAL INTO SHAPE with Literary Agent Sally Apokedak (4 weeks, starting 3/7/2016) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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