June 5 - 7, 2020

Dallas, TX (Venue TBA)


NOVEMBER 6 - 8, 2020


How many manuscripts are shelved before the “breakthrough” manuscript is finally published?  What makes the difference?  What factors put a novel “over the top,” prompting offers of representation and bidding wars between editors?

There is in breakthrough novels a commitment to MORE.  It shows in control of the storytelling, in a confident voice, pace driven by surprise rather than plot, scenes that are mini-stories, characters who feel real yet are exceptional, worlds detailed to extraordinary degrees, challenges to the reader, a sense that the writer is working levels above us, and elements not only memorable but that make us feel we’ve been on a truly worthy journey.

Is your work-in-progress your breakthrough?  How can you tell?  What factors matter and which should you focus on?  Are you presenting your work in the best light, with a persuasive query letter and synopsis?

Master instructor Donald Maass knows the answers and offers in the Breakthrough Novel Workshop practical ways to create what feels magical on the page.

Topics in this long weekend workshop include:

  • The One Thing That’s Different - the hidden power in premise

  • Scaling Down/Building Up – microcosms and macrocosms

  • What Makes Protagonists Exceptional – yet always real

  • The Hidden Engine of Pace – emotional surprises

  • Scenes That Tell a Story – not just shuffle the plot

  • Challenging the Reader – fictional dares, would you do this?

  • Seven Stages of Passion – finding and testing your message throughout

  • The Arc of Angels – changes that matter

  • Dream Worlds – how enchanting settings are built

  • No-Stress Synopsis – a killer two-page synopsis in one hour

  • Query Forge – crafting the no-fail query

  • Publishing Demystified – trends, changes and insider secrets

Whether you’re a published midlist author or a writer who has come close, it’s time for your BREAKTHROUGH.  This intensive workshop is hands-on and for intermediate and advanced fiction writers.  Critique groups welcome.  For all genres and styles.

As with all of Free Expressions’ offerings, this will be a hands-on and intensive few days, so come prepared to work hard, be filled to the brim with useful information, and to connect with other writers in a supportive and challenging environment.



Workshop Check-in: 9:00 AM
Class: 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM (with break for provided lunch)


Class: 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM (with break for provided lunch)


Class: 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM


Early Bird (available until three months before workshop): $575 USD

Standard Registration: $695


  • Lunch on Friday and Saturday

  • Coffee/tea/water in classroom each day

  • All handout materials, and more!

NOTE: Registration does not include overnight accommodations.