Manuscript Bootcamp: Make Serious Progress on Your Manuscript

In this two-day intensive bootcamp, open to writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction, you'll be given the opportunity to make serious progress on your manuscript. The bootcamp consists of lectures on:

  • Recognizing the true arc of your book
  • Learning to create or refine your throughline
  • Charting change in your characters 
  • Building action across the entire face of your book
  • Building scenes
  • Blasting through blocks
  • Creating a flow that keeps your writing going over the long haul

We will also touch on ways to silence your inner critic, and provide many tips on completing your first draft. As well as getting the juices flowing through lectures, you'll receive dedicated writing time to work on your project and some one-on-one writing support from the instructor. Finally, at the end of the session, you'll have the opportunity to workshop your writing with a small, supportive group.

About the instructor

  • Shaena Lambert

    Shaena Lambert’s latest book of stories, Oh, My Darling (HarperCollins, 2013), was published to critical acclaim across Canada; won the CBC Bookie Award for Best Story Collection of 2013; and was selected as a top book of the year by both the Globe and Mail and the National Post. The National Post described it as “touchingly human tales about big subjects, told with beauty and dexterity.” The Globe and Mail wrote: “Lambert’s beautiful stories are lives in miniature, each one bringing us familiar settings and situations, yet finding surprising and unexpected turns within.” The book was also long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award for the Short Story.

    Her novel, Radiance (published in Canada by Random House and in the U.K., New Zealand and Australia by Virago Press/Little Brownis about a Hiroshima survivor who comes to New York in 1952, and the complex relationship she has with her hosts. It was a finalist for the Rogers Writers Trust Fiction Award, the BC Book Prize and the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen Award. Her first book, The Falling Woman, was published to critical acclaim in Canada, the U.K. and Germany, was also a Globe top book of the year and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Award. Shaena's stories have appeared four times in Best Canadian Stories, and in The Walrus, Zoetrope: All Story, Toronto Life, Ploughshares, The Journey Prize Anthology and many other publications.

    Shaena has taught and mentored dozens of writers who have gone on to publish their fiction in Canada and internationally. She has taught writing at Canada’s Humber School for Writers, The Writers’ Studio of Simon Fraser University, The Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, The Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and the Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts. She is currently at work on a new novel.



This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 2 Shaena Lambert $286.65 5 Register

Instructional hours: 11

Registration may close up to one week before the course begins. 

Do I need to bring a manuscript?

You do not need to have a manuscript. You can use your time in the bootcamp to start your project, or you can work more deeply, and overcome obstacles, with an existing project.

If you are having trouble starting your project, we will give you a host of ideas for how to get into the material, delve deeper, and explore your subject and characters.

What will I learn?

  • Stages of writing a manuscript—from notebook dreaming to final draft
  • The crucial role of clusters, outlines and planning to chart the action of your story over time
  • Scene building—creating key scenes, beginning, middle and end, that bolt the book together
  • How to silence your inner critic
  • How to create and maintain a flow, so the pages mount up
  • The importance of creating dedicated writing time, and nurturing your writing self over the marathon of book creation
  • How to maintain your momentum and complete your manuscript after the bootcamp is over
  • The value of a writing group, and how to join or create your own


Day 1 – 10:00–4:30 – The serious act of playing with structure.

10:00–10:30 – Welcome and introductions

10:30–11:30 – Instructor lecture on creating and refining the arc of a book

11:30–12:30 – Creative experimenting  

12:30–1:30 – Lunch

1:30–2:30 – Scene building lecture and discussion

2:30–4:00 – Scene building, and individual writing

4:00–4:30 – Wrap up, read aloud, and plans for the upcoming writing week

Day 2 – 10:00–4:30 – Getting it down. The tools to write, keep going, and to finish.

10:00–10:30 – The writing week: Report back and discussion

10:30–11:30 – Tools for creating flow in first draft, second draft and editing

11:30–12:30 – Writing deeper into your book, opening up the action, creating or revising key scenes

12:30–1:30 – Lunch

1:30–3:00 – Individual writing and/or discussion of your book with instructor

3:00–4:00 – Small group workshops and/or discussion of your book with instructor

4:00 – Wrap up. Individual and group commitments going forward.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures and discussions
  • Experiments
  • Dedicated writing time
  • Intensive character work
  • Writing support from the instructor
  • Workshops

How will I be evaluated?

Students will have the opportunity to workshop some of their writing with a small group, and to read their writing to the full group.

Textbooks and learning materials

Please bring a laptop, if you use one, lots of paper and a pen or pencil. All other learning materials will be provided.

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