Fall 2021 Session of Mastering the Scene

From the Basics to the Advanced Scene-Writing Tricks that Captivate Readers and Agents

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You’ve cranked through several drafts of your latest memoir, essay, or novel.

You’re sure you’ve nailed the scene-writing basics, but beta readers have said

  • “The writing’s a little meh.”
  • “Something’s missing but they can’t quite tell you what it is.”
  • “That scene doesn’t belong in your story.” (But you know it does.)

Worst of all, if you’re querying agents, all you’re hearing are crickets.

How do you know if your writing needs a scene-writing CPR or a trip back to the drawing board?

Enter Mastering the Scene: From the Basics to the Advanced Scene-Writing Tricks that Captivate Readers and Agents.

Whether you specialize in fiction or nonfiction, this online class will teach you the specific techniques published writers use to craft unforgettable scenes--and as a result, stories that readers can’t put down.

Specifically, you’ll discover how to:

  • Identify the five common scene-writing mistakes.
  • Diagnose your biggest block to success.
  • Learn how to perform scene-writing CPR.
  • Write scenes that make your story sizzle.

You’ll follow a proven system to create the best scenes you’ve ever written—while you refine and perfect the basics of your craft.


Here’s how it works:

  • You’ll begin with a quick assessment to see whether you’re making one of the five common scene-writing mistakes.
  • Then you’ll discover a powerful new way to read your writing, diagnose your biggest block to success, and learn how to perform scene-writing CPR.
  • By the time you’re done, you’ll know why every scene belongs, the story each scene is telling, and how to make that story sizzle.


"Lisa breaks down the elements of scene writing in tangible, easy-to-understand ways in this self-led, interactive course. Unlike other self-led courses, there is a live element and guaranteed instructor feedback on one 1000-word scene, which makes this course stand out. I love how Lisa demonstrates multiple ways to understand scenes. I already have strong scene-writing skills but this course truly took them to the next level." --Natalie MacLean, wine writer

"I loved this course! Lisa’s brilliant breakdown of scene elements made it easy for me to see the changes I need to make in my own writing. It was easy to fit the modules into my hectic schedule, but I never felt like I was learning in a vacuum. Knowing there was an upcoming live coaching/critique session kept me engaged and accountable. Whether a beginner or seasoned writer, I believe you’ll benefit from taking this course." --Paula Boyland, founder of the Write[r] Stuff and blog editor for Streetlight Literary Magazine

“Lisa was so knowledgeable, well organized, and efficient. The section on scene shapes was particularly useful. Diagramming my scenes helped me see how to fix the shapes was helpful as well.”

This is not just an online class--it’s an interactive learning lab where you’ll write, experiment, receive feedback, and meet with other writers who are learning to master their scenes too.

This six-module program includes

  • Short videos with detailed, step-by-step instruction on the elements of scene writing
  • Transcripts for each video
  • A workbook filled with exercises that will help you apply what you’ve learned
  • Analyses of scenes from popular texts
  • Additional examples for you to use as practice
  • Supplemental reading materials


In addition to this, you’ll receive

  • Expert six live coaching sessions* from a veteran writing coach designed to keep your learning on track.
  • Written feedback on a short scene
  • The chance to have your scene workshopped during a live coaching session

*Sessions will take place on 9/23/21, 10/7/21, 10/21/21, 11/4/21, 11/18, 21, and 12/2/21.

This might seem like an add-on, but it’s actually essential.

Have you ever registered for a self-study course only to watch the invitation linger in your inbox? …..


I want you to not just buy Mastering the Scene, I want you to become a scene writing boss.

By the time you finish Mastering the Scene, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand the scene basics so well you could teach them.
  • Capitalize on the unforgettable part of your scene and make it sizzle
  • Master skills like subtext, pacing, and the balance of narration, dialogue, and action based on the function of each scene in your manuscript

Get started now!



"I love how Lisa not only offers multiple ways to break down the elements of how to write a dynamic scene but also talks about what each scene should do depending on where it appears in your manuscript. During her live coaching sessions, Lisa offered not only helpful writing advice but empathy and insight as well. She named a few things about my memoir scene that I hadn't realized, which I'll now add in as reflection. I am so grateful for this insight! I highly recommend working with Lisa in any way that you can." --Yolande House, trauma-informed writer

"Mastering the Scene is engaging and informative. Whether you've been writing for a long time or you're just beginning, there's something in this course for everyone. It's loaded with strategies, tips, and humor. Lisa keeps the pace moving and provides enough practice exercises to help you retain the information. I highly recommend this course." --Janet Johnson, writer from Arizona


“I've been thinking about how to speed up and slow down scenes and will put her scene shapes to use. The workbook is a gift!”

Want to Know More?

In module one, you’ll begin with a pre-assessment to see if you’re making the five most common mistakes scene writers make. After your assessment, you’ll learn what it takes to read like a writer and then choose the books that will serve as part of your scene-writing study plan.

Throughout the rest of the course, you’ll use your discoveries and practice, practice, practice your way to MFA-style mastery.

In module two, you’ll learn the essential elements found in every scene and how published authors use those elements to craft the scenes you love.

In module three, you’ll explore the various shapes scenes can take and then find out which ones work and which ones don’t. By the end, you’ll know when and how to administer scene-writing CPR to your work in progress.

In module four, you’ll play with five custom-designed activities that will help you discover the frequently overlooked--yet essential--story behind your scene’s situation. By the end of this session, you’ll know whether certain scenes belong or if you need to scrap them.

In module five, you’ll learn the advanced scene writing skills that will help you nail your emotional beat, manage your scene’s narration, action, and dialogue, control your pacing, and use dialogue subtext, pivotal actions, and key details to stick your scene’s landing each and every time.

In module six, you’ll find new ways to integrate the skills you’ve learned and plan for what’s next because as writers we must be lifelong learners.

"This course was well-rounded and comprehensive. The multi-modal format and assignments made the information easy to understand and integrate. I gained skills that significantly improved my writing, as well as resources to continue to learn. Lisa created a supportive learning community that encouraged critical thinking and growth. I highly recommend this course, and look forward to participating in future courses with Lisa."

“This was one of the best writing classes I've ever attended. The blend of theory and practical tips, the exercises, the diagrams, the accompanying materials. All were marvelous."

“It was all really practical advice for me, and I love the visual of scene shapes. My goal was to learn ways to recognize if a scene is working, and you gave me lots of tools for that.”

Your Instructor


Lisa Cooper Ellison
Lisa Cooper Ellison

Lisa Ellison is an editor, writing coach, and speaker with an Ed.S in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and a background in mindfulness. She has spent the last two decades helping clients and students turn difficult experiences into art and currently teaches courses in memoir, creative nonfiction, and mindful writing practices. Her life story and essays have appeared on NPR’s With Good Reason and in Hippocampus Literary Magazine, Kenyon Review Online, Huffington Post, and The Guardian, among others.


Course Curriculum


  Module Three: Scene Shapes
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  Resources and Recaps for Module Three
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  Module Four: Story Solutions
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  Resources and Recaps for Module Four
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  Module Six: Learning to D.E.P.A.R.T.
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  Resources and Recaps for Module Six
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Frequently Asked Questions


When does the course start and finish?
You'll receive the course modules as soon as you sign up. The modules are the self-paced, online portion of the course - you decide when you start and when you finish. However, to keep you on track, biweekly coaching sessions will begin on 9/23/21. During these coaching sessions, you'll be able to ask questions and receive personalized feedback on one of your scenes. The first live coaching opportunities will take place on Tuesday 7/27/21 from 6:30 PM EDT - 8:00 PM EDT, and again on Thursday 7/29/21 from 1:00 PM EDT - 2:30 PM EDT. To qualify for having your scene workshopped during one of these sessions, you will need to submit a scene to the instructor by 7/19/21.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you'll have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I can't complete the material before the coaching sessions?
Come anyway. You’ll learn vicariously from your peers--and who knows, a question might pop up that revolutionizes your writing practice.
When will the live coaching sessions take place and what if I can't attend?
Live coaching sessions have been scheduled for the following Thursdays from 1:00 PM EDT - 3:00 PM EDT. 9/23/21, 10/7/21, 10/21/21, 11/4/21, 11/18/21, and 12/2/21. The every-other-week format is designed to give you ample time between sessions to work on exercises for each module. All sessions will take place using Zoom. You will receive a personalized invitations for each session by 9/15/21. Attendance at these sessions is not mandatory, but they are an excellent opportunity to ask questions and have your writing workshopped live. Have a scheduling conflict, but don't want to miss out? No problem. All sessions will be recorded and archived so you can review them when you’re ready.
Is this course appropriate for writers of all genres?
This class was created with both fiction writers and memoirists in mind. Examples from well-known books from both genres have been included to give you a broad understanding of what scenes look like and how to use them successfully in your stories.
Is this a self-paced course or will I receive live instruction?
The modules are self-paced, however, you will also receive regular live coaching and the chance to receive feedback on a short scene you created after working through the material.
When do I need to submit my scene to Lisa?
Lisa will review one scene for each student with a length of no more than 1000 words. Scenes should be submitted after you've completed the course materials. To qualify for a review during the live coaching sessions you must submit your scene by the deadlines that will be shared during your first class. Please note that Lisa will select a number of scenes to workshop during the live coaching sessions, however, she might not be able to provide live coaching for every scene that is submitted to her. You will receive written feedback on your scene even if it's not workshopped during the live session.
How much time will this class take?
Most writers can complete this course within eight weeks. The amount of time you spend on each module will depend on the level of experience you have prior to taking this course, the stage your project is in, and the amount of practice you feel you need. New writers will likely require more practice than more advanced writers. It's possible to read and work through all of the exercises over the course of a few days; however, you'll get more out of this experience if you take your time as you work through the material. Personally, I suggest you work through no more than two modules per week, so you can allow time for reflection and give yourself a chance to see your writing with fresh eyes. The regular coaching sessions are designed to keep you on track while giving you ample time (up to twelve weeks) to complete the course.
Is this class appropriate for beginners?
This class is designed to take you from the very basics all the way to the advanced scene-writing skills you need to know. If you are an advanced writer, you can think of the early material as a refresher that serves as an anchor for the advanced modules.
Do I have to go through the lessons in order?
The lessons in this course build on one another. You can “choose your own adventure” your way through the material, up to lesson four, but you'll get more out of the program if you watch everything as designed. To ensure that you've covered the basics first, the last two modules will be released 3 weeks after the program begins.
What if I’m not working on a project?
No projects are required for you to take this course. You can either draft new material that can be used as practice scenes, or you can bring in scenes from the projects you are working on.
If I’m not happy, can I get a refund?
I believe in this material 150%. Your satisfaction is important to me--that’s why I’m offering a 14-day money-back guarantee. To take advantage of this guarantee, you must demonstrate that you made no progress in your scene writing skills despite actively working through the material. For additional details or clarification, email me at [email protected]

Ready to rock your scenes and impress not just beta readers but agents???

You can sign up for this course AND help those in need.

I'm donating 10% of proceeds from this class to the International Rescue Committee

to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees coming to the US.

Get started now!