The book that started it all...

The book that started it all...

The only week-long workshop taught exclusively by author/literary agent Donald Maass, offering one-on-one feedback as well as acclaimed writing instruction.

Whether you're interested in traditional or independent publishing success, this one-week workshop will propel your writing forward and teach you how to create memorable, stirring stories that will create passionate, lifelong readers.

Incorporating insights from Maass's THE FIRE IN FICTION and WRITING 21st CENTURY FICTION, the Breakout Novel Intensive offers students many new levels of growth for their fiction.

Why 2.0?


Included are new or revised units on story discovery, strong voice, standout characters, the inner journey, compelling story worlds, beautiful writing, creating resonance and finding meaning in both story and process. 

Breakout fundamentals are also covered: strong characters, inner conflict, personal stakes, plot layers, powerful scenes, micro-tension, practical theme techniques and much more.

Writers of commercial fiction who wish to soar out of category, as well as literary novelists who want to learn how to make powerful story principles work for them, will find the Breakout Novel Intensive 2.0 an idea-packed and career enriching experience.

This workshop is as ideal for those just beginning a new project as it is for  those embarking on a revision of a completed work. While writers at all  level of craft are welcome, we assume a basic understanding of fiction craft.

This retreat and workshop includes:

  • All meals and comfortable, private sleeping accommodations with private baths. (Compare to shorter workshops with higher total costs when factoring in hotel room, food, etc.)
  • Morning classes with Donald Maass, geared toward building students' specific projects using concepts covered in his popular, Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing 21st Century Fiction.
  • A private thirty-minute consultation with Donald Maass, who reads fifty pages of each student's manuscript and other supporting material.
  • A private consultation with Editor-in-Residence and award-winning author Lorin Oberweger.
  • Opportunities to confer with other professional writers and editors on staff.
  • Customized instruction geared toward students' specific writing needs and questions.
  • A special session on micro-tension and other evening offerings.
  • A custom USB drive with articles on craft, bonus exercises, and more!
  • Graduates are qualified to attend the *exclusive* BONI Learning Retreat.

In order to ensure an intimate and productive  environment for our students, enrollment is strictly limited to  thirty-five writers. Participation is on a first-come, first-serve  basis, so please register early.


Hood River, OR (about 45 min. from Portland, OR)

April 4-10, 2016

Best Western Hood River Inn


Cost: $2195 for new students of Free Expressions / $2095 for returning students. This includes private, comfortable hotel accommodations and ALL meals.


Our new option for the Breakout Novel workshop is limited to five people. Retreat attendee option will include room and board, along with evening sessions and a chance to connect with fellow writers and staff. This is an amazing opportunity to enjoy beautiful Hood River while working on one's writing projects, with stimulating evening activities and great company to enhance a writer's getaway! This fee will not include daytime classes. 

Cost: $1575

Please note: these workshops tend to sell out quickly. Don't be disappointed: register today!

Register Here!

About Donald Maass:


Donald Maass, a top agent for fiction writers and author of Writing  the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction, leads participants through practical writing exercises that plumb depths of character, raise stakes both public and personal, add plot layers, heighten sense of time and place, strengthen point of view and voice, deepen themes, transform openings, and develop the brainstorming skills that produce consistently original stories.

Donald Maass has helped many mid-list and genre authors transform  their careers. His thirty-plus years of experience can help you, too.

Sample Schedule:

Monday – Start time: 6:00 PM, welcome reception, dinner, opening session with staff and Don, one-on-one meeting assignments.

Tuesday – breakfast, class with Don, lunch, writing and one-on-one meetings with staff, dinner, voluntary critique groups.

Wednesday - breakfast, class with Don, lunch, writing and one-on-one meetings with staff, dinner, special class session (past topics have included Deep Scene; Film Plotting for Novelists; Sharp Pacing, and more)

Thursday – breakfast, class with Don, lunch, writing and one-on-one meetings with staff, dinner, voluntary critique groups.

Friday - breakfast, class with Don, lunch, writing and one-on-one  meetings with staff, dinner, Micro-Tension Workshop with Don.

Saturday – breakfast,  class with Don, lunch, writing and one-on-one meetings with staff, dinner, evening out with group!

Sunday – breakfast, class with Don, goodbyes, end time: 12:00 PM

Accommodations and meals:

Each student will have a comfortable private room with private bath in the same hotel as the workshop. Meals for the week are included.

  • Monday – opening reception, dinner
  • Tuesday to Saturday – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Sunday – breakfast

(Accommodations for special dietary needs are available. Instructions for requests will be sent after registration.)


After registration, an informational package will be sent with instructions for student  submissions (synopsis, manuscript pages) to be reviewed by Don and staff  prior to the workshop.

Many students find reading Don’s book, Writing the Breakout Novel, prior to the workshop helpful to familiarize themselves with the concepts and for greater retention and application.

Participants Say:

Several years ago I took the Breakout Novel Intensive.  If you are serious about your writing, sign up for the next one now. It  is a week where you will discover more about your manuscript and your  writing than you would otherwise learn all year. He and his wonderful  team create a warm, friendly environment where meals are taken together,  so you have access to all these creative, experienced minds.

His lectures are engaging, funny and oh so perceptive. They're also  interactive, so bring your laptop because you'll be getting work done.  You will come out of this armed with specific techniques to make your  novel better, and maybe some new supportive friendships to help you on  your road to becoming a published author. I think the BONIs are nothing  short of brilliant.”

-- Lissa Price, debut author of STARTERS, lead title for Spring 2012, Random House, Delacorte

You have a choice in how you approach your career: you  can spend money going to writers' conferences for years and have fun but  not gain any true benefit for your craft, or you can invest in a week  at BONI where Lorin and Don will unearth, believe me—excavate—the best  writer in you.

You and your writing, as well as your perception of yourself as a  writer, will be forever changed. Oh, and yes, you will have fun there,  too.”

-- Shirley Barker, represented by Donald Maass Literary Agency

Don Maass's Breakout Novel Intensive was a life-changer.  In one week, I learned more than I ever had in the two years it took to  earn my MFA, and at a fraction of the cost. The entire staff taught me to break through the ceiling of my own fear to understand that  I could--that I must--write that which was most outrageous and passionate and bigger than me.

I finally know what it takes to become a true storyteller, my heart's  calling, and I plan to return again and again to these workshops, to  keep my skills sharp and my fire flaring high. Thank you to the entire  Free Expressions team for the best writing week ever!

-- Julia Greco

I had difficulty sleeping the entire time I was there  because my brain had been lit on fire. The staff and faculty provided  new insights as to how to bring my storytelling up a notch, but just as  incredible were the exchanges with my fellow BONI attendees. Years  later, we are still a support group for each other."

-- Linda C. McCabe, author of the upcoming QUEST OF THE WARRIOR MAID, Destrier Books

I first attended BONI in 2010. I had  completed my first novel, and had received no interest from agents or  publishers on my queries. I’d read Donald Maass’ books and wasn’t sure I would learn anything new, but I trusted that if I was  going to get better as a writer, I should invest in myself and listen  to what the best agent had to say about great writing. I wanted the  professional feedback, and I thought that the cost of the seminar (hotel  and food included) was very reasonable.

That said, I would have felt I’d more than gotten my money’s worth  from the daily sessions alone. I’d read the books, but the live sessions  really deliver the message in a way that is interesting, immediate, and  inspirational. Between the class discussions and writing exercises; I could see my  writing improve from the very first day. The professional feedback from Don, Lorin, and the staff was  extremely helpful, and specific to my particular writing style and level  of experience. You cannot get access to this level of expert advice and  feedback anywhere else for this kind of investment.

Yes, we worked our tails off, but it’s not all work. The other  writers were universally kind and supportive, and I met a number of  people whom I now count as friends and who became part of my critique  group. At BONI, we're all on the same page. I enthusiastically recommend  the BONI experience to writers of every skill level.”

-- Sharon Roest

Before attending the Writing the Breakout Novel Weeklong  Intensive, I had exhausted all my local resources, and I wasn't sure  how to bring my novel into the next realm. Spending the week with  friendly, top-notch experts and other like-minded writers was validating  and empowering.

In each workshop session, Donald Maass gave concrete, usable examples  for seemingly mystical concepts and shared those elusive `universal  truths' we writers seek. I received valuable counsel specifically for my  novel during my private meetings with the staff.

As a result, I have more confidence in my writing and greater clarity  when revising, as well as on-going support from the official,  post-workshop group. It's exactly what I needed to move forward—and I  have!”

-- Susan Smith

I discovered Don's Breakout Novel intensive when I most  needed it. I'd read books, I'd been to conferences and other workshops,  but I knew I was still missing something in my writing. The Breakout  Novel intensive answered my question and more. I've been three times,  and every time I attend, I learn something new and grow further in my  writing ability. When I get published, I know this workshop, and Don,  Lorin and the rest of the staff will have played a major role in my  achievement.”
-- Nancy Laughlin

For more information, please call 813–391–8980 or write to Lorin Oberweger, Program Director at

Register Here!