right here, write now

Creating the Novel: A Seven-Week Writing Seminar

Creating the Novel

Write On The River presents a writing seminar in seven sessions from Kay Kenyon.
This seminar is for writers of mainstream as well as genre novels. Topics will include concept, character growth, plot progression, scenes, structure, narrative tools and staying focused.
Each session includes an hour of instruction and an hour’s critique of a student manuscript by the instructor and the other five students.

DATES: The first session is on Wednesday, February 13 and will run every other Wednesday until May 8.
TIME: 6:30 – 8:30 PM.
COST: $300

INITIAL MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSION: The instructor will select class participants from among those who have submitted pages in advance. The purpose is to allow the instructor to develop classes at the right levels of instruction for the majority of interested students.

  1. Submissions should begin with the first page of your novel. Send an electronic file with 15 double spaced pages with one inch margins,  Times New Roman font, to Kay Kenyon at tko@kaykenyon.com. Submissions must in Word.
  2. Write on the River will notify students by January 15 if they can participate in this year’s class.
  3. Once notified, the students should register for the class.

 Membership in Write on the River. Join here.
 Must be 18 years of age or older.
 Have 30-40 pages of a novel ready for critique.
 For six of the seven sessions, print out and read 30-40 pages of a classmate’s manuscript, and be prepared to spend 7-8 minutes in verbal critique of each session’s manuscript.
 Keep an open mind about different genres. Although we all have preferences for what we like to read and write, storytelling techniques are much the same across the categories of fiction.
 Commit to attending all sessions.
REGISTRATION: Registration open until filled. If the six spaces are not filled by February 1, the class will be cancelled and payments refunded.


Kay Kenyon is the author of  fifteen novels, most recently a trilogy from Simon & Schuster. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the first novel in this seriesl, At the Table of Wolves, “A superb adventure”; During her twenty years in publishing, she has sold novels to major publishers and numerous short stories to anthologies. She has taught at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, the Willamette Writers Conference, Surrey Writers Conference, and Write On The River. She has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the Endeavour Award, and twice for the American Library Association Reading List Awards. Kay is a founding member of Write On The River.


A novel proceeds from moment to moment, sentence to sentence, and scene to scene. But the novel is also a whole experience, a journey from unknowing (on the part of the major character) to discovery. In other words, it is a story. How do we create a sense of the whole when we are inevitably proceeding from page to page? There is no set way, but there are classic approaches that offer valuable guidance. Using time-honored storytelling techniques, we can find our way forward to create a believable, memorable journey that the reader can enjoy and even learn from.

To that end, this seminar will provide an overview of the traditional tools of novel writing. My challenge as an instructor is to present story techniques clearly and also to help students address issues. My hope is that students will have many a-ha! moments during the seven sessions and that they’ll discover opportunities in their stories to bring what they already know, and what they will learn in class, to bear.

I look forward to hearing from you, reading your submissions, and bringing together a class where we can best learn the craft and share our stories.



February 15. The foundation of story.
What is a story, and why do we read them? We consider the fundamentals of the novel in the broadest sense, considering questions of concept, theme, character and originality.
February 28. The engine of the novel: Character.
What makes the major character memorable? A look at inner journey, personality, backstory, and character growth. We’ll address the supporting cast and consider the forces of opposition.
Critique: Manuscript #1.
March 14. The shape of the novel: Acts, meaning, and movement.
The four stages of character arc and how it relates to the plot. Uses of the turning points of the novel: plot points I and II, midpoint, and climax. How structure guides your story choices.
Critique: Manuscript #2.
March 28. Plot development.

This session focuses on the basics of constructing the plot, including idea generation, rising action, the interplay of protagonist and antagonist, devices to apply pressure and a consideration of the satisfying ending. Critique: Manuscript #3.
April 11. Plot execution.
We’ll look at strategies to keep the story fresh, cogent, and meaningful with tools such as pacing, flashbacks, information, surprise and revelation. Discover the essential tool of scenes and the vital elements that comprise them. Critique: Manuscript #4.
April 25. Narrative techniques.
We’ll delve into the more fine-grained tools of the novel such as point-of- view, subplots, foreshadowing, withholding, openings, exits, and dialogue. Critique: Manuscript #5.
May 9. Staying on target.
The novel as a journey: what has shifted, what is the story trying to tell you? We will learn some diagnostics to use in evaluating needed changes. Lastly, we’ll discover some tracking tools that will keep us from getting lost in the novel. Critique: Manuscript #6.