A few months back, I had the fortune to work with eight folks who were interested in learning to write a novel. Twice a year, I have the opportunity, and I always look forward to it.

In fact, one gentleman from four or five years back just finished a screenplay that was selected in the top ten percent of all the screenplays submitted to the Austin Film Festival. I’m anxious to find out what happened after he pitched it to various producers at the conference.

The truth is, all of us probably at one time or another have dreamed of writing a novel or a screenplay. It isn’t that hard to do. Believe me, if I can pull it off, anyone can. I suppose the requisite, the one real requisite is that you’ve got to be a reader. And oh, yeah, it doesn’t hurt to be stubborn.

Don’t misunderstand, non-readers can write. Go out and read some of the graduate dissertations. Most of them will put you to sleep in three pages.

And stubborn? Well, let’s say “persevering to the point of mule-headedness.”

A few years back, a friend of mine was putting together a writing program for Lamar Continuing Education and asked if I’d be interested in a class.

I wasn’t too crazy about it at first because it would take time away from my own writing, but I decided to give it a shot. The move turned out to be a good one for the class gave me a chance to talk writing, a dialogue that most writers have all too infrequently with other writers.

Like all teaching, the teacher usually learns more than the students for although I’d had several westerns and mysteries published, I’d fallen into a rut. The class afforded me the opportunity to utilize some of that which I’d put aside and forgotten.

One fact I stress to all who are interested in writing is that it is much simpler to do than one might imagine.

Seems like the hardest part of the whole writing business for most folks is that first step.

When I said it was simple, I meant simple.

Now, a word of advice here. You can use pencil and paper, or a typewriter, but in the long run, the easiest way to go is with a word processing program, a computer.

But, regardless, the first step is to sit down and put that first word on paper. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything, just get your ideas down so you can read over them.

There are really only four steps to writing a novel – any book for that matter.

1. Premise
2. Beginning
3. End
4. Middle

The premise is a one or two sentence statement revealing your character’s goals and the major problems facing him.

The beginning is where you put him on the path to that goal.
Now, you probably have an idea of how you want it to end. If you can’t decide whether you want a happy or dark ending, write them both – a few lines, that’s all.

And then, go back and make an outline of events leading from the beginning to the end.

Naturally, there’s more involved. Much of it you’ll figure out by experience.

Lamar Continuing Education offers a series of non-credit writing courses both online and on campus such as  article writing; teen writing; how to write fiction; novel writing, and several others.

Information is on “The Write Site” at Lamar Continuing Education. Instructors are experienced writers such as D.J. Resnick, Jessica Ferguson, Carol A. Thomas, Jessica Burkhart and yours truly.

Yes, I shamelessly admit that I teach a short six-week, 12-hour, course titled Writing the Novel. It is always satisfying to watch students progress from one level to the next in their writing.
By the end of the six-week period, most students have written the beginning, the end and outlined the middle of the book.

My next class begins Jan. 26 at the Beaumont library, 6-8 p.m. If you’re interested, you can call Rhonda at 880-2233.

[rconwell@gt.rr.com, www.kentconwell.blogspot.com]