Sometimes a short story can be drafted in a great surge of inspiration, but a novel is a different kind of literary beast. How do we prepare ourselves to keep a story going over several hundred pages? What do we need to know in advance, and what might we hope to discover along the way? Though planning every detail of a novel before writing it can take away the sense of exploration and discovery, mapping out the major elements can be enormously helpful. This workshop will consider the overall movement of the story and explore ways to trace this out before starting to write. We will think about the journeys our characters will take over the course of the novel and look at how those journeys drive the narrative action. Using exercises and taking inspiration from a variety of models, we will help each other design engines powerful enough to carry us through to The End. Whether you’ve been drafting your novel for years or are just dreaming up a new story, this class will help you clarify your ideas and build a strong foundation for the work ahead.
Rachel Pastan’s most recent novel, Alena, was named an “Editors’ Choice” in The New York Times Book Review. She is also the author of two other novels, Lady of the Snakes and This Side of Married, which was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. In 2014 she edited Seven Writers, a chapbook of writing inspired by exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where until recently she served as Editor-at-Large. She received her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a member of the Core Faculty in Fiction at the Bennington Writing Seminars M.F.A. program. She also teaches fiction at Swarthmore College.