There’s a story you want to tell, a novel you’ve always wanted to write, but you can’t figure out how to get there. You’ve tried writing the beginning, and it doesn’t come alive, or you can’t even find a place to start. We’ve all been there, stuck on an idea, wanting to turn a kernel into a project, and desperate to locate the entry point. In this workshop, we’ll look at ways to break into that novel idea you’ve been harboring, through elements like an image or a character, or outside inspiration like a film or a real-life story. We’ll discuss craft, but also process. We’ll look at the salient moments from published work, and use exercises to get us thinking about our own work in new and vibrant ways.
Each class will include a short mini-lecture from me (either video or written), a short exercise or written response, and workshop of 2-3 student novel excerpts. On the day of their workshop, the two or three featured students will also be expected to present an artifact—novel, story, poem, clip, image, article, etc—that inspired or encapsulates the spirit of what they’re trying to do.
By the end of the class, the goal is for you to find the open door to your project, and to walk through it confidently, with the tools to keep excavating.
- two workshopped novel excerpts
- craft knowledge to lean on when you get stuck next
- a community of writing peers
- tactics for generating writing, outlining, and revising a large project
- exploration and understanding of your own writing process
Week 1: Is wanting to write it enough?
Week 2: Define “the beginning,” please.
Week 3: Everything is writing.
Week 4: Chalk outlines for your novel.
Week 5: Revision is a state of mind.
Week 6: This is not the end.
Aja Gabel's debut novel is The Ensemble. Aja's prose can be found in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Glimmer Train, BOMB, and elsewhere. She has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Houston, Sweet Briar College, and Pacific University, as well as at conferences and community workshops. She earned her BA at Wesleyan University, her MFA at the University of Virginia, and has a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Aja was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown 2012-2013, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Bear.
"Aja Gabel's powerful debut offers a sensitive portrait of four young musicians forging their paths through life: sometimes at odds with each other, sometimes in harmony, but always inextricably linked by their shared pasts."
"With uncommon clarity and empathy, Aja Gabel brings us inside the passionate, complex, and sometimes cutthroat intimacy that exists among the four members of a string quartet. A wise and powerful novel about love, life, and music. I didn't want it to end."
"Sweeping, romantic, elegiac, THE ENSEMBLE gives you the feeling of being inside the music of a quartet, a look into the relationships under the music, the love and heartbreak, set against their ruthless commitment to both their art, and to each other. Aja Gabel is a phenomenon."
"A page-turner of a debut.... THE ENSEMBLE is set in the world of classical music (so, yes, this is a good book for all you MOZART IN THE JUNGLE fans) and tracks the way the friends, who comprise the Van Ness Quartet, navigate their youthful inexperience, riotous success, professional failures, and all of the other things that come with sky-rocketing ambition and a reliance on other people."
"Phenomenal first novel.... THE ENSEMBLE is really a love story. Love of music. Love of friends. Love of family. The genius here is that the reader becomes a part of the ensemble, too, so immersed in these people, that to call them characters seems a disservice. Like them, we feel the pull of time, the need for the music. In the brilliant coda, after we have become very aware of them as individuals, their lives are once again part of one single whole, and here, are collectively narrated, with the yearning of nostalgia."
"In Ms. Gabel’s terrifically entertaining debut, the frictions of long-term friendships are woven into the “webbed, collaborative endeavor” of the quartet. Their music doesn’t transcend the mess of living; it testifies to it."