Nancy Sondel's Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop
16th Annual    September 28-30, 2018    Master Class to Masterpiece
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“Vision’s no good without an authentic voice to make it real.”
 — Barbara Shoup, former PCCWW faculty, author of Wish You Were Here
(Hyperion, 1994; FLUX, 2008) and other YA novels

2009 Home Study


Personalized Writing Exercises

Correlated with our focus and critique sessions. Compose responses to these stimulating prompts.

Faculty author Marion Dane Bauer notes that the following comments refer to “a lifetime of stories. Even if someone has written only one [story or novel], these questions are about considering all the stories it is now and will in the future be possible to write.” Marion’s sessions will also weave vision into the fabric of voice.

Find Your Own Best Stories: Start with a Vision
by Marion Dane Bauer

There are multiple craft issues to gain control of as you are learning to write fiction, and every one of them is crucial. But all the craft in the world won’t give you a story that touches your readers’ hearts. That story must begin with a vision from your own heart.

Here are questions you can ask yourself to find your own best stories.

What themes and story-situations do you find yourself returning to, again and again, in your writing? Do you know why those feel so important to you? Remember that you don’t have to be able to resolve the why in your own life. You need only to be able to face into it. In facing into it, you’ll find a treasure trove of new stories to write.

Look back at the stories you have written or the one you are working on now. Did it come with a rush of energy? Is the energy holding throughout your writing? If it did, that’s your clue about where your own best story lies. If it didn’t, at what point did your story turn away from the energy is started with? Is it possible you began with an idea that was truly yours and then left that behind?

When you think back to your childhood, what age—or ages—do you most naturally return to? If you were to choose one age in which it is easiest to climb back inside your own skin, which would it be? That’s a clue about what age stories you probably want to be focusing on.

What stories by other writers move you most deeply? What do those different stories share? Is it a central theme? An emotional reality? A story situation? A particular kind of character? Lay your favorite stories side by side in your mind and discover what they have in common. What is the point of energy in each of these stories that pulls you in? You may find different points of entry to these stories, and that’s fine. We are all complex beings, and none of us can be explained through a single reality. But keep looking at them until you begin to see the unity that may well lie below the very different aspects of the stories. Look at them until you begin to see yourself through them.

Then, take what you have discovered about yourself, and use it as the foundation for a new story... or as the enriching material you can bring to one you are ready to revise.

The greatest gift of these kinds of questions is that they don’t have to be answered—in fact, they can’t be answered—all at once. Keep asking them, and they will feed the vision that will supply your stories for the rest of your life.

“A piece of fiction begins when the writer scratches the match,
not when he lays the fire.” — William Sloane, The Craft of Writing

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