Learning from “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman: Building a world

Great writers build spaces for compelling stories and settings that capture our imagination. Here’s how author Neil Gaiman hooks readers using exploration and discovery of a setting in Chapter 1 of his novel Coraline.

Transcript on Medium | Updates on Twitter

How Neil Gaiman starts “American Gods”: A new life

A big change in a character’s life sets them on a new path and on a new story. It’s an effective way to hook a reader at the start of a novel. Let’s see how Neil Gaiman uses the start of a new life to hook readers in his novel American Gods.

Transcript on Medium | Updates on Twitter

How Susanna Clarke starts “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”: Big questions

How author Susanna Clarke asks the right questions to hook readers and drive the story in the opening chapter of her fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Also, how the philosophy of Romanticism comes alive in the story and setting, and what writers can learn from kids cartoons.

Transcript on Medium / Channel updates on Twitter

How Yann Martel starts “Life of Pi”: The power of first-person storytelling

In Life of Pi, Yann Martel searches for the “spark that brings to life a real story.” Life of Pi itself uses first-person storytelling to light that spark. Let’s see how Yann Martel uses the power of first person in the opening chapters to hook the reader, and why the novel starts before the first page.

Transcript on Medium / Channel updates on Twitter

How J. K. Rowling starts “The Philosopher’s Stone”: Voice vs Exposition

How J. K. Rowling’s first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hooked her readers, agents, and editors, using voice, mystery, and nostalgia.

Transcript on Medium / Channel updates on Twitter

Close Your Eyes: a short story

A shooting star streaked through the clear mustard sky and burst apart, bombarding the plateau and the colony below with shrapnel. After a fragment with a bullet’s velocity shattered a dish on the colony’s communications tower, Arjun decided to climb the tower himself to repair the dish rather than pull construction drones away from their scheduled work.

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Ayad Akhtar on faith, identity and storytelling

Pulitzer Prize–winner Ayad Akhtar on faith, identity, writing and storytelling.

Ta-Nehisi Coates on failure

“I always consider the entire process about failure, and I think that’s the reason why more people don’t write.”

Zahir Janmohamed: Writer of Color

Essay in Guernica magazine on being asked to speak for a whole community and region rather than yourself.

I wanted to say I am not a political writer. My life has never been political, but sometimes, like that one time when I was dressed in my swim trunks and flip flops and flew to Miami with my friends and a TSA agent pulled me aside and questioned me about the nature of “my business in the U.S.,” well, then the story of my life is made “political.” I wanted to tell them that if being a writer is to endure loneliness then being a writer of color in America is to suffer banishment: the only boat off this island often being if I write a certain kind of story in a certain kind of way for a certain kind of audience, which is to say—and we do not say these words enough—for a white audience. But I could not get myself to say these things and instead I just stared at my brown fingers hovering above the black keys on my laptop, unable to type.

Almost the second draft

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Getting close to officially completing the second draft of my novel. Picked up a print-out of the book yesterday from Staples. I’ll start a full read-through next week and spend the next month or so finalizing the draft. A lot of positive changes came via my six-month mentorship at Banff. The book is currently 85,000 words (332 pages in this format), down from 91,000 when I started the mentorship. Before that started, I had already cut it down from the 120,000 words it was as an official first draft. Throughout the mentorship, I had this fantastic feeling of watching the book get better and better with each passing day. Now I’m curious to see how all the edits turned out.