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Notes from Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass on fiction writing: “The best short stories are the last chapter of a novel I didn’t write”

If you haven’t read @neilhimself, start with The Graveyard Book (Newbery, Carnegie winner). An incredible story and a singular storyteller.

8 bits of Kevin Kelly’s 68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice
Thursday April 30, 2020

Source: Syfy.com A great list from a great writer and thinker. His book What Technology Wants permanently re-framed how I understood the internet and tech innovation. Original article here. Being enthusiastic is worth 25 IQ points. A worthy goal for a year is to learn enough about a subject so that you can’t believe how […]

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Here are my edited notes from his Masterclass:

Chile. Covid-19 lockdown hit market down 72.7% in April
Monday May 25, 2020

Chilean Vehicles Market in April plummeted 72.7% with 8.893 sales, as lockdown measures imposed on late March were held through the month in order to contain the Covid-19 spread. Indeed, Year to Date figures were 85.099 (-32.8%).The post Chile. Covid-19 lockdown hit market down 72.7% in April appeared first on https://focus2move.com.

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For story ideas, you can take fairy tales but flip the perspective: eg, from her Stepmother’s perspective, Snow White could be a villain, a vampire princess, with a necrophiliac prince, and the stepmother is a HEROINE for trying to save the world He writes down random, everyday conversations – as fodder for the mental “compost heap” Jerry Garcia: “Style is the stuff that you get wrong”He wrote a children’s book at 22, never saw light of day – much later, he went back to read it, and he realized that a very small piece of it really sounded like him – but the rest didn’t “The voice was there, I just had to do a whole lot more writing” He wrote maybe 100-200 first pages, short stories, setups, characters Eventually he realized he had to start finishing them – the improvement was QUANTUM He thinks a lot about what kind of narrator will be telling the story, what kind of writing voice he’ll use Whenever he’s stuck, he ask “what does my character want?” this is always your way through – you can put two of the strongest and most developed characters together, have them battle over what they want, discuss it, search for it, find it Characters always get what they NEED, not what they WANTGive them explicit and conflicting desires – each character wants something, and they should clash “A good short story is a magic trick”“The best short stories are the last chapter of a novel I didn’t write” – Roger Zelazny (sp?) Give each character at least one distinguishing characteristic – sounds obvious, but most new writers don’t have the confidence to do it – you don’t want your characters to sound and act indistinguishable outside of their names! Can be jewelry, hair, behavioral tics, tall vs short, fat vs skinny, accents, words or phrases they like to use (mono vs polysyllabic), what they eat The Graveyard Book is “the Jungle Book but in a graveyard”, inspired by walking with his 2-yo son through a graveyard one day, and noticing how comfy his son was riding his little tricycle among the headstones Had the idea at 25 yo, wrote the first chapter, realized his chops weren’t there yet, and came back to write it 20 years later (!) “Once a thing is jotted down, it’s rotting away – usefully – on the compost heap of my imagination, and they’re there if I need them” Don’t listen to people who tell you to avoid exposition and description – there are no rules other than to TELL A GREAT STORY Humor “Whenever you’re writing, you want some humor, because humor is recognition” Humor is also surprise Humor is funny words eg, the word “lard” Where in the sentence a word lands can make the difference in whether it’s funny or not funny What are your reader’s expectations? What are they there for? Understanding genre is a HUGELY valuable tool For writing graphic novels / comics, he starts with thumbnails – literally a book of blank paper, and begins sketching and writing The key units of info are the PANEL and the PAGE – which is why he mocks out each page like a comic book Writes a letter to the illustrator to inspire them, give context, describe characters, develop goals E L Doctorow: Writing a novel is like driving through the fog with one headlight outNeil recommends EXPLODE onto the page, all your thoughts, ideas, then you start shaping and structuring He likes to take long breaks between phases, especially when he’s stuck – do other things – then come back to it, re-read it with fresh eyes, preferably printed out For him, the most important step is between FIRST and SECOND DRAFT Ask yourself: what’s it about? Then, do more of what it’s about, do less of what it’s not about “The process of doing a second draft is process of making it look like you knew what you were doing all along”When people tell you it doesn’t work for them, they’re right; and when people tell you how you should fix it, they’re almost always wrong – know the difference Usually when something is wrong, the fix comes earlier Rules to getting published (via Robert Heinlein) Write Finish Share it with someone who can publish it Listen to their feedback, make changes Continue writing On bad days, you’ll feel like a very tired bricklayer But the funny thing is, when something of yours gets published, and you read the work, you realize that there really isn’t any difference between the words you wrote on the good days, and those you wrote on the bad days…and that’s incredibly humbling Get so good that nobody can reject you…but expect and be ok with rejection What are a writer’s responsibilities? Or of anyone who creates art? Neil shares incredibly sad anecdote about someone committed suicide, and left a note that said, “The Sandman did it” (the Sandman is one of Neil’s most famous works) But it turns out, it wasn’t a suicide, his boyfriend had murdered him, and left a fake note…and then the boyfriend also killed himself

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.