Coming July 12, 2019: HERE BE MONSTERS, a generative novel-writing course
What is HERE BE MONSTERS?
Writing the first draft of a novel is hard. I should know, because even after getting two (! lol I’m a maniac) writing MFAs, I still had a hard time sitting down and getting the words on the page. I understood rationally that the only way to it was through it, but self-criticism and perfectionism managed to throw me off every time. The only way I could stay the course was by breaking it down into a simple daily goal: 1,000 words a day, every day, no sick days or exceptions, for 90 days. Even so, it was a real leap of faith to stay with it, because a lot of those words were sheer garbaggio. (Trust me.) I had to learn and employ all kinds of tricks to calm my howling anxiety, and I discovered many subtle ways to adjust my perspective so I could keep going.
A beautiful side effect of this process, and one I could have never anticipated, is that by surrendering to uncertainty in this way, I discovered a story that was so much richer, stranger, and more satisfying than I could have ever planned. My fiction before was kind of head-centric: brainy, ironic, funny, but hard to connect with. I wanted to write something that could reach another person’s feelings. My first draft was messy, bad, boring, overwritten, trite, and cloying … but, right there in the middle were 30 pages of pure gold. Characters who I loved and worried for, a weird and glimmering world, and a story I couldn’t wait to dive into telling. Here’s the wildest thing: I didn’t even remember writing it. I ended up throwing out most of that draft, but it was worth it, because I found the hidden thing that I really needed to write about. It just happened that I had to sort of trick myself to get there.
HERE BE MONSTERS is a collection of those tricks and perspective adjustments, along with pep talks, mini craft lectures, and other tools to help you write the first draft of a novel, distributed in a series of 90 emails, one per day. It’s not a conventional online writing workshop or video-lecture course, because I want you to actually do it every day.
At the end of the 90-day course, I’ll send you an ebook compilation of every single email, so you’ll have them for convenient future reference. But first, we’ll do it together, day by day by day.
Who is HERE BE MONSTERS for?
If you’ve always wanted to be a writer but you haven’t studied it in school, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you just graduated from a writing program but struggle to keep going without the structure of workshops, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you’ve started and abandoned NaNoWriMo (I don’t know her, hair flip), HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you suspect that there’s a deeper, richer vein of material that you haven’t yet discovered in your work and you are ready to find it, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you want to explore the ways that writing can be a spiritual practice, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you want to write mystery, sci-fi, thriller, fantasy, multi-generational family saga, sad girl, Scandi bleakness, I Love Dick-esque mindfuq, literary opulence with absolutely no paragraph breaks and a monograph on mourning doves, a blazing page-turner, a meditation on snow through the eyes of a one-road town in the Urals, autofiction which deliciously subtweets your Instagram-famous ex, the story of how you survived in a world that wanted to keep you quiet and afraid, a heartwarming story where people learn to live with each others’ beautiful strangeness: YES. Yes, yes, yes, yes across the board. HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you want to write a story that surprises you and unfolds in ways you could have never imagined, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
If you want to see for yourself how surrendering to the unknown opens up a realm of strange beauty in your writing, or in your world, HERE BE MONSTERS is for you.
So, HERE BE MONSTERS is for everyone?
Well, one caveat: This process, though tested many times by yours truly, is for writing novels. I haven't yet used it to write anything else. I suspect it would work really well for writing a memoir or book-length collection of narrative prose, but I don't know that for sure.
If you want to write a book of poems, or a screenplay, this method may not deliver you. You will meet your wild dark, however, and that will be of some service to you in practically any creative project. But it's hard to say exactly how that will be so. So please keep that in mind if you're considering this journey!
Why is it called HERE BE MONSTERS?
It was a common practice in medieval mapmaking to mark uncharted and potentially dangerous territories HC SVNT DRACONES: “Here be dragons.” Often, this legend would be accompanied by illustrations of dragons, serpents, lions, and beasts of all kinds. How very like us humans: Instead of exploring the unknown, we’d rather declare it dangerous and stay away.
Facing the unknown, I realized, was the underlying difficulty in writing the first draft of a novel. Where was this going? Was it going to be any good? Would I fail, embarrass myself, be revealed as a hack? Would the novel I wrote unwittingly demonstrate some crucial, horrible flaw of mine? These are real problems, they are really hard, and they don’t just exist in my writing life, either.
But inside the unknown, I discovered something: Those possibly monstrous and beastly places were actually the source of the greatest riches. The stuff I was afraid of writing about turned out to be the very same material that made it possible for people to finally connect with my characters. It takes courage to go there, but that’s where the magic is. So let’s go where the magic is.
Sign me up!
The course begins immediately (i..e the day after purchase), so be ready to write! Each day’s talk/prompt comes to you via email, so be on the lookout.
The course officially launches on July 22, 2019, and costs $75. You can also use a payment plan to cover the cost over three months.
Please note: The cost of this course will go up once I’ve had a chance to get some feedback from early users and iron out any issues. This is my first ever online course, which is really exciting! But it also means that I’m new at this platform, so there may be bugs to address. Thanks for your enthusiasm!
Click here to be redirected to my course’s landing page!
Be friends with your monsters; write the fucking book.